Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Like any other full-evening ballet worth its salt, Mikhail Baryshnikov's "The Nutcracker" offers a wide berth for alternative casting and varieties of interpretation, as the past two performances by American Ballet Theater at the Kennedy Center confirmed.
Inevitably, the dancers bring themselves into the roles and give them personal tints and inflections. The choreography is dramatically cohesive enough not only to assimilate such idiosyncrasies but actually to profit from them - the roles seem enriched and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] by what each new interpreter injects, if this is within dramatically logical bounds.
Wednesday night saw the return for the first time this year of Marianna Tcherkassky to the part of Clara. There will always be a sense in which the role "belongs" to her. It was created "on" her, she gave us our first vision of its beauties and possibilities, and she always dances it with a very special angelic enchantment all her own.
And so it was Wednesday night. Her Clara was all palpitating eagerness, a bud about to burst into bloom. Though the setting is wintry, she makes one feel the promise of spring in the ballet's message about awakening love. There are passages in her dancing, too, which remain unrivaled - the Sugar Plum variation, for instance, in which her phrasing and elegant epaulement ("shouldering") seem to amplify the emotional reach of the music.
Her partner was Fernando Bujones, of who we have seen regrettably little this season, and who seems to be growing into a becoming restraint. On this occasion, however, he wasn't at his best; seldom did he approximate the mercurial flair he brought to the Nutcracker-Prince last year.
He danced well enough, but seemed distant, abstracted, and in a separate world from Clara.
Thursday, Gelsey Kirkland was again an ecstatic, mistily radiant Clara, reminding one also a bit of the Dorothy of Oz. Dancing with her was guest artist Richard Cragun of the Stuttgard Ballet. New to the ballet, he made up for some understandable uneasiness here and there with an appealing gallantry and buoyant momentum.
A large number of other notable contributions both nights deserve mention, among them Alexander Minz' magnetic and subtley menacing Drosselmeyer; Marcos Paredes' wonderfully vainglorious Mouse King; Gregory Osborne's remarkably elastic Harlequin; Warren Conover's spunky Fritz and sprightly Shepherd; Frank Smith's frisky, arthritic grandpa; the engagingly bouncy quartet of Buffoons; and in the second-act divertissements, the winning ways of Hilda Morales, Clark Tippet, Kristine Elliott, Kirt Peterson, Aurea Hammerli and Roman Jasinski.