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144 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and provocative performance
I'm not a dancer, former dancer, or big ballet fan -- just a musician who's seen several different "Nutcrackers" and, frankly, not been thrilled by any of them. But this one is thrilling to me, and to my three-year-old daughter!

I've always found "The Nutcracker" boring and syrupy in plot, though I enjoyed much of the music and some of the dancing. Yes, this...
Published on September 14, 2005 by Elly

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118 of 131 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Opportunity to Watch the Kirkland/Baryshnikov partnership
There are not many video opportunities to watch Gelsey Kirkland dance at all, much less when partnered by Mikhail Baryshnikov ("Baryshnikov at Wolf Trap" is the only other one I know of). For those of us who watched them on stage, it was a magical partnership even if at the time we did not know its tragic undertones. Other than an occassional outing with Makarova,...
Published on November 3, 2004 by I. Martinez-Ybor


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144 of 148 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and provocative performance, September 14, 2005
By 
Elly (California, USA) - See all my reviews
I'm not a dancer, former dancer, or big ballet fan -- just a musician who's seen several different "Nutcrackers" and, frankly, not been thrilled by any of them. But this one is thrilling to me, and to my three-year-old daughter!

I've always found "The Nutcracker" boring and syrupy in plot, though I enjoyed much of the music and some of the dancing. Yes, this ABT version has an "adult" theme (or several) -- but I find this enriches the ballet for me and it's interesting to try to figure out who's who and what's what among the characters. (I've really enjoyed reading other reviewers' interpretations!)

Meantime, my three-year-old daughter is enjoying the story from her new-to-ballet point of view. The "adult stuff" goes right over her head. She's interested in the silly people dressed up like mice, the "big machine that makes fog" (the cannon), the Christmas tree that grows, etc. She gets out one pretty dress after another from her closet and tries them all out as "dance suits" as she twirls around the diningroom imitating the dancers' dramatic arm movements.

I find Baryshnikov's choreography fresh, free, and full of life. And full of surprises -- for example, I love the dance where Clara is gracefully tossed from one male dancer, or pair of male dancers, to another. I've read that Baryshnikov felt stifled by the strict classical choreography of the Soviet ballet, and in this "Nutcracker" I see him breaking free of that stifling tradition and creating a beautiful, thought-provoking, and -- yes -- provocative (for adults) new dance.

Baryshnikov's dancing is spectacular -- his strength, form, precision -- and rich in feeling. Kirkland's dancing is near perfection and her portrayal of her awakening feelings for her prince is excellent. The choreography is, again, rich in feeling and meaning and just plain rich, rich, rich.

I'm sure my daughter and I will watch this "Nutcracker" hundreds of times over the years and it will continue to be a rich and fulfilling and inspiring experience.

I say, if you've ever been bored by a "Nutcracker", try this one!
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154 of 163 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A coherent "Nutcracker" at last, December 20, 2004
By 
This review is from: The Nutcracker / Baryshnikov, Kirkland, Charmoli (DVD)
Probably the most popular of all ballets, Tchaikovky's "The Nutcracker" is pretty much required holiday viewing for children and the experience is one to be shared with parents, too. The sparkling score, by turns intensely dramatic and supremely exhilarating, is as familiar as any Christmas carol or hymn.

The essential problem with the ballet's original staging is that the story line falls apart in the second act. The first act has a reasonable plot line given that this is a child's dream story. But after Clara helps the Nutcracker defeat the Mouse King and he turns into a handsome prince, they depart for the Kingdom of Sweets and, after the Waltz of the Snowflakes, the story line evaporates. Once the pair arrive in the Kingdom, poor Clara sits out the entire second act watching a succession of sweet treats dance the audience into diabetes, while Prince Charming deserts her for the Sugar Plum Fairy. In other words, the original staging gives the entire second act no plot line whatever, only a succession of divertissements with solo turns and a final pas de deux for the prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Mikhail Baryshnikov's inspiration was to give this fragmented succession of dream images into a coherent story. Unfortunately as witness Celia Franca's infamous "it makes me want to vomit" rant, Baryshnikov's version is often misunderstood. Clara is not having an affair with Drosselmeyer, nor does he desire her.

The key to understanding Baryshnikov's interpretation is the Mouse King. It is immediately obvious from the King's costume--a long purple frock coat & short violet cape--that he is Clara's dream transformation of the drunken adult male party guest who wrenches off the Nutcracker's head (replacing Clara's brother as the culprit). In fact the mouse army are ALL Clara's dream transformations of the male party guests, including the paunchy, bemedalled general who throws out his back dancing the Champagne Promenade with Clara's nurse. (In the party scene, the guest who injures the Nutcracker is the ONLY one wearing a frock coat; all the other adult males [except the general] wear cutaways.)

