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We had tickets today to go see the Nutcracker, the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum.

Back in December, in preparation, we checked out a copy of Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker from the library, the story of a girl who joins Clara in experiencing much of the plot. We've been reading it (by Grouting's request) on a near-daily basis. This last week, I showed her videos of specific pieces from it, and then the whole of the first act. (Just as well so she could start processing the scariness of the mice.)

Today, we joined naxos and friends in going to one of the few under-5-friendly performances of it. It was, on the whole, very nicely done, with some truly spectacular dancing and good minor variants on the plot in the first act. The second act, alas, had even less plot than usual.

The audience was chockful of children, and Grouting commentated and questioned the whole way through, but all topically and in a quiet voice. All that preparation paid off. (And no one shushed her, unlike the fairly quiet but unfortunate-in-neighbors two-year-old in our group.)

In case any of you are going and care: SPOILERS FOLLOW.

1. The mouse king survives until the second act, which is great because he's funny and engaging and mischievous, and hitches a ride on a rope dangling from the hot air balloon. The best way to have gotten more plot from act 2 would have been to let him survive EVEN LONGER. But then Clara doesn't kill him or even really injure him; the Nutcracker does it single-handedly. So, Clara loses her best bit of agency.

2. The death is the introduction to the Drosselmeyer Show (aka dance of the National Stereotypes) which follows. He's come along with the hot air balloon for transport to the land of the Stage Show in act 2. Each dance is revealed by a stage within the stage, in echo of the puppet show of act 1. As a result, the Sugar Plum Fairy shows up exactly once in act 2, for her solo number. She's not the host of the land of sweets. And so she loses all her agency.

Dear English National Ballet: Why did you have to make all your plot changes at the expense of your erstwhile female protagonists?


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 10th, 2016 10:50 pm (UTC)
When I look back to childhood, the part I remember best was Clara throwing her shoe at the Mouse-king. That and the wonderful Sugar Plum Fairy.

I think those are the parts many kids like best.
Jan. 10th, 2016 10:58 pm (UTC)
This production had neither of those things.
Jan. 10th, 2016 10:59 pm (UTC)
And more, Drosselmeyer joins her for her "solo" number, ostentibly to let her do some flying (i.e. lifts) on stage. But it means she doesn't even get her own dance to herself, and that's all she has left.
Jan. 10th, 2016 11:23 pm (UTC)
You were a lot more prepared than we were!

I may have to take my kid to a repeat performance when older. Ballet isn't something I grew up with but my 2 yo was definitely engaged and curious (until she fell asleep).
Jan. 12th, 2016 02:37 pm (UTC)
Northern Ballet might float your boat when Grouting is a little older.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )