Jane and I saw *The Hard Nut* at BAM on 12/15/18, Mark Morris’s version of *The Nutcracker,” performed by the Mark Morris Dance Group. This was my fourth time seeing it: I saw it at BAM in 2010, 2015, and 2016. i love this piece to death, I would go see it every year if they did it every year. It has a wonderful mix of stunning classical ballet and delightful old fashioned show biz. Also a great mix of sublime ballet technique and kitschy camp. I don’t know of any other work of art that checks so many boxes.
It was especially fun seeing it with Jane because she’s a dancer herself, so she was able to give me a little insider’s insight. Like, “That dance where the woman had the hat box? She had to dance in a way that made room for the hat box swinging around. That’s really hard!”
I was especially curious to see the show this year because I was seeing it from my marvelous press seats, fairly close to the stage. Every other time, I was way up in the balcony. It was fun seeing the dancers’ faces and being close to the action, but really, I prefer being in the balcony and getting the aerial view. I like watching the patterns that the dancers make, and you don’t get as clearly when you’re sitting up close.
I continue to be amazed by Kraig Patterson as the family’s housekeeper. He has played that role in EVERY PERFORMANCE of this piece, worldwide, since 1991. He’s a scream, and knocks my teeth out with all of the time he spends on pointe. Plus he did a whole lot of twirling around in one ensemble number, that was impressive. He got the biggest ovation when they took the bows, that was touching (and entirely deserving).
Jane reminded me of a few other things: the fabulous makeup, wig, and costume design by Martin Pakledinaz (he's credited as the costume designer and no one for the makeup and wig design, so I assume he should get credit for all three). The electric mice were hilarious, at one point unintentionally so: one came on at the end of the show and just parked itself at the front of the stage. Mark Morris picked it up when he took his bows, that was endearing. And the snow itself in the Waltz of the Snowflakes - - what is it made out of? The dancers handle it marvelously, holding it in their fists and then throwing it into the air. I imagine they must inhale a lot of it. I hope it's not toxic.
Wow, I just noticed that the entire ballet is on Youtube, from around the time when it was premiered in Brussels in 1991. Of course I encourage you to watch the whole thing, but if you're not up for that, here's a guided tour of my favorite moments:
1:20: The housekeeper expressing her anger on pointe
8:00: The Stroll
10:45: Barbie Doll and robot
35:40: Waltz of the Snowflakes
51:10: Travels around the world (Spain, China, Russia, France - - unfortunately they didn't include "Arabia")
Beginning: Waltz of the Flowers
6:58: Pas de deux for Marie and her boyfriend (with characters from every scene)