The Hard Nut- a most exciting Nutcracker retold !

Ive seen a lot of Nutcrackers.


I’ve seen some Nutcrackers that really brought the fantasy of the period at which it is set in, to an even more fairy tale level of elevation, while reintroducing new “vamped” up and exciting choreography, such as American Ballet Theatre’s production by Alexei Ratmansky. There have also been Nutcracker’s that were maybe too extensional for my liking, yet were beautiful by judgment of dance technicality and set imagery such as Dmitri Tcherniakov’s Iolanta/Nutcracker performed by the Paris Opera Ballet, that I had the pleasure of seeing in Paris this spring past. 


After seeing the Mark Morris Dance Group perform The Hard Nut, I can say without hesitation that is by far is one of the best reimagined versions of the Nutcracker that I have ever seen. In a such a way was he able to recreate this Holiday favorite with fun choreography (that was brought to life with relatable characters) and vivid set design. The dancers were so enthusiastic, and unlike most classical performances I have seen, did not have their smiles strangely glued to their faces that left myself as an audience member worried for their general well being. 


The Hard Nut opened to a scene of an American Family in preparation for their Holiday Party. The children were relatable, a teenage girl budding with excitement for her getting to “Get down”, a rascal little brother, and a little girl named Marie who is filled with joy over the toys to soon be had. The set of the families home, as well as stylings of the family and housekeeper (both the mother and housekeeper played by male dancers in drag) stood out to me as something that could have been contrived in the genius mind of Mr.John Waters, a vintage nuclear family, that despite in the very camp past, seems just as relevant today. The party scene was fabulously choreographed and featured generic characters that seem to make their way to every holiday party, in anywhere USA. The subtle homosexual undertone of the whole scene was done so cleverly I may add, that I was expecting to see perhaps my best friend walk in during the party scene! After the party, and Marie’s receiving of the Nutcracker, the mice war fell next. After a most humorous mice & G.I. Joe battle, the snow followed. The snow scene captivated the audience with their joyous choreography that included the releasing of paper from their palms (for the effect of snow). I was left both filled with holiday spirit, as well utmost respect for a most visual of surprises. The dancers timing in releasing paper, was timed so well with the music, and executed in difficult technical patterns, with precision and ease.         


The second act had its funny moments (My favorite was the Arabian choreography). This is also where the story was reimagined fully, in that instead of entering the Land of Sweets, the back story of a young Drosselmeyer was remembered for his traveling the world to find the nut that would save his young princess from her disfigurement by a monarch of rats. Upon his retrieval of the nut, he also to complete his mission had to take seven paces back. At his seventh, he stepped unknowingly on the rat queen. At this, the young Marie announces her love for him (a young Drosselmeyer), and so begins her transition into maturity. The Nutcracker has always lent itself to the interpretation about Clara’s (in this story, Marie) maturity into the flowering of woman hood. However, if anyone was in questioning, the giant lily l flower that loomed over the choreography, left no one confused as to its symbolism.  


The flowers danced in vivid costumes, and the ballet ended as it began, with excitement and holiday glow, and with its characters, all excited and at home. 


Much applause for the Mark Morris Dance Group and their performance last evening at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Bravo!

Nathan Ayon