I’m gonna swoon here. First, allow me to establish that I’m no ballet expert. Though I’ve been to more than a few, and generally make a point to take in a performance or two each year, I could scarcely tell you what plie means. But greatness is something I pride myself on recognizing on sight. And this production is simply stunning!
The very idea that there were empty seats at the Tuesday night performance is a travesty. My companion and I spent most of the time wowing, slapping each other’s legs in excitement, and generally (at least in my case) being transported back to those giddy days of Christmas past when my chest could scarcely keep my bursting heart caged. No, really. The stunning pageantry of the sets and costumes themselves are a sight to behold. With gasps, of course. The dancers’ execution is impeccable, right down to the children executing silent, elegantly playful moves perfectly in character.
A few words on the individual dancers from a neophyte. The character Coffee that night was simply ravishing (either Megan LeCrone or Claire Kretzschmar, says the playbill). Her every move an exquisitely sensual expression. Lithe. Indelible. The power and grace of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Sterling Hyltin) and her Prince (Andrew Veyette) made of itself a whole other character – a ballet within a ballet. Each time Veyette landed a jump, or Hyltin, one got the impression that he possesses the power to negate gravity: not even the hint of a thump, landing like a feather each time. In fact, I caught myself leaning forward as if in anticipation of a critical play in a sporting event – straining the ears and eyes in disbelief at the gentleness of each landing. I could go on, at least if I knew what all the characters and movements were named. Suffice to say that soon after the curtain rose an elegant older woman slipped into the seats to my right and spent the night whispering comments to herself with each difficult move, punctuated with physical spasms of delight. I watched for her outbursts out of the corner of my eye and am quite convinced that she knew the dances, dancers, and ballet personally and expertly. Suffice to say she exploded in emotion at the end. So, you need not rely only simply on my thumbs up.
A couple of hacks. The ground floor bars will always have a line. Go up one flight of stairs where there are many more bars, much more space, and more than a few displays of costumes from performances past worth perusing. You can ask for an intermission pre-order form at any of the bars and have your champagne and cookies waiting for you. Sip your champagne, toss your head back in a haughty laugh, and wink at all the poor saps wasting their intermission waiting in line. If, like they were for us, neither the weather nor clock are cooperating, hop across Columbia and pay Patrick a visit at PJ Clarke’s for a quick, but lovely, serving of prosecco and oysters and to swoon and chatter over the magnificent spectacle you were so lucky to have just attended. You are welcome.
A small part of me was bummed that no photography of any type is allowed during the performance. At least until I realized I could rely on the pre-installed recording equipment in the brain. In our rush to constantly document everything, it was nice to recall that the explosive images the dancers and musicians created; the sense of excitement that made the air nearly vibrate; the lighting and stage-craft (Ronald Bates, Mark Stanley); and, of course, dashing brilliance of the conductor (Andrews Sill) and choreographer (George Balanchine) all married together in a perfect cocktail of memories that only my companion and I have the privilege of ever enjoying. But you, dear reader, can take this much away: if it’s remotely of interest, go. Go and enjoy one of the most gorgeous of holiday celebration activities that money can buy in the finest place on earth to do so . . . New York City Ballet will never fail you.
The Nutcracker, New York City Ballet, David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center Plaza, New York City