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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Forever Young

Mark Morris (Mr. Stahlbaum), Lauren Grant (Marie), and John Heginbotham (Mrs. Stahlbaum). Photo Susana Millman

Mark Morris Dance Group’s The Hard Nut returns to the Howard Gilman Opera House (Dec 14—23). We spoke with some dancers who have held longtime roles.


Q: How do you channel the spirit and physicality of a boy so well?

A: I never believe I have done it well until I meet people after a show who were convinced I was a real boy onstage, a compliment that never fails to surprise and delight me. The brilliant makeup, a boy’s haircut, and Marty Pakledinaz’s genius costumes help a lot, as has Mark’s repeated exhortation over the years to “Do less, June!”

Q: What do your children think of you as Fritz, if they’ve seen you perform The Hard Nut?

A: Of course my children have seen me perform The Hard Nut! I’m grateful that I got to keep dancing for long enough after I had them that my girls, at least, remember seeing me in L’Allegro and Dido and Aeneas as well. Their teenage take on Fritz is humbling, however, which is that to them, he is so obviously their (old!) mother that they are incredulous anyone in the audience would be fooled.


Q: What’s your favorite aspect of your character?

A: Growing up, every time an eyelash fell out or I saw a shooting star, I always spent my wishes on the hope of finding romantic love. Each winter, when I become Marie again, I relive those wishes and at the end of every show, I get to experience that universal dream coming true. As Marie discovers and embraces her true love, I sense the audience relating to the desire for a deep human connection and feeling satisfaction in watching her attain that dream. This being a Mark Morris production, there is a delightfully bittersweet moment as Marie and her Nutcracker walk off, arm-in-arm, into the distance. Nothing in life is truly perfect.

Q: How has your portrayal evolved over the years?

A: Longevity can offer a wonderful benefit: When a body knows the pattern and mechanics of a role so well, one can experiment with nuance. Each time I reprise this role (I began playing Marie in 1998!) I mine my movement and narrative tasks for the potential of even greater expressivity.

Q: Is there a scene that you cherish the most?

A: The kisses! When my husband, David Leventhal, played the role of Nutcracker for many years, those kisses became very real. When he retired from the stage to manage and direct MMDG’s Dance for PD® program, the lovely new Aaron Loux stepped into his role and I was determined not to let that great kissing scene fall flat.

Lauren Grant (Marie) and June Omura (Fritz). Photo Julieta Cervantes


Q: What’s your favorite aspect of your character?

A: Mrs. Stahlbaum is complicated—she’s benevolent, stressed out, loves and is frustrated by members of her family, values order and cleanliness—at least in public—has erotic feelings for Drosselmeyer, and she enjoys a cocktail. Maybe my favorite aspect though, is that even with her many conflicting states of emotion, she can always rock a pair of 4-inch Christmas pumps.

Q: How has your portrayal evolved over the years?

A: I was younger than the character when I started playing her. Now, I’m at, or nearing, her age. With that in mind, I feel she’s become a little bit more forgiving and understanding of some of the family and friends who populate her beautiful Christmas party.

Q: Is there a scene that you cherish the most?

A: I am very fond of the Party Scene. I’m able to interact extensively with the other performers in this section, and it’s just a joy to dance with them all. A scene I love in which I do not appear is the Snow Scene. I find the humor and beauty of this scene to be heartbreaking and heart filling.

© 2018 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you all dancers for giving loving and gender fluid performances. It was beautiful to watch, as always, fun to realize that boys danced as girls, girls as boys and everything.what if our world were so gender fluid and gender blind? Lovely!


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