It Just Isn't Christmas without The Nutcracker | A Rose in Bloom

On December 8th, I decided to hop on the bus and go see Lexington Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker.  Now, as many of you know, I have been in The Nutcracker more times than I can remember.  Upon moving here, I thought I was all Nutcrackered out.  However, upon entering the Christmas season I realized I had a terrible, terrible first world problem.  I can’t start Christmas and put up my tree until I have finished Nutcracker season.  However, once sitting in Lexington Opera House, I realized I have another terrible, terrible first world problem: I can’t enjoy ballets or plays.  I really can’t enjoy being an observer unless the production is AMAZING.  I have just spent way too much of my life working on these projects myself to be satisfied with whatever I see.  I am forced to pick everything apart.  Now, before I continue, you must know that Lexington Ballet’s Nutcracker was not horrible, but with their reputation and being that half their company is comprised of professional dancers, I expected a lot more.  I will do a break down scene by scene and then give overall comments.

Overture: Wow, there was actual movement here.  I wouldn’t call it choreography; instead it was mere acting. Drosselmeier was giving the bag of toys to a delivery girl to deliver to Marie’s (yes, Marie is the Clara in some versions) party.  While completely unnecessary, I liked this.  It added a little forethought to Drosselmeier.

Party scene: Nothing spectacular happened.  It was basically the same stuff that happened in every other Nutcracker I have watched or been in.  There is not much interpretation to take with this part.  What is unusual, though not unheard of, is that Marie was played by a high school student and the whole part was on pointe.  I have heard of this being done, but have never been a fan of it.  It has nothing to do with the quality of the show; I just don’t care for it personally.

Battle scene: Ok, I liked this.  Some creepy kid’s arm came out of the clock and motioned Marie towards the clock, only to have the mice spring out at her.  I’ll take it.  The battle was a battle.  What was different is that the Mouse King was actually played by a girl on pointe.  I found this more efficient than my performances.  It saved the hassle of finding a male (ballet is always looking for more men), and it’s easier for the mice to pick up a dead girl “king” than a 200 pound plus male.

Snow Pas de Deux:  This is where the show went downhill.  The Snow Pas is my favorite part in all of ballet.  Well, here they totally just decided to rape that part sideways and give the whole pas to Marie and the Nutcracker Prince (who, by the way, was a professional adult dancer).  So they got all this dancing that no one cared about because Marie/Clara is supposed to be WATCHING ALL OF THIS HAPPEN. Yes, he takes her to the Land of the Snow TO OBSERVE.  I understand the idea of giving Marie/Clara real dancing, but seriously? Do not take away the traditional pas.  Some traditions should never be broken.  Maybe this is a traditional variation that I am unaware of, but I hate it.

Snow scene:  Another huge disappointment.  I always thought our Waltz of the Snowflakes (which I did  4 times! I am an expert when it comes to snow!) was a fabulous piece.  Absolutely gorgeous with every piece fitting perfectly with the music when performed properly.  I didn’t see Lexington Ballet accomplish this or get anywhere close.  The choreography was dull.  I mean, I do-not-remember-anything-about-the-corp dull.  Snow Queen was talented, but without the King just not as exciting.  Since she never got a pas, I never saw her do anything spectacular.  She was barely represented.  Even in the end the focus was on what Marie’s final pose, so why bother having a Snow Queen?  Also, I had been relatively pleased with costumes up until this point.  All of the snow corp wore tutus, which I felt took away from the Queen even more.  This is not on Lexington Ballet though; it’s been a stylistic thing that I have never cared for in ballet.  When the corp wears tutus, the solos don’t stand out enough.

Opening scene in Act II was standard.  As with the party scene, there is not a lot to interpret here.  Almost always it’s angels guiding Marie/Clara into the Land of Sweets and then the whole Kingdom greeting her. 

Spanish: Pretty good! I liked the one we did better but I will admit I am biased towards that one!  There were three corp girls and one tutu soloist who was on top of that Spanish flair.  Nice Spanish style added so I was pleased.

