2012 Battle of the Nutcrackers

Last year I took inspiration from Ovation TV’s annual Battle of the Nutcrackers for a post on a cinematic version thereof. This year I decided to be a bit more literal about it.

While I’ve known of this programming block for years, and it’s served as background, or the occasional distraction during past year-end dashes, I have never seen enough of each selection to vote. This year I wanted to do so.

Now, clearly I will look for a cinematic treatment in a selection, but it does come down to the ballet. While I, through my production company, sponsor a competition, I can claim no expertise but I know what I like and know this story extremely well.

I could give this an over-analytical approach as I tend to compartmentalize and choose which one has the best in the following general categories: libretto, choreography, blocking, set design and depth thereof, filmic treatment, casting, then with show specifics: Russian Dance, Arabian Dance, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy; Look of the Nutcracker and Rats/Rat King; Tree, prince casting, the snowfall; and I just might next year, but this year I wanted to just give overall impressions and why I picked what I picked.

The Australian Ballet’s rendition of an alternate take called Clara’s Story is the better of the two non-traditional selections and the most cinematically rendered. The Casting of the San Francisco Ballet may be the best.

However, the best overall production in my mind, which did have its visual allure, is the Mariinsky production. The color palette is spectacular. The first half usually makes or breaks a production, the second is the tiebreaker. The consistency of costuming and color selections ties together the seemingly disconnected pieces of this tale. Also, lending to this cohesion is that some part of the town set is always visible. The execution of the individual dances is consistently excellent. Even though there is a lot of the musical conductor it is visually intriguing because of the occasional interesting shot or movement, the sets and costumes.

Overall, it was fascinating to view each of these unique productions, to compare and contrast. It’s a story I know well and enjoy, I could’ve easily voted for quite a few versions. The winner of the vote airs on Christmas Eve at 8PM EST. A marathon of encores airs all day on Christmas Day. For channels and schedules visit Ovation’s site.