Obsession of the Week: The Nutcracker

Yes, I know it is October, but remember?  My work in progress is a Christmas story.  I finished Nick, but I edit endlessly whatever I write. I am going through now dropping in allusions to well-known Christmas traditions like a scavenger hunt for my readers.  I have a clockmaker make a cuckoo clock where: a conductor appeared at the top and tapped the hour with his baton.  Ballerinas in floral tutus came out through the little doors whirling to the Nutcracker’s ‘Waltz of the Flowers.’  This set  me off on one of my Christmas obsessions: Baryshnikov’s version of The Nutcracker .  If you are a person who thinks ballet is frou-frou and boring, I challenge you to look up this version on YouTube and give it a chance.  You won’t be disappointed.

Where do I start?  I won’t bother waxing rhapsodic over the music; most people know at least some of it, even if they don’t like ballet.  It is beautiful, amazing and magical.  Enough said.

Let’s turn instead to this particular performance.  Mikhail Baryshnikov has to be one of the sexiest men who has ever lived.  His dance is athletic but light as a feather, his leaps powerful but so elegant that he seems to hang in the air.  He and Gelsey Kirkland have a mystical chemistry on stage, their graceful embraces barely touching but steeped with love and longing.  He throws her in the air and catches her as if she weighs no more than a ragdoll, but a beautiful, graceful, perfectly formed ragdoll.

The costuming is wonderful and colorful and fantastic, transporting the audience far beyond the real world outside the theater or living room.  Every single dancer is remarkable, each performance more stunning than the one before it, yet they also move in perfect sync when in chorus.  I know.  I’ve watched their feet.  They never miss a step.

This version was recorded in 1977 when Baryshnikov was at his peak.  I’m sure many who are younger than 50 have no memory of the way he turned everyone’s view of ballet on its ear.  So here you are–my autumn gift to you.  Give it a try and prepare yourself to be amazed.

Baryshnikov and Kirkland  The Nutcracker

Baryshnikov and Kirkland
The Nutcracker

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