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CHAPTER 15

Another Nutcracker!
As the New York winter of 1972 approached, with its bitter cold and slushy streets, I, as always, looked forward to the month-long stay in Tucson, with its extreme difference in weather and scenery.

Changing planes in Chicago I knew it would not be long before I would leave all that behind and soon be flying over a snow covered Mid-West and the Rocky Mountains, then, as we approached the Southwest, a golden light would suddenly fill the plane and I would look out the window at the sunken world of the Arizona desert, stretching into the distance.

By now, the Vigilantes no longer met me at the airport with their threats of hanging me on sight as a city slicker. I was considered by then a regular ‘snow bird’ (a term used in Arizona for people who come there to live only during the winter months).

Photo: Dance of the Mirlitons [Shepheardesses] in Act 2 of Tucson “Nutcracker” - Dec. 1972
Photo: Finale of Act One, “Nutcracker. It has been snowing, Tucson desert style!

That year, in addition to “Nutcracker” which ran a week, I put on a second week of mixed bill - “Swan Lake” Act 2 and “Coppelia”. I thought our Coppelia had sets and costumes even far superior to the old Ballet Russe ones used by Eglevsky. Of course they were sparkling new and colorful. “The Pygmalion myth come to life …. with the second act a spectacular Gothic laboratory straight out of Frankenstein” so one reviewer said. Another said: “....from last night’s dress rehearsal, the performance was already satin-smooth. The soloists were outstanding, the ballet corps gifted and well rehearsed. The sets and costumes are enchanting, professionally and beautifully designed and executed. Seldom has a ballet anywhere been more stunningly mounted than this one. Artistic director Richard Holden has done wonders in meshing the dancers into a smoothly integrated group. The scenes flow one into another with the feeling of no break in motion. It is remarkable that at the local level this much unity could be achieved in a dance production”.

My English mentor, Charles Menzies had come to America for the first time, which was quite an adventure for him. Picking him up at Kennedy Airport I could see he was eager to see everything. He had shown me his country, now it was my turn to show him mine. He was thrilled by the sights of New York, followed by the breathtaking vistas of the Southwest. The Tucson Civic Ballet production values really impressed him, even the level of dancing. He was amazed to find such culture in the middle of the desert. He met many of my friends; dancers, musicians, artists, writers. He had many images to take back with him to Great Britain.

Photo: Swanilda (dancer Leigh Ann Barber) pretends to be the mechanical robot Coppelia while I as Dr. Coppelius am trying to bring her to life.  Her lover Franz, whom I have drugged, is asleep at the table.

More Tucson Civic Ballet Nutcracker pictures from 1972:

Photo: I'm working to magically make the tree grow - Dec 1972

 

 

 

Photo: I'm examining the Nutcracker doll

 

 

 

Photo: Clara and Nutcracker Prince pas de deux before the snow scene .

Richard France and Natalie Prince
Dec 1972.

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