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New York City Ballet brings holiday magic home with ‘Nutcracker’ film

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Joy to the twirl! If the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on your holidays, fear not — here’s a beloved Christmastime tradition you can enjoy from the comfort of your couch.

A New York City Ballet soloist has teamed up with Sotheby’s to produce a dazzling short film version of the beloved ballet “The Nutcracker.” Featuring original choreography performed by two NYCB dancers, the festive performance airs Friday on the auction house’s Web site and social-media channels. It kicks off the Christmas season, as well as Sotheby’s Festival of Wonder luxury series, by making use of some of the sale’s most exquisite jewels and watches.

Peter Walker, who choreographed and directed the piece, told The Post that he was happy to provide some “artistic relief from this crazy time” to viewers who have been pummeled by the pandemic.

“The New York City Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ is synonymous with the holiday season in New York, and it’s a holiday tradition for many many New Yorkers,” said Walker, 28.

Indeed, in a more typical December, the esteemed dance corps would be performