Sunday, December 28, 2008


I feel sorry for Tchaikovsky. I really do. He's not a composer I'm too crazy about, but he's written some fine pieces and he certainly doesn't deserve to be reduced to the racist, sexist, nauseatingly saccharine kitsch that is the Balanchine version of the Nutcracker [1]. So here, in no particular order, are six alternate versions of the Nutcracker I would like to see:

1. Nutcracker as a drug rave

Herr Drosselmeier as a shifty pusher (he looks the part anyway) who brings Marie a bong for Christmas. Marie then proceeds to get seriously high, thus explaining the rest of the ballet: the snowflakes are cocaine, tea is tea, and the sugar plum fairy is, inevitably, the brown sugar fairy.

2. Minimalist Nutcracker

A performance of the Balanchine Nutcracker with no sets, no props and no costumes - everyone to wear plain black tights and dance on a bare stage. We'll soon see how impressive a ballet it is then.

3. The Mouse King

A performance of the Nutcracker which follows the usual script all the way to the fight scene between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King, only at that point the Mouse King kills the Nutcracker, wins Marie's Heart, and then spends the entire Second Act pillaging, looting and burning his way through the Land of Sweets, with the help of his faithful Mouse Commandos. Death to the Sugar Plum Fairy!

4. Hypothermic Nutcracker

A performance of the Nutcracker where Marie, frightened by the Mice, runs out into the snow and proceeds to freeze to her death. The entire second act consists of Marie lying at the front of the stage shivering with the cold at first, and then slowly falling into a coma, while the Balanchine version of the second act plays out behind a transparent screen and represents Marie's hallucinations while she dies. Ideally, the light behind the screen would slowly fade throughout the second act, so that by the time the pas de deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Chevalier came on, the stage would be entirely dark and the audience would hear the music but see only the still form of Marie on stage.

5. Product Placement Nutcracker

A version of the Nutcracker where every dance in the second act is sponsored by, and modified to advertise, a specific Brand. So the Spanish dance becomes the Hershey's dance, the Arabian dance becomes the Starbucks dance, and so on. So much more honest.

6. The Subaltern Nutcracker

A rendering of the Nutcracker where the party scene is shown from the point of view of the serving maids. The scene opens with the stage divided into two halves - one half being the main party room (complete with presents and Christmas tree), the other being a smelly, grimy, kitchen where the household staff slaves away. The action in the 'party' half of the stage would exactly mimic the current Balanchine version, except that every time the serving maid crossed over into the kitchen area, the music would drop to half its volume and the party room would go dark.

[1] A version of which I found myself watching this afternoon - largely because it was the only ballet / opera / orchestra performance happening in the city during the holidays. It didn't help that the audience seemed to think they were at the circus rather than at a ballet and broke out into loud clapping every time anyone on stage executed a half-way difficult step. Sigh.

1 comment:

Annamari said...

maybe it was the Circus version you saw this afternoon ;)
...but I can see a lot of potential in 1,4 and 6. 2 needs a very good coreographer and above average dancers. 5 - I would enjoy that for a marketing application. 3 -looks to much like a playstation game gone bad?