Nutcracker Nation

July 9, 2009 at 1:23 am | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Nutcracker Nation by

Jennifer Fisher
Yale University Press,
New Haven and London

ISBN 0-300-09746-8

Finally, a book review … !

June 30, 2009 by

Paper Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
New Zealand

Nutcracker Nation – by Jennifer Fisher

This book examines how The Nutcracker came from its native Russia and took root in America. It treats the ballet as an immigrant and examines how being in america has changed it; and like many immigrants, how it changed its adopted country. It is more a work of socialogy, rather than of dance.

The book takes from the Ballet’s inception in 1892, at the Maryinski Theater, St Petersburg, under the choreography of Lev Ivanov (who stepped in for Marius Petipa). Through to George Balanchine’s productions for television, danced by the New York City Ballet, broadcast by CBS in 1957 & 1958. Through to Viji Prakesh’s bharata natyam Nutcracker and Donald Byrd’s Harlem Nutcracker.

Nation’s premise is that the Ballet has elements that easily allow an entire community involvement to become involved: there are roles for children and adults, of varying dance training, plus backstage and front-office roles. Apparently, in many towns and city the Christmas/Holiday season is ushered in by the local ballet(s) putting on their variation of The Nutcracker. And what variations there are; generally, Clara, the Mouse King, the Nutcracker/Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and (uncle) Drosselmeier – or some suitable substitute – appear. The author, herself, danced as a snowflake in Fernaud Nault’ Nutcracker in Louvisille Ballet in 1963.

Clearly, the author has done a large amount of research, including following two ballet companies: Loudoun Ballet – Leesburg, Virgina, USA – and the National Ballet of Canada – Toronto. Fisher, uses the amateur and professional companies to illustrate contrasts and similarities.

It gets a little cerebral at times, but Nutcracker Nation needs to be treated as a serious book about socialogical aspect of American life, rather than a book about a ballet or how amateur and professional ballet companies operate. I found it a little dry, and would have liked to see more of the human side of the Loudoun Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada. Having said that, Fisher does give a very good summary of the evolution of The Nutcracker from its Russian origins to its current status as an America ‘citizen’, and of those who had a hand in the change. George Balanchine, a Russian emigre himself, through his willingness to stage the Ballet, and arranging it for TV, seems to have played a major role.

The book is probably a must for those with a deep interest in ballet or for whom The Nutcracker is a favourite ballet – as it goes in to the motivations behind the characters and what the characters have come to represent in America.



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