The Nutcracker is a world-renowned ballet that has been captivating the audience for more than a century. Composed by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky in 1892, the ballet was originally choreographed by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa. It is also important to note that the libretto was adapted from “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman. The New York City Ballet has been performing The Nutcracker since 1954, with the version produced by choreographer George Balanchine. The ballet has remained at the top of the list of the best Christmas entertainment. The New York City Ballet is also known for performing Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The production includes the full New York City Ballet company as well as two casts of School of American Ballet students. Also, the ballet is memorable due to the onstage Christmas tree growing from twelve to forty feet. Despite the special effects such as the blizzard and the remarkable costume, the performance has always been praised for its choreography, which holds the ballet to a consistently high standard.
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Analysis: The Waltz of the Flowers
Those who have ever seen Balanchine’s Nutcracker cannot help but trace connections to their childhood, and the wild stories told in fairytales. Indeed, the ballet boasts brightly colored costumes and stage decorations, and it is often hard to concentrate on the performance of the dancers. The boasting colors and dynamic movements often remind the viewers of a kaleidoscope, which is another symbol of childhood, free from worry and full of world exploration. To understand Balanchine’s Nutcracker and to explore its impact, it was chosen to focus on a specific scene, the Waltz of the Flowers.
While one does not think about choreographers as mathematicians, the Waltz of the Flowers relied heavily on geometry and arithmetic to guide the performance of the dancers. The element of dance, space, was especially relevant in the waltz as it allows us to create levels and shapes in the production. As the waltz began, fourteen women, arranged in four even rows, face the audience. The dance starts with two demi-soloists who danced from their left to right. They were followed by a row of four women who are arranged behind them, completing the same set of movements. As the row of four completed their moves, the first row of two dancers repeated the phase in the opposite direction from right to left. However, the movements are not redundant but rather change rapidly, new formations were being created while new rows replace the previous ones. The performance was about contrast, and this contrast could also be traced in the juxtaposition of the structure in the movements of the secondary dancers and the main dancer. No matter how challenging it was to plan the waltz using the mathematical model, what comes, in the end, is very close to a kaleidoscope. Although, compared to a kaleidoscope, which is usually full of bright contrasting colors, the Waltz of the Flowers, in New York City Ballet’s interpretation, has a monochromatic tone with pinks and lilacs prevailing, thus making the dancers similar to flowers.
When it comes to the emotions that the Waltz of the Flowers evokes, the performance is a celebration. The waltz is a dance that shows the audience how Sugar Plum Fairy’s sweets celebrate Clara and her prince. The tone is very uplifting, and it is hard not to have the same emotions of celebration when watching the performance. It is also a perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy a dance that does not have any dramatic or tragic undertones. After all, ballet is a form of entertainment and is not just art, which means that viewers mustn’t be ‘bombarded’ by an excessive amount of negative emotions that have been caused by the performance. The Waltz of the Flowers can also be viewed separately outside the context of The Nutcracker because it is simply beautiful and uplifting, beyond being immaculately structured.
The Nutcracker is a performance-metamorphosis, and the Waltz of the Flowers shows how one shape transforms into another with each step with the help of very careful planning and calculation. In my opinion, the waltz is the peak moment of the performance because it represents change after change and takes the viewer into the center of choreography not only as an art but also as a science that requires hard work and dedication. The analysis of the Waltz of the Flowers, which represents the peak of the entire ballet production, showed that the performance is finely structured, and this structure is what allows the magical aspects of fairytales to take place. Without having a framework that is carefully developed and established, the performance would have a lasting impression on the audience. The Nutcracker performed by the New York City Ballet company will remain a classic because people associate it with Christmas festivities. However, it is much more than entertaining but also carefully structured and developed with utmost attention to detail.