Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Nutcracker's Mother Ginger

In Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, one of the most controversial and most delightful parts of the ballet is the appearance of Mother Ginger and the Bon Bons in Act Two. Mother Ginger and the bon bon children perform what is known in ballet terms as a "divertissement", quite literally (in French) a distraction from the more serious roles in the ballet. The role of Mother Ginger is traditionally played by a man, in part because Mother Ginger's costume requires a very, very large dress, which can weigh up to 100 pounds. All of the little bon bons hide under their mother's skirt and come spilling out at the beginning of their dance. The hilarity of Mother Ginger and the cute-factor of the bon bons provide the audience with a well-intended light-hearted giggle. However the true meaning of Mother Ginger’s casting comes out when you look at the major aspects of the national allies and feuding countries, you find out that Mother Ginger actually takes on a political propaganda aspect. In many of the large productions of the Nutcracker, Mother Ginger sports a very flamboant attitude and a curley mustache. It is pictured this way to resemble (slightly) of a French men. At the time of the show’s creation, Russia did not like the French and made Mother Ginger a cross- dressing/ homosexual French man. This was to state that the French were all homosexuals or cross-dressing men and therfore were not real men at all. You then look at the variation in the same act called “Russian” which sports energizing music with high jumps and multiple turns showcasing the most masculine form of ballet dancing (yes masculine ballet does exist) to state that Russia is full of real and strong men compared to the previous French model. Many of the most famous male ballet dancers perform in their early career as Mother Ginger to prove to the companies they work for that they will perform any role and to have a light hearted part that they can goof off in the middle of a greulingly difficult show. I am very honored to have followed in the greats’ footsteps by performing this in the beginning of my dancing life(as pictured).

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