Thursday December 18, 2008 / 2:00pm (matinee)Kirov Ballet: The Nutcracker
How was your experience?
This matinee production was danced by the B string of dancers, which does not always mean you'll get a bad performance. I felt the principal dancers were fine but not superlative; however the real problem was the difference between the older choreography they chose versus anything newer (and more expected by American audiences). That would not have been a bad thing if it were virtuostic and well-executed. Sadly, it was neither. Major annoying points: 1) The story line was different such that there was no Sugar Plum Fairy, characters that seemed inconsequential were there instead (like bats in the forest), there were no cossacks--only a badly done troika rendition among other plot/character differences; and music was different in certain spots accordingly; the dances all seemed dumbed down and lacked any real show of talent. The Arabian dance (coffee) seemed like a sleep walk instead of a sinuous and slow beauty. 2) Beloved pas de deux and various other expected moments in a Nutcracker performance were simply not there; 3) I've seen high school theatre stages far larger than the D.C. Pavilion theatre. 4) The costumes looked shoddy and abbreviated except for two numbers; and even so were very old fashioned; but perhaps they had no choice about that. I will give the company benefit of doubt on that. 5) The "set" consisted of scrims and a few props, period. Nothing special for the growing tree, etc. The snow was projected light. 6) There were not just a couple, but many, sections in which the corps was not in unison nor on the beat. That is not excusable. 7) The performance began with someone knocking over the piano prop in the first scene and ended with the principal dancer tipping over the "bed" prop in the last scene. It was a disaster. This was the first (and probably the last) performance of the Nutcracker that I was to show to my husband, who is from Asia, and had never seen a ballet in person. He made the same criticisms of it I made, even without knowing ballet well and having only seen ballet on TV; and without knowing the Nutcracker specifically at all. I was shocked to find that the name Kirov was attached to this performance. I wish all the dancers well; I know their company may well have struggled in recent times financially; so I hope they got money out of this, and I hope they experience much more training and work hard for a far better future, under better direction and choice-making. This ballet looked sadly in need of help, and I can only count my admission as a donation to that end, because it was not easy to watch.