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      So, the Yellow Vests in France have French President Macron scared, and he has given in on some of their demands, including raising the monthly minimum wage and getting rid of the diesel tax which sparked the original protests. Joe Penney at the Intercept has a good overview of the current state of play, which […]
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I saw my first Nutcracker at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in July 1972. That’s where the NY City Ballet does its summer performances. It was a hot day, I had to take my little sister who couldn’t sit still through the performance, the amphitheater was filled with camp kids on a field trip and the best seats I could get on my babysitting money was partial vision behind a pillar.

Still, it was magical. I was in awe when the Christmas tree grew and grew and Marie’s bed twirled and flew across the stage. The tempo that the NYCB dances to made the ballet fast without any dull spots. And for a kid who grew up without a childhood filled with Christmas and presents, it was the best I was going to get. It was spectacular.

The whole NYCB performance from 1993 is available on youtube. There’s an ABT version as well featuring the ethereal Gelsey Kirkland with Mikail Barishnikov but I prefer this one because the emphasis is on the integration of music with dance instead of star power.one of the surprising things about Balanchine choreography is how much he gives the corps to do. His corps dancers are not just standing around striking poses. Their pieces are technically challenging and fast. Not surprising for a company that might pull a corps dancer into a major role on a moments notice. In the NYCB, a corps dancer is not just background filler.

If you are looking for a star in this version, McCauley Culkin dances the part of The nephew of Herr Drosselmeier, the magical godfather who brings Marie her Nutcracker. Darci Kistler is the Sugarplum Fairy and the choreography is outstanding. I just realized that the part that takes place at Marie’s house takes up the first half of the ballet and it’s so festive and lively that time flies. Not a single snowflake falls until half way through. Then it’s waltzes and flowers and Mirlitons and flutes and dreams of sugar plums.

Take a break from the news. Refresh and recharge. Have a peppermint stick and cocoa and enter a fairyland of Christmas.

Here are some other Nutcrackers to keep the kids entertained while you’re wrapping presents, making cookies or trimming the tree. Every version is different with varying dance styles, story lines and folk dances.

San Francisco’s Ballet (2007)

ABT Nutcracker (Kirkland and Barishnikov)

Snowflakes from A Hard Nut 😏

Mariinsky (Kirov) Nutcracker.

Bolshoi Nutcracker

Nutcracker in 360° (Royal Ballet)

Slovak National Ballet Nutcracker

Cascanueces- Paris Opera Ballet