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B.), a show of Establishment support that crowned the company first among its peers in American dance. Act Two alights in the Land of Sweets, where the Sugarplum Fairy reigns. For 40 years, since leaving Russia in 1924, he’d recalled with longing the lavishly outfitted stage of St. Act One centers on a little girl named Marie, who through the conjuring of her godfather, Herr Drosselmeier, encounters a nutcracker doll who becomes a prince, a Christmas tree that grows like Jack’s beanstalk, toy soldiers battling mice, and a blizzard. B., Balanchine had been thinking big but had to execute it all on a small stage and a shoestring, training his dancers to move as if there were no limits even as they smacked into stagehands while careening into the wings.Not only was he exacting about how his dancers should move through the hoop (“It’s complicated,” says the Carolina Ballet artistic director, Robert Weiss, who danced Candy Cane for many years; “the hoop goes over and you jump into the over-ness of it”), he remained proprietary about the role itself. B., asked Balanchine to choreograph the —which in Russia is performed throughout the year—but calling up the Christmases of his childhood, the sense of warmth and plenty that was embodied in a tree brimming with fruits and chocolates, glittering with tinsel and paper angels.“Not bad, dear,” Balanchine once told Clifford as he came offstage—his “not bad” was high praise—“but you know I did it faster.” When, in the early 50s, Morton Baum, then chairman of City Center’s finance committee and a guardian angel to N. “For me Christmas was something extraordinary,” Balanchine told the writer Solomon Volkov. In a nationally televised broadcast the company was welcomed into the New York State Theater, one of the brand-new venues that made up Manhattan’s campus of culture, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

The monumental tree that was conceived for the 1964 transplant begins the ballet measuring 18 feet tall and projecting two feet at the base. But nestled six feet under the stage is more tree—23 feet more.City Center was made a Lincoln Center constituent and the State Theater was officially home to the New York City Ballet.“The tree is the ballerina,” says N. Before every performance this ballerina is shaken to see what’s loose, her bulbs are checked and garlands arranged. He wanted Marie to have that same feeling of looking up.”Stage Might‘Our format was now irrevocably on a grand scale,” Kirstein would write of the move to the State Theater.When the ballet finishes its annual run of 47 performances, the tree is not stored in New Jersey with many of the ballet’s other props but in the State Theater basement. “In some eyes, it was the Big Time.” In all eyes, actually.“The box that the tree lives in,” says Marquerite Mehler, N. And it wasn’t just the tree, now weighing approximately 2,200 pounds, that was bigger.

The production that was loaded into the State Theater in December 1964 contained “a lot of air,” horizontally and vertically, and the dancers had to fill it.“It was a major, major adjustment,” says Edward Villella, a City Ballet star and founder of the Miami City Ballet.When asked if the State Theater suited his purposes, he said, “I think that we have to stay a very, very long time here to use everything that is possible.” Kirstein, meanwhile, was having all the company’s scenery remade—scaled upward—so that it wouldn’t fit in City Center. technical director Perry Silvey, quoting Balanchine. He estimates that to replace the tree would cost at least 0,000. faculty member who danced the Marzipan Shepherdess on that December afternoon of 1964, “was how really excited Balanchine was to finally have a big tree.