Good night, and good luck

A word on nostalgia: it’s not always bad, is it?

Today I found out that the Pacific Northwest Ballet is mothballing their beloved production of The Nutcracker, along with its Maurice Sendak-designed sets and costumes, and Kent Stowell choreography.

Now, I’m all for innovation in art, so in principle I can hardly begrudge the company an opportunity to do something new. The new production will be designed by Ian Falconer, and I’m glad they’re keeping up the tradition of bringing in a children’s book illustrator to do the sets and costumes. (I find more suspect the dual claims of “wanting to do something new” and “using Balachine’s choreography because people find his name comforting.”)

That said, I can’t be happy about this. In great part, of course, that’s down the PNB Nutcracker‘s place in my personal history. We went every year when I was a child, trussed up in black velvet dresses (or in my brother’s case, a bow-tie), tripping hapless ballet approximations down the PNB halls. We listened to the orchestra tuning. We covered our ears when the cannons fired. We ate cake at intermission.

But moreover, I’ve genuinely never seen a production to equal it. I grant you, The Nutcracker is no one’s idea of avant-garde ballet, but there is something mischievous and appropriate about dressing a young girl’s dream world in the selfsame clothes of Where the Wild Things Are. There are irreplaceable touches – the truly repugnant masks used in the Princess Perlipat dance. The giant tree. The monstrous rat king. And most importantly (to me, since this was my favorite dance as a young girl), in the Sendak-designed ballet there is no Arabian Slave Girl dance, but instead a quiveringly beautiful peacock.*

The Sendak/Stowell ballet will be performed for one more year before being replaced in 2015, and I can’t believe how heartbroken I am.

(Though anyone who’s heard me go on about my love for this production – and that’s, um, a lot of people – will probably be unsurprised.)

Goodbye, beautiful ballet. Goodbye, childhood.


*I jest you not, I watched this trailer looking for images of the peacock (she’s near the end