Virginia Brooks Dance Films>>The Nutcracker Family - Behind the Magic Background-About The Film-Production Credits-Reviews


Each year ballet companies and schools all over the United States and abroad present some version of The Nutcracker story. For nearly one hundred children, all students of The School of American Ballet, the experience begins the first Saturday in October during an afternoon audition that takes about three hours.

The children who are chosen meet the criteria of size (to fit the costumes) and of strength (the technique required for dancing in those costumes.)

These children will spend the next twelve weeks rehearsing for and performing in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ with the New York City Ballet at the New York State Theater in Lincoln Center.  They will be rehearsed and supervised by the Children’s Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle, a former dancer with NYCB who played the part of Marie’s and Fritz’s mother, Frau Stahlbaum (among other roles) during the years when Mr. Balanchine was in charge of the Company.

Many of the children who dance today probably think that Garielle herself is making up the steps that she is teaching them to perform with such precision.

But children, now grownups, who danced in the ballet in the many performances between 1954 and 1981, will confirm that the steps are the same ones they did, when Mr. B. attended the dress rehearsals. He coached the young Prince in the mime that he remembered from his days in the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, and he designed the steps and the stage business of this production, the same choreography that is being learned today, more than twenty years after he left the theater.

No matter when they learn the steps and perform them, or, for that matter, when they attend a performance and watch the ballet, all these children participate in Balanchine’s vision.

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This film, The Nutcracker Family – Behind the Magic, is a feature length documentary about the children who enter the stage door to rehearse and perform today, and about those who performed during the last fifty years. It emphasizes the rewarding aspects of hard work and mutual respect as moral values, and as elements of fulfillment and simple fun. It is intended to present the preeminent role of the New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet in establishing the Nutcracker as an American cultural institution, a traditional ritual.

The story, based on one written so long ago (1816) and far away (by E.T.A. Hoffman in Germany) seems to have filled a particular ballet niche that has resulted in varying degrees of artistic and financial success for many dance companies of all sizes and abilities. It is hoped that the film will be of interest to contemporary participants in this annual event as it presents the flavor of this one company’s creation in New York City. It provides an opportunity to share the experience, not only in this country but internationally, as well.

In addition, the film will acquaint the audiences for the performances at the New York State Theater, and those viewers of the New York City Ballet’s film of the performance of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ (Electra/Nonesuch, 1993) with the experience of the children in the cast. This should enhance those audience’s enjoyment and involvement in the live and media performances.

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Children’s Ballet Mistress Garielle Whittle
Pianist Arkadiy Figlin
Produced by Delia Peters
Filmed and Edited by Virginia Brooks
Steadicam operator Jay Kim
Steadicam assistant Roy Nowlin
Production Consultant William Otterson
Production Assistant Erica Francis
Post Production Teatown Communications Group
Avid Symphony Editor Jon Fordham
Sound Editing and Remixing Sound Track f/t - Colin Weeks

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Family Jewels by Gia Kourlas (Time Out New York / Issue 536: January 5–11, 2006)

"...illuminates the magic behind the Nutcracker...a triumphant place where labor and determination come together to create a world of beauty."

The Artificial Eye by Deborah Jowitt (The Village Voice / January 10, 2006)

"Virginia Brooks's lovely The Nutcracker Family:Behind the Magic... shows us... auditions (the waiting kids quiet as mice) and weeks of demanding rehearsals with tireless ballet mistress Garielle Whittle. Toy Soldiers stop tripping over their guns and Candy Canes' feet get more and more articulate....any child can dream of growing up to be the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier."

Dance on Camera by Susan Reiter (danceviewtimes / Vol 4, No 2  January 16, 2006)

"The Nutcracker Family: Behind the Magic takes us behind the scenes to follow... very young dancers from the School of American Ballet as they prepare for New York City Ballet's 2003 performances of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. We see how adorable and also how serious they are... presents its material without frills, allowing you to watch how an elaborate production takes shape, ...adds to the mystique and and durability of Balanchine's landmark production."

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