In ballet, the French pas de deux means “step of two.” This dance is a duet where two dancers perform ballet steps together. Usually one male and one female dancer, the pas de deux can be found in classical ballets including The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
In comparing the pas de deux between the Ball State University Department of Theatre and Dance’s production of The Nutcracker to Baryshnikov’s classic version, there are some major similarities with the intended themes and differences between the choreography.
Mikhail Baryshnikov is a Russian actor and dancer that is regarded as one of the greatest ballet dancers in history. During the Christmas season of 1977, CBS aired his highly acclaimed American Ballet Theatre production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker.
It has remained one of the most popular and most often shown productions of the work in the United States. It is perhaps Gelsey Kirkland’s most famous role. She danced the part of Clara. Baryshnikov played the Prince.
In the recorded version, both Kirkland and Baryshnikov wore beautiful, white and sparkling costumes. Their pas de deux was the epitome of classical ballet – both danced en pointe and used the majority of the stage for their “grand jetés”, or big leaps.
The choreography was executed perfectly by both dancers. All of their movements were in sync. The choreographer meant to convey a message of romanticism by the way the dancers moved and made eye contact with each other and the audience.
In the Ball State University production, directed by Audra Sokol, Lisa Curatolo played Clara and Tyler Ring played the Prince. In their version of the pas de deux, both dancers were a more modern version of Clara and the Prince. Although they had beautiful, sparkling costumes, neither danced en pointe. Instead, they wore jazz shoes while performing modernized steps.
The choreography did not include as many classical moves like grand jetés, sissones or entrechats. However, both dancers were in sync with each other and made constant eye contact with each other and with the audience.
I believe that both of the choreographers of these productions wanted to keep the themes of romanticism, love and fantasy alive during these shows. No matter how different the choreography, these are elements of a classic story that will always remain consistent during the holiday season.