Getting to the Nutcracker


By: Addison Wylie

For those looking for a seasonal flick, Getting to the Nutcracker may hit the spot.

Serene Meshel-Dillman’s documentary about the conception of The Nutcracker at Los Angeles’ Marat Daukayev School of Ballet is a eloquent film.  If you’re a theatre enthusiast and are already humming Tchaikovsky, Getting to the Nutcracker will have you grinning throughout its entirety.

Dillman documents each phase as best as possible leading up to the big show (which is busily edited – maybe to a fault).  While we may feel the rehearsal process speeding up, the film doesn’t want to cut corners.  Dillman takes her time with establishing an overall mood to the play’s development.  For instance, when movie goers are first introduced to the school’s artistic director Marat Daukayev and his collaborator (who’s also his wife), we already feel a welcoming presence.

With most of these docs featuring dedicated teachers and inspired students, there’s always a lot of stress at foot with the educator beating a repertoire like a bellowing drum.  That’s not the case for this film.  In Getting to the Nutcracker, the Daukayev’s are interested in making sure their young performers are confident in a learning environment.  Marat articulates his direction in a compassionate manner, which helps his students strive for more while retaining their self-assurance that they’re cut out for the job.

Serene Meshel-Dillman utilizes dazzling widescreen cinematography, adding high-end swank to her shot list.  Her film’s scope makes sure it covers every corner of the studio or stage the company performs in, so everyone gets a moment to shine.  No matter how big or small a performer is.

The dancers are all down-to-earth, adoring kids who treasure their time at the school.  They all maintain their thoughts, talents, and professionalism in humbling ways, but also love to tell the camera how much they appreciate Marat and dance.  Even the smiley toddlers and the volunteering Dancing Dads are modest and courteous.  You won’t find another lot like these folks.

Getting to the Nutcracker records what it sees.  The filmmaker isn’t cooking up anything to heighten any drama.  This also means that Dillman puts all of her eggs in one basket and hopes that something compelling will beam and flourish naturally.

Outside of the wonderful choreography, Getting to the Nutcracker keeps stakes and risks at a low level and gradually offers us more of the same.  Movie goers receive inevitable theatrical hurdles (rehearsal injuries, mild chaos backstage, etc.), but it’s nothing that we couldn’t foresee.

Getting to the Nutcracker is a top-notch featherweight doc, however I think I’d only recommend it to theatre fanatics.  They’ll truly gain something out of the film – no matter how repetitive it appears.

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