In other words, the adult males are threatening to Clara (& this pretty much rules out any notion that she's involved with Drosselmeyer). Her dream, Drosselmeyer's gift as Baryshnikov's prologue explains, gently allows her to discover the womanly feelings with which her dawning womanhood endows her. At the party, then, Clara is a child among children, playing with toys (including the Nutcracker) as any child would. Her unexpected tenderness for the Nutcracker foreshadows her adult emotions for the prince after she helps him defeat the same individual who broke the toy during the party. Baryshnikov's staging of the first act stresses this theme by juxtaposing and contrasting the adults' and children's experiences of the party, in contrast to versions that foreground the children, such as the familiar Royal Ballet staging.

In the second act, Clara discovers new depths to her feelings. By banishing the Sugar Plum Fairy, Baryshnikov as the prince keeps Clara in the foreground and their near-ecstatic dances reveal her growing ease with adult feelings. But in the end, Drosselmeyer reappears to usher Clara out of her dream: her transformation into womanhood must take place in the real world, not in a dream fantasy.

As has been noted often enough, Baryshnikov was constrained to omit the Arabian variation in order to keep the film within the time frame for a television broadcast. This is unfortunate, as one can only imagine what he and Kirkland might have done with it. Mother Ginger is absent. Otherwise the score is intact; the familiar Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy survives with its angelic celeste accompaniment, here danced by Clara. The choreography for this number is the high point of Baryshnikov's tale: Clara's wonderfully hesitant yet ecstatic foot-dragging is forecast in her first-act pas de deux with the prince and reappears in a pendulum-like step in the second-act pas de deux (which she and the prince here share with Drosselmeyer).

The production values in the film are high with the exception of the scenery, which could have been more literally rendered; the backgrounds are often murky to the point of mystery. But the uniformly outstanding dancing and excellent costumes go a long way to offset this one minor liability.

DVD is impeccable & preferable in sound & picture quality to VHS.
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104 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual Presentation, November 16, 2004
This review is from: The Nutcracker / Baryshnikov, Kirkland, Charmoli (DVD)
I must apologize for my bad english, but I just had to write this rewiev. I had vhs tape of this ballett and I waited DVD version for years, so there's no need to say that I'm extreamly happy. Most of rewievers here said that the production is not excellent, you may like other versions more. So... I have seen all the versions and I must say they can't compete with this one. They all lack true feeling. If you read memories of soviet balletdancers, you realize, how monotonous was the repertory politics in Kirov or Bolshoi Ballett. ABT gave Baryshnikov a chance to do things differently and who can claim that it's bad?

Example:rewier "rss28" claimes that the great pas de deux is actually pas de trois...only because Drosselmeyer appers to be in the scene! I see it otherwise. Mr. Drosselmeyer is NOT a person here, but he appers to be the TIME. Time flys by, if we like something, we always have to little time to enjoy it, Clara doesn't want to go home, but she has to and time has come. In all other versions the Prince and Clara are watching the pas de deux, but here they are actually involved, it's their story and this dance gives a ballett hole new meaning and depth. I'm sorry, but normally this pas de deux is boring, it's only fireworks and tehnique, no EMOTION! But it was Anna Pavlova who said that ballett is not a tehniqe, but soul. To me the pas de deux is extreamly beautiful, I can see love, sweet passion, all these tender feelings. Thank you, mr. Baryshnikov for that great experience.
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118 of 131 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Opportunity to Watch the Kirkland/Baryshnikov partnership, November 3, 2004
This review is from: The Nutcracker / Baryshnikov, Kirkland, Charmoli (DVD)
There are not many video opportunities to watch Gelsey Kirkland dance at all, much less when partnered by Mikhail Baryshnikov ("Baryshnikov at Wolf Trap" is the only other one I know of). For those of us who watched them on stage, it was a magical partnership even if at the time we did not know its tragic undertones. Other than an occassional outing with Makarova, Baryshnikov was never as evenly or stimulatingly matched. Pity there is no record of their Giselle or La Sylphide or Gelsey's "The Leaves are Fading". Both artists were at their peak when they danced together, and their peak to this day remains of the highest order. So, we are lucky that some record exists.

