Noam Eitan | Brooklyn, NY United States | 02/27/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This nutcracker is an exhibitionistic display of Béjart's onanistic preoccupation with and admiration for himself.Some individuals have an ungratified need for the approval of others and embark on an endless search to obtain it. These individuals come in various varieties. One of them is the seemingly pleasantly grandiose type that operates under the pervasive assumption that everyone likes them because they are so irresistible that it is impossible not to succumb to their charms. It is as if they say to the world: "suspend all judgment and adore me because c'est MOI!" This is basically a massive denial of the fear of rejection in the service of maintaining a narcissistic equilibrium.Maurice Béjart is such a cultural icon in Europe that he has his own entry in the Encyclopædia Britannica: "pseudonym of MAURICE-JEAN DE BERGER, French-born dancer, choreographer, and opera director known for combining classic ballet and modern dance with jazz, acrobatics, and musique concrète (composition by tape recordings)". His productions are known for their "flamboyant theatricality and their innovative reworking of traditional music and dance materials, often in an unusual and controversial fashion". Béjart's highly non-Balanchinean approach has been neglected and critically savaged in the United States. This nutcracker will do little to appease his American critics.The ballet features the master talking directly to the viewers between the dancing scenes that take off from the themes he introduces. He starts with his father, continues with his mother, his childhood and seems bound to develop a loosely structured personal story dedicated to the memory of his mother. The best way to describe the way one theme flows to the next is free association. As this was unfolding I began to experience a creeping suspicion of being duped. The other shoe dropped when Gil Roman appeared on stage at the act II divertissement to announce that "the choreographer did not want to change the classical choreography of the grand pas de deux so tonight it will be danced in the original version of Marius Petipa". However, Petipa wrote the libretto, but not the choreography, which was created by Lev Ivanov because Petipa was ill. I therefore assumed that this was some kind of joke. This ironic expectation was sharpened when the two dancers, Christine Blanc and Domenico Levrè, appeared both inexplicably dressed in black. Their technique and so-called style in the grand pas de deux was so inept that I thought this was some kind of parody. But no, that was not meant as a joke but rather as a statement of Béjart's claim for some special indirect connection to and reverence for Petipa. This ballet does not have much to do with Christmas, Tchaikovsky's nutcracker or even the obsession of the young Maurice with his mother who died when he was seven. It seems that what this ballet is about is Béjart's infatuation with himself. Many artists are narcissistically involved. What sets this work apart is the embarrassingly self-indulgent quality of this artist's preoccupation. There is no sense of irony here or any artistic distance from the subject. When an artist uses his own life and memories as material for his work, it is usually the result of a complicated process that involves wisdom, insight and perspective. In order to see something in perspective you need both empathy and distance. Judging by this material it seems that Béjart's mother died before he had the chance to develop the capacity to perceive her as a separate individual other than in the context of his needs. In other words Béjart never really knew his mother and therefore doesn't have much to say about her or about his relationship with her. Unlike his deceased mother, Béjart's grandmother is painfully available to comment on petit Maurice. She informs us what a wonderful little boy he was and how she was not at all surprised at his fame, as he had always been so special. Initially I was shocked by the absurdity of this. Surely this must be ironic. But apparently not. Béjart seems to assume that anything relating to himself is bound to infect us with the kind of unconditional adoration and approval that only children and lovers claim as their God-given right. Béjart has a masterly sense of theatre and he knows how to bring out the best in his dancers' personalities. They have to know how to talk, sing and dance. His weakness lies in his manipulating sensational theatricality at the expense of thematic coherence. As René Sirvin put it so well, his "Casse-Noisette" has "un peu de tout, et même parfois de trop". This disjointed mishmash is at best kitsch. With the exception of a few brilliant numbers it does not rise above the banal. On repeat viewing I felt that the major element that was missing in a work dedicated to a mother lost at the age of seven was the emotion of sadness. Children cannot conceptualize death and loss in the same way as adults, but even they can feel sadness. Béjart exposed his artistic shortcomings as an extension and expression of his own infantile self. L'Orchestre Colonne's playing is the highlight of this performance, hardly a compliment as they enjoy a growing reputation as one of the worst orchestras in France. There seems to be a constant lack of proportion between Tchaikovsky's lush score and Béjart's rehearsal-room esthetics. His style becomes at synch with the music only during the added modern pieces when the orchestra is joined by an ageing music hall accordionist, Yvette Horner, bedecked in Jean-Paul Gaultier. This amounts to Tchaikovsky abuse.Picture, sound quality and lighting are almost perfect."
I loved it
Rose Selavy | NY | 12/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Absolutely delightful. A great relief from the cloying cliche that is the traditional Nutcracker. If you enjoy surrealism and have a sense of humor you will be as happy as I was to come upon this wonderful ballet with Felix the springy cat and Elizabet Ros as the beautiful yearned-for 1930's mother. Don't miss!"
Great story line
D. Fuller | usa | 12/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I liked this ballet, every young man goes through this story at some time
in his life, deciding what his sexuality will be, weaning himself from his mother, etc. The dancing is fine. The story is fine also, I disagree with the high brow attitudes of some dance people, just watch the ballet and enjoy it, you don't have to be an expert or be so picky. The dancers in this ballet are good, don't let anyone convince you otherwise. Why be so critical and negative? These people worked hard to create this ballet.
I think they deserve some credit."