If movies are your thing and you need a little holiday cheer, check out the Mariinsky Ballet's (also known as the Kirov Ballet) production of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker in 3-D playing at a theater near you on Monday, Dec. 3, for one day only, at 7:30 p.m. (some locations also have a 2 p.m. showing).
So, why add another Sugar Plum Fairy to the mix on screen when we have a multitude of live performances at our fingertips here in the Metroplex?
For starters, the carb-laden, fruited mystical creature is nowhere to be found in this revival of Vasily Vainonen's 1934 production performed in the very theater where Marius Petipa's original Nut debuted in 1892. If you're one of the many who are puzzled by this strange omission, it's worth pointing out that it's not a new phenomenon. Starting only a few decades after its inauguration, the ballet underwent several adaptations and the Fairy was the first to go.
Many other notable changes make this tale of a fantastic dream world an intriguing departure from the norm here in the United States.
First, the entire party scene has a very different mood. It's truncated a bit, as the live orchestra is given much more time to play before the action on stage happens. Costumes set the ballet in a French Baroque era, rather than the traditional 19th century Germany, which gives it a greater formality. Also contributing to that sense is the orderliness of the choreography. The children's dances are very complex, yet exceptionally well-rehearsed and precise. Entrances and exits (as if the guests are utilizing other rooms of the house for the party) clear the stage to focus attention on more important storytelling parts.
And the nutcracker…well, I don't know if you could even call it that. In place of the cylindrical, military-clad walnut-opener we see a doll which looks like the scary love-child of Rasputin and a garden gnome. Luckily, the prince into which it's later transformed bears no likeness.
After the clock strikes midnight, we're left to endure a long sequence of mice choreography. The arrival of the Rat King, or Mouse King (Soslan Kulaev) though, fades the dreariness. That dude knows how to make an entrance. Clean, deliberate choreography continues throughout the battle, which ends as it should—sayonara, vermin.
Masha (aka Clara) and the nutcracker soldier are transformed into older versions of themselves (Alina Somova and Vladimir Shklyarov, respectively) with a budding romance. The music which typically signifies the snow pas de deux is used to develop the love story even more. Snowflakes are still around, however, to perform their hummingbird-fast footwork and light-as-a-feather waltzes.
While it's unclear where exactly the next section takes place (called Act III here), the same divertissements appear—some with slight changes, of course.
The Spanish, Chinese, and Mirliton variations all contain the expected moods and exuberant movement qualities. The Arabian and Russian segments (typically the audience favorites) are lackluster.
The former ditches the sensual duet in favor of a harem of sorts, only without the glamour and mystique. Not only does it not live up to the seductive music, it becomes downright dreary. The lack of excitement in the Russian variation is the most perplexing—it's their native dance, yet completely disappoints.
The Waltz of the Flowers really suffers from the camera work, which for the most part has done a decent job of re-creating a live performance. A large cast of men and women seamlessly weave in and out of each all while dancing intricately controlled choreography. The beauty of the dazzling floor patterns, however, gets lost in the editing.
The adaptations as a whole will probably bring about mixed reactions, depending on one's preferences. I can, however, make a solid recommendation for this film for one reason: It's Russian ballet. If you have never seen Russian dancers, they are sight to behold. Think of it as extreme ballet. However high you can lift your arabesque or attitude, they can lift it higher. Ensemble sections are meticulously rehearsed, so that each dancer looks like a carbon copy of the other. The visual splendor of it all, even on film, is brilliant.
And it's in 3-D, so you can feel as if you're floating like a flower or soaring like a snowflake.
◊ Here's a video preview (see below for local locations):
◊ The Kirov Ballet's The Nutcracker in 3-D, filmed at the Marinsky Theatre, screens at 2 and 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 3 at the following North Texas movie theaters (not all show it in RealD 3-D, so check FathomEvents to find one that does):
- AMC Northpark (Dallas)
- AMC Parks at Arlington
- Cinemark 17 and IMAX (Dallas)
- Cinemark Legacy and XD (Plano)
- cinemark Tinseltown Grapevine Movies 17
- Cinemark USA Cedar Hill
- Cinemark Allen 16
- Cinemark Movies 15 Vista Ridge (Lewisville)
- Cinemark Frisco Square and XD
- Cinemark Denton
- Cinemark Alliance Town Center and XD
- Hollywood Movies 14 (Burleson)
- Rave Northeast Mall (Hurst)
- Rave Ridgmar 13 (Fort Worth)
- Regal Fossil Creek (Fort Worth)
- Regal Galaxy Theatre (Dallas)