Arabian: Oh God, what happened?  Hardly any stylistic liberties taken at all. Just some waving of the hands and a few weird poses.  No corp, no partnering, just the single soloist.  Honestly, it seems that with Nutcrackers, the Arabian bit is either thrown away, just plain weird, or breathtaking.  I am going to put this one in the throw away category.  Now, I did Arabian twice, and without a bias, I will say that our choreography (talking about the steps, not my talent) was the best Arabian I have ever seen.  Sensual, required strength and flexibility, and just oozed mystery.  This failed in comparison – there was no interpretation of the character at all and the only sensuality brough to it was when she started crawling on the floor like a stripper. Eww.

Chinese was quaint.  Not worse than ours with the ribbons, and not better.  I really don’t have any complaints here with Lexington Ballet.  My complaint is with ballet in general: Why do we have to have a corp with every piece?!  You put a corp in every part of the Nutcracker, and the corp work becomes less special.  Spanish had a corp , Chinese had a corp, and Russian had a corp, which leads me to Russian…

Russian was really meh.  It’s beautiful, huge, great music. When I think of the Russian dance, I don’t think of a corp in skirts almost to the ankle and one soloist in a tutu twirling around. I think of big jumps.  Guess that’s why Russian is often composed of guys.  They can jump higher.  These girls barely got off the ground.

Marzipan (otherwise knows and Mirlitons or Sherpherdesses) was probably my favorite!  I really liked this one. The choreography was cute and dainty, with costumes that fit that theme.  Loved this bit!

Flowers:  My second favorite part!  My only complaint (yes really!) is that the costumes didn’t stand out! By that I mean the Rose corp and the Soloists and the Dew Drop were all wearing the exact same shade of pink! Hey, Lexington! Your school charges enough money to pay for your dancers to have differing costumes. Seriously, you are the most expensive school in town.  Let the Dew Drop be blue or purple or something.

Mother Ginger was the same.  Kids doing acrobatics out of her skirt. Yay fun!

Sugar Plum: Not this crap again!  Sorry, I am Sugar Plummed out.  The choreography was non-traditional, but really good.  The dancer was great (professional), and I have a lot of respect for the dance because it’s the hardest solo I ever learned and I never even performed it! This girl was seamless, but I just don’t care for Plums. Same for the Cavalier.

Finale: It was a finale. Everything seemed fine though I am pretty sure the Arabian missed her cue because the stage went bare and the Sugar Plum ended up coming out and pantomiming.  I never saw the Arabian girl do a finale dance so logically, there was a flub somewhere.

So there you have it: I was bored with a lot of what occurred.  When you have ethnic dances why would you not choose to spice it up a bit? Make me believe that your dancers are from that country, even though I know many of those countries may not have their own versions of ballet. Vary up your colors and styles so that everyone gets noticed.  And for God’s sake, don’t leave out the Snow pas de deux. Oh, and here is one final tidbit that I should never, ever, ever have to tell a professional company: DO NOT LET ME SEE YOUR DANCERS IN THE WINGS!  Seriously?  Let me reiterate the part where I shouldn’t have to tell you that. I shouldn’t see your hand, your skirt, the tiniest outer edge of your tutu. Lexington Opera House is a professional venue with good wing space.  There is no excuse for this behavior in that kind of venue. And do not get me started on the lack of hitting fifth position…  I just feel like if my teacher is constantly making us hit fifth, the best school in town can too.  When you have a professional company, I am going to expect professional behaviors that even I can accomplish.

Please, do not think I am biased towards my own performance experiences.  I always admit when I see something amazing!  But when I go see a performance that is supposed to be so much better than anything I could have ever seen in Huntsville, it better live up to the hype.  Lexington Ballet should have made what I did for those many years look pathetic in comparison, not fabulous.  To be honest, seeing this show makes me glad I chose not to dish out the $1000+ a semester for their instruction.  What I get from Laurie Fields is just as good, if not better.

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