Unfortunately, one wishes this were a better document. This is a studio performance, and at times looks rather cramped. For some reason, even on DVD, everything seems taped in soft-focus, with a bluish gauzy overlay that becomes irritating. The choreography is thoroughly undistinguished if not boring. As noted elsewhere, the Arabian Dance is missing. It's fun to spot some ABT regulars of the period such as Warren Conover and George de la Pena, even if they don't do much. But this Nutcracker has been re-conceived to be Gelsey's and Misha's show, and, limited a show as it may be, they are the only reasons to purchase this DVD, if at all. If you are looking for a Nutcracker for the sake of having a DVD of the ballet, this is not for you. Try the Royal, or Balanchine's with NYCB, the Kirov or the Bolshoi.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After 26 Christmases, I still get chills when I watch this video!, December 5, 2005
This review is from: The Nutcracker / Baryshnikov, Kirkland, Charmoli (DVD)
This version of the Nutcracker contains some of the most moving, spectacular dancing you will ever see on video (and will rival most, if not all, of the live dancing you will ever see!). Ignore the amateur critics who try to tell you that there is some kind of sinister, pedophilic undertone to the relationship between Clara, danced by the incomparable Gelsey Kirkland, and her Uncle Drosselmeyer, danced by Sasha Minz. He is her godfather, she is his niece, nothing more. He gives her the gift of a dream, and when the dream is over, he comes to take her back to reality. There is nothing sinister here. THIS VIDEO IS COMPLETELY APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN!

As a highly trained ballet dancer who has loved this version of the Nutcracker for many, many years, I can say without hesitation that this is absolutely the best version available. The Balanchine version, no matter which company dances it, is cheesy and uninspired. The choreography is dry and simplistic. I've never been a fan of Balanchine, who dumbed down the art of ballet until it was almost depressing. Baryshnikov's version is a breath of fresh air, and watching him with Ms. Kirkland will take your breath away. There's a reason the 1970s were the (albeit brief) American dance renaissance. This version brings life back into the ballet. If you haven't had the pleasure of catching this unbelievable ballet on PBS, do not hesitate to buy it. I've been watching it for 26 years and the final pas de deux still brings tears to my eyes!
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what are these reviewers talking about, August 29, 2005
This review is from: The Nutcracker / Baryshnikov, Kirkland, Charmoli (DVD)
While some complain that a romantic version of the nutcracker is to hard to explain to children, and than complain that the romance, which the children do not understand, makes this film inappropriate, I will speak from experience. I grew up in a very consrvative home and viewed this film every christmas for as long as I can remember. As a child I did not understand the subtle romantic plot, but enjoyed the obvious and familiar plot along with the costumes and music and so forth. As an adult I was inraptured with the more subtle and sublime romance beautifully and artistically portrayed. Obviously the romance is not vulger or it could not be so subtle, those who grossly exagerate and twist a simple romanic fairytale on the same level as slepping beauty or cinderella, simply mimic the review of one critic at the time who just wanted to get attention buy writting something different. After all how inappropriate can a BALLET, made decades ago be??? Especially compaired to even childrens entertainment today. Come on people!!! Don't just drum up contraversy because your bored or to lazy to form an opinian for yourself.

My advice is buy it, see it for youself, it WILL become a treasured holiday tradition, and if in the end you don't agree with me you can return it. But I think you will find Barysnikov's performance stunning, Kirkland's performance lovely, and the multi-level storyline much more entertaining while preserving the basic themes that the author intended and that we have all come to love.

It IS wonderful! I Give you my word!
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enduring classic, December 17, 2005
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This review is from: The Nutcracker / Baryshnikov, Kirkland, Charmoli (DVD)
I have grown up with Baryshnikov's Nutcracker. I don't understand the review discussing the "perplexing pas de deux" issue. When I was 7 years old I don't recall sensing anything sinister or improper about Uncle Drosselmeier's behavior towards Clara. The narrator explains at the beginning of the story that Drosselmeier is giving his godchild "the gift of a dream."

Sigh! I suppose next some enterprising critic will suggest that the entire premise of "The Nutcracker" is socially/sexually deviant because the love match involves a young girl and a toy, that the Nutcracker/Prince endorses an unhealthy female dependence on "Prince Charming" complex, and that the battle with the mice indicates a rodent fetish.

The storyline has to be taken in context with the era in which it was originally conceived. It is the story of a young girl nearing adulthood and the complexities of adult choices such as finding a life partner. Drosselmeier's interferences at the end were meant to draw Clara free from the fantasy/dream and keep her from being "lost" in it. Surely no one here thinks a responsible parent/guardian would simply allow an adolescent girl to run away with the first beau she falls in love with?

The themes of the dances also indicate Clara's more childish side longing to be "more grown up". She is dreaming about sweets and flowers (traditional courting gifts at the time as well as the present.) Her costume change (from girl's nightgown to evening dress and crown) indicate a sort of temporary maturity for the sake of the dream. In the end she returns to her nightgown.

My perception of this production has changed throughout the years and I analyze it much more deeply as an adult than I did when I was a child. At no time did I ever perceive Drosselmeier as a pedophile or even a sinister character.

Most artistic interpretation relies upon whatever the viewer's perception of the art form is. I perceive it as a coming-of-age story, the prequel of a young Victorian miss longing but still not quite ready to wear grown-up gowns and receive gentlemen callers, etc.

I've read criticism of the ballet's production values. It is still beautifully, lovingly done given its age and I appreciate the simplicity of the sets because they don't overwhelm the principles.

This is a precious children's faerie tale with some of the best artistic talent (both dance and music) of its time. It should be savored lovingly with hot chocolate and friends and family, particularly young people.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly, a CHRISTMAS TREASURE, November 14, 2005
By 
This review is from: The Nutcracker / Baryshnikov, Kirkland, Charmoli (DVD)
I am 25 years old and for at least the past 23 of them, I have not been able to get through the Christmas season without watching this version of the Nutcracker at least once (regardless of the others I have watched or danced in myself)! If you're interested in purchasing a classic ballet that will inspire your children's as well as your own imagination, this is it!

I think the concerned reviewers that mentioned that this version of the ballet has "adult themes" are using a pretty strong term for what many people feel suggests an overprotective godfather's reaction to his little girl growing up and becoming interested in boys. This interpretation is featured in lots of Nutcracker productions, and is taken to varying degrees -- this one is really benign! Let's not forget that a lot of the Nutcracker's story takes place as Clara's dream, and SHE dreams his reaction to the Nutcracker prince and every other portion of the ballet that takes place in the "Land of Sweets" (including the sultry Arabian Dance and the pas de deux). This is a WONDERFUL, BEAUTIFUL, UPLIFTING and FUN ballet -- isn't that what we're looking for in the Nutcracker?
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Nutcracker, March 4, 2004
Despite it's missing some important bits from the original, I am compelled to embrace this Nutcracker as my favorite - I watch it throughout the year, not just at Christmas time.
The casting is perfect, with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland taking the lead. Alexander Minz is perfect as Drosselmeyer, and the ABT company members portray the peripheral roles with skill and elan. Particular variations that stand out to my mind are that of Columbine and Harlequin, the Spanish dancers, and Dance of the Mirlitons. Why they left out the Arabian variation, I'll never know...but that doesn't ruin the viewing experience.
I actually prefer this plot to that involving the Sugarplum Fairy - this, which I believe follows closer to the traditional Russian storyline, focuses moreso on the dream of Clara, and her adolescent awakening. Rather than planting her on a pillow (to stay from then on) upon her arrival in the Land of the Sweets, she remains involved, dancing a yearning pas de deux with the Nutcracker Prince. It makes the ballet far more interesting, and not such a little girls' fantasy (which can get a bit mawkish after a short while). The frequent involvement of Drosselmeyer throughout the ballet reinforces this, and creates a magical effect.
The sets and costumes are glorious - not a weak moment therein. The ladies' gowns in the opening party scene are just spectacular. Also, the musical performance is beautifully handled.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baryshnikov's Great, Yes, but This Triumph is Kirkland's, January 11, 2002
By A Customer
For years this performance of the Nutcracker was the only one I knew (thanks to annual presentations by PBS). After all, as my mother (who lived her young adulthood through the Great Depression) would say, why pay big bucks to sit far from a stage when television gave such glorious closeups. I have since been disappointed in live Nutcracker performances after this version was imprinted on me!
Gelsey Kirkland will always be the quintessential Clara to me--an adolescent on the verge of womanhood, experiencing the beginnings of her sexual awakening, torn between her childhood attachment to a beloved father-figure/uncle and a more mature sensuality with the prince. Kirkland's autobiography helped me to understand her unusual appearance (an eating disorder, drug use, plastic surgery) but she physically and dramatically conveys the emotions of an adolescent awakening the likes of which I've seen nowhere else in theatre. And her use of her body in the ballet moves is a physical ideal few dancers can match.
I'm so glad to find this film available at Amazon. I've searched video catalogs for it with no success. This last & other recent Christmas seasons were incomplete without a view of this exquisite presentation.
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The Nutcracker / Baryshnikov, Kirkland, Charmoli
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