I used to be one of those crazy people who danced in 500 performances of The Nutcracker every year. Now I'm an even crazier person who goes to watch 500 performances of The Nutcracker every year. And as someone who's seen all kinds of versions from all kinds of angles, I can tell you that few Nutcrackers compare to the marvelous confection George Balanchine choreographed for New York City Ballet in 1954.
NYCB in the snow scene from Balanchine's Nutcracker (photo by Paul Kolnik)
Odds are you know the Balanchine Nut pretty well, thanks to the 1993 film version starring one Macaulay Culkin. But do you know the history of the production?
Turns out, it's totally fascinating. Dance writer Laura Jacobs recently penned a wonderful story for Vanity Fair about how this Nutcracker came to be, and it's full of gems. Did you know that there's a trap under the Koch Theater stage constructed specifically for the giant tree? That Balanchine lifted the Candy Cane divertissement straight out of the Mariinsky Ballet Nutcracker he performed in as a young dancer? That the cape the Grandmother wears today is from the original 1954 production? That before the Arabian dance became an awesomely slinky solo for a woman, it starred a man with a hookah and four little girls dressed as parrots (!!!)?
There's a heck of a lot more where that came from: Read the whole story here. And once visions of sugar plums are dancing in your heads, watch the Sugar Plum pas de deux from the film version, starring Darci Kistler and Damian Woetzel, below.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.