I haven’t posted in a long time after reading that WordPress is incredibly vulnerable to hacking. It’s not a huge concern with this blog, but it is with another that I contribute to.
I’m also stunned by some world events, but again, that does not really apply to this blog. Or maybe it does. It may apply to all those American kids who are living and attempting to build careers as ballet dancers in Russia.
Of course the most famous of these is Joy Womack, who apparently had an appointment last week to get a green card to work in Russia. She has, as of this writing, said nothing about how that went. In fact, she hasn’t posted to YouTube at all in spite of having been in the U.S. for a week, last week (she’s now performing Odette/Odile at a ballet school performance in Belgium, I believe).
Why the silence? It could be that she found out that ballet is not its own little island. It is hugely affected by outside forces. This is always a shock to a sheltered youngster I am not going to point fingers at millennials as so many others are determined to do. Kids my age — which was long ago — were similarly naive, as were “generation X” and all the other cutsey-fakey “generational divides” that have come along since. (I generally think all this “generation gap” bullcrap is just that – bullcrap; a hangover from the 1960’s that wasn’t particularly true then and really isn’t now. Every generation is the same. They just try to divide us up so they can sell us crap.)
I saw in the comments on one of Womack’s videos that an Israeli woman was trying to warn Joy to go home to the States. This was a few months ago. One has to wonder what she knew that we didn’t, since our media were so tied up in covering fluff ad nauseum. I’m in no position to say that the U.S. dancers working in Russia are in danger, but it is a worry. Then again, everything is a worry these days.
To change the subject completely, everything is also very, very strange. Yes, I just said ballet is not an island…but this does not include ballet librettos. There are lots of islands in that world: the “Indian” ballet La Bayadere contains nothing particularly Indian, for instance. I remember a story that the ambassador from India was invited to the opening night of Makarova’s ABT production of La Bayadere and was puzzled by the ballet. That’s because the great stories of ballet don’t occur in one particular place. They create their own world and live in it.
Of course, companies in southeast Asia have ballets based on local folklore (so does Russia). Librettos can arise and exist only in local conditions. However this does not apply particularly well to time-honored ballet stories that are known throughout the world.
Yes the stories of La Bayadere, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and even Giselle have been toyed with and adapted. But the standards remain the standards, and the “local adaptations” never seem to last long.
This includes the libretto for the Joffrey’s new production of The Nutcracker. There’s the old saw that says, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But the Joffrey fixed it. And I can’t explain just what it was that they fixed. The director said that the new libretto ties the ballet more directly to Chicago, but was that necessary?
So what’s the new libretto? Damned if I can explain it, but it seems to be a single-parent Polish immigrant family with a daughter named Marie. Some millionaire industrialist from the World’s Fair comes to thank Marie’s mother for her hard work on the Fair.
Excuse me while I go ask, “what the F.”
Chicago was hardly an outpost in the Victorian era. It had its share of wealthy people living in mansions on the lake shore. There was no reason to stretch a time-honored story such as The Nutcracker to the breaking point. In many productions I’ve seen, Marie/Clara is the daughter of an upper-middle-class family. What’s the big fat hairy deal with that, that it needed to be changed, and with a weird plot twist thrown in for…who knows why.
The thing is this libretto sucks. It does not make sense. Yes, you can have a single-parent family…but the rest of it? Weird.
I haven’t seen or heard too many reviews of the new production, but the few I did come across seemed lukewarm.
I guess the lesson is that same old saw: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And The Nutcracker ain’t broke. Never was. People don’t go to see it to get a new twist on it. They go because Christmas is coming and they want to see the Nutcracker, not some artsy social commentary that’s weird at best and dimwitted at worst.
No matter. I’m sure the new production is sold out, because one thing is always the same in this upside down world: you can screw up The Nutcracker and still sell tickets.
Nothing else in this world seems to be as reliable as that.