Like most dancers (or former dancers), my Nutcracker relationship is personal. I can perform my hometown version in my mind, Tchaikovsky’s score escaping in a quiet, unconscious hum. Other productions may be more polished, but none evoke the sheer joy of my childhood memories.
Or so I thought. The Hard Nut, Mark Morris’ version of the ballet, is whimsical, kitschy and ecstatic. Set in the hip, not-long-ago 1960s—Marie and Fritz watch a black-and-white TV, the men wear pompadours—the production feels both nostalgic and fresh. In particular, the snow scene sparkles. Male and female dancers wearing glittery headpieces reminiscent of Mr. Softee swirl cones, bound across the stage. With each step, snow bursts from their hands. It's delightful and exhilarating. (Check out a video of the scene here—though in the current production at BAM, the dancers are all sans pointe shoes.)
Speaking of hands, Mark Morris has a lively pair. This year, the choreographer plays Dr. Stahlbaum and the King in the second act "Hard Nut" subplot—part of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original tale. Even when other dancers take center stage, you find your eyes wandering back to him. He moves gracefully, from toes to fingertips.
The Hard Nut plays through Sunday at BAM. It's a must see. Watch a video preview and get ticket information here.
Pictured: The Mark Morris Dance Group in The Hard Nut. Photo by Stephanie Berger.