I promised some thoughts on Yuri Grigorovich’s Nutcracker, despite my total ignorance of the ballet. But maybe that’s an advantage: I don’t know where this Manchester Evening News review was supposed to go.
I hadn’t read up on the piece before, though I’ve done just enough reading since to ensure I don’t say anything too silly. Consequently, I had no idea at all as to what to expect and when it finished I was left sitting there waiting for the fat lady to sing (that’s opera, apparently). I think my problem with ballet is not dance – I really enjoyed DV8 a few years ago – but a fear that it won’t speak to me. I’m suspicious of an art that relies on something composed 113 years ago and I don’t think that’s reverse snobbishness. It implies ballet’s been overwhelmed by a form of creative stagnation and has failed to respond to the way society’s developed over the last century or so. And you can’t argue DV8 is the ballet of today as contemporary dancers don’t do ballet and vice versa (contrast that with Shakespearian actors; they’re just as likely to appear in contemporary pieces).
Anyway. The MEN’s warning, ‘may contain traces of high culture’, is very silly. It’s an easy enough tale to get your head around and the children were mesmerised. Hell, I was mesmerised! It’s a magical thing; acrobatic dancers doing impressive things. However, this version was first performed in 1966 and while the blurb claims, ‘stunning scenery with flying boats, special effects and astonishing wizardry’, I think the set’s showing its age. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I’d be happy to go to the ballet every couple of years or so.