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NYCB Vol. 9 No. 37, 38 & 39 - Nutcracker

Updated: Mar 30

(37/50) Maria Tallchief on the preparation for the first Nutcracker: “As usual, he created the pas de deux for André and me with a minimum of fuss and simply demonstrated what he wanted. He was creating traditional choreography and wanted the dancing to reflect the formal, almost static grandeur of the original Ivanov production.

“I could tell it was going to be marvelous. The movements were spacious, majestic, inventive. In one section, he had André and me cross the stage by moving around each other, leading with our shoulders. It was inspired, I think, by the way André used his upper body. More and more I saw that his beautiful port de bra was a prime influence on George.

As we worked, it become clear that the pas de deux was going to be very difficult […] George choreographed a step for me that was one of the most precarious I’d ever done. It was an off-center double turn, after which André would catch me by my wrist and place me in positions to do it again. I don’t think such an effect had ever been seen before […] It was a harrowing passage that terrified me."

Photos by Fred Fehl, cir. 1954-9



Maria Tallchief on preparing for Nutcracker:

“One afternoon, as the day of the premiere approached, he arrived unannounced in the studio where André and I were rehearsing. He wanted to see the progress we were making, and we showed him the pas de deux. He watched carefully with a smile on his face and never said a word. Finally, when we finished and he was getting ready to leave, he said, ‘You know, pas de deux must be like ballroom dancing. Very simple. Ballroom dancing.’ ‘Ballroom dance?’ I rolled my eyes to André. “George, ballroom dancing is a lot easier than this.’ ‘Yes, but should be like that.’ ‘Ballroom dancing, indeed,’ I uttered aloud. […] But just as he was walking out the door, what he meant suddenly hit me in a flash. Above all, he wanted us to be serene and joyful, as if we were having a good time.” —Maria Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina

This is originally silent footage of Maria Tallchief and Nicholas Magallanes dancing the pas de deux. I synced music up with it (and inevitably had to speed up the music to match the tempo they danced at back then!). This video is actually a phone recording of a TV screen in the library that @alastair_macaulay_ a few years back (hence the reflections of people walking past)


(39/50) (continued from previous posts) Maria Tallchief on opening night: "After intermission, dressed now in my beautiful tutu, I adjusted my tiara and made my entrance. I stood in the wings for most of the second act, preparing for the pas de deux. I was worried. [...] Then, suddenly, Nicky and I were on [Andre Eglevksy had been injured before the premiere], and we began dancing to this quiet but very grand music. The entree went well, and the adagio finished as I jumped into his arms. The audience started to shout and scream. The reaction was deafening, a true ovation. George had made magic again. He had created a monument to the joy of childhood and family life, and to the beauty of music and dancing.”

Maria Tallchief and Nicholas Magallanes. Photos by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1954. LIFE Magazine Archives

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