Gonna Send Five Copies to my Mother!!



That’s SAIR on the left.

In the New York Times!

The photo is from a couple of years ago; it’s just the coolest photo of the Merlitons and Lambs.

EDIT: to add some text, cos the Times is sometimes tiresome at people. Here is most of the text.

Critic’s Notebook

The Smallest Dancers Steal Their Own Show

[photo here]

Lester Leong/Berkeley Ballet Theater

Mirliton lambs and shepherdesses (Sarah Walsh, left, and Fiona Brodie) at Berkeley Ballet Theater’s “Nutcracker” in California.

Published: December 22, 2010

Something romantic about the 19th century made it a great era for artists to enter into the imaginations of children. Thanks to Tchaikovsky’s music — with its blend of fantasy, humor, suspense and vehemence, and its “Gulliver’s Travels”-type changes of scale between the miniature and the colossal — it’s not too much to place the “The Nutcracker” ballet among the many great 19th-century depictions of childhood. It takes company among E. T. A. Hoffmann’s original “Nutcracker” tale, “Jane Eyre,” “David Copperfield,” Hans Christian Andersen’s tales, “Huckleberry Finn,” the “Alice” books and the opera “Hänsel und Gretel.”

And something about America in the 20th and 21st centuries has embraced “The Nutcracker” and has made it, in scores of places around this country, a civic tradition. The child heroine sees her world change size and her Nutcracker doll come to life, participates in a battle between mice and toy soldiers, and undergoes a great journey into realms she never knew, realms with Paradise-like qualities. Like the Gospel according to Mark, the ballet says, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”

All around America children go onstage (85 per performance at San Francisco Ballet, 83 at Boston Ballet), often taking the central narrative roles, and it seems as if the whole nation takes them to its heart. In many cities money has been lavished on special stage effects: the Christmas tree that suddenly grows immense, the snow that falls for minutes on end. But people don’t go to “The Nutcracker” to applaud lavish display. At the story’s core lie innocence and faith, and children have given some of the best performances I’ve been watching.


At Berkeley Ballet Theater in California on Friday evening Clara was 15 — both less and more vulnerable. In this production, choreographed by Sally Streets and Robert Nichols, Clara and Fritz are homeless orphans; Christmas is something they desperately want as outsiders. Many of the big roles (Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen, Butterfly) were played by children; by contrast Fritz and the Nutcracker were adults who’d been performing their roles for many years.

My own favorite characters here, the tiny Lambs in the Act II Mirlitons divertissement, were among the smallest children. Often, I’ve discovered around America, the Mirlitons dance is played as a pastoral number with adult shepherdesses and child lambs, but what made me laugh out loud here was that when these shepherdesses held out their staffs horizontally, their lambkins knew just what to do: They grasped them like ballet barres and did battements tendus (sliding the foot from flat to point).


A traditional “Nutcracker” builds up to the Sugar Plum Fairy. Everybody knows the tinkling celesta music for her solo — this month alone, I have heard it used in a car commercial and a Jimmy Kimmel bit — and yet, in context, it’s still the special effect that it was in 1892. But the ballet’s biggest surprise is the sensational grandeur Tchaikovsky gives to the adagio she dances with her cavalier. This, with its huge array of slowly cascading scales, is music that seems to envisage Paradise through a tragic filter, and just what it expresses is among the greatest ambiguities in any art form.

It’s a great challenge for a dancer, and so far — I saw my 24th production of this year on Tuesday evening, but still have more to go — there have been several ballerinas who have matched both the adagio’s grandeur and the solo’s radiance. In Seattle (back in November) Carla Körbes was perhaps finest of all. Recently, though, I’ve been much impressed by the poised, super-elegant and calmly dazzling Vanessa Zahorian (San Francisco Ballet) and the luminously youthful Jillian Barrell (Ballet Arizona). In other productions Ms. Barrell would fit in as Clara. But this versatile artist finds different colors in different choreography. (She was a rapidly explosive Dew Drop at a matinee.) And when she dances Sugar Plum, her light, crystalline purity led me back to the ballet’s central kernel: innocence.

A version of this article appeared in print on December 23, 2010, on page C1 of the New York edition.

19 responses to this post.

  1. Way cool!!


    • Hey, I think maybe I’m not listed for your WP account!
      (Still not properly settled in here….)
      Went to take a look and it says I need to be okayed.


      • I know you were added way back when I started here, but sometimes WP randomly drops people off my list and I have to re-add them. You’re good to go now.


  2. How cool is that?! Wow! Yaaaay!

    I don’t think I knew that she did ballet (it’s also possible that I did know and just forgot)


  3. Wow! that’s purty awesome.


  4. Loving the blog title – lol!

    And that is so cool, to have your daughter in the Times. Does she still do ballet?


  5. [this is good]

    Your title made me LOL too.


  6. (The NYT won’t let me look. It says I need to log in. Foo, I sez.)


  7. Oh, isn’t this the COOLEST???
    Beautiful, Sair!!!


  8. How cool!!!!!


  9. OMGosh, you must be so proud! She’s so lovely and talented.


  10. Wooooooooohooooooooooo!!!!!!!!! So wonderful!!!!!!


  11. LAUOOOooooOOOoo! You have to beaming with pride! That’s fantastic!
    I still haven’t gotten use to WP, but even on Vox I did more visiting than posting. I get interrupted too much around here to stay focused on an actual post. Congrats Sair!
    ….you know I want to say more about that poise and the babies….but…HAHA! I’m gonna behave! Hehe!
    Miss you! Best to you and yours 2011. (((hugs and lubs)))
    I just clicked you under updates so I should get them thru email 🙂


    • Actually I’m more intermittent here than I tended to be on Vox, but I do post.
      And, damn it, I’m *still* trackig peeps down.

      (No one can hide from me forever in the innerwebz…. I’ll just follow the LOL cats til I find them!)


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