A special Christmas edition of our Friday Historical: what else but The Nutcracker. While 1977 may not feel all that far away (to some of us...) in ballet career terms it is light years gone - and it was a generation that brought us Mikhail Baryshnikov from Russia and Gelsey Kirkland from America, and brought them together at American Ballet Theatre.
The entire Baryshnikov Nutcracker has been cracked into 10 pieces and posted at YouTube: a version that got right to the kernel of the piece's heart. I toyed with the idea of posting the whole thing here, and would have done so were it not for the risk that I would then sit and watch it all. Here instead is a choice extract: Kirkland in the Sugar Plum Fairy solo, an exuberant pas de deux finale and then - only then - the big pas de deux that Baryshnikov must have felt, as many do, is much more emotional and equally more painful than the plain classical showpiece choreography could convey. He transformed it into a pas de trois, with our heroine and hero kept apart by the figure of Drosselmeyer, reminding Clara that it is only a dream and she and her dream Nutcracker cannot be together in reality.
Excuse me while I go and have a quick weep.
Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.
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