Over the years, I’ve seen many incarnations of The Nutcracker, and I’m more than passing fond of quite a few of them. The Balanchine Nutcracker performed by the New York City Ballet is deservedly a classic, and the Joffrey’s version, currently performing in my hometown of Chicago, is also wonderful.
But my favorite Nutcracker of all is this one from 1977, featuring the American Ballet Theater and starring two great ballet dancers: Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland. I love this version because it’s perhaps the most romantic adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, and also because of the electrifying dancing of the extraordinary young Baryshnikov and Kirkland, who were both at their respective peaks. Kirkland, btw, wrote a dishy memoir about sex, drugs, and the 1970s ballet scene, which is well worth checking out, if that’s your sort of thing (it is definitely my sort of thing).
Here is an excerpt from the ballet, featuring Kirkland in the dance of the sugar plum fairy, followed by a thrilling Baryshnikov/Kirkland duet. Btw, the entire ballet is up on YouTube; you can watch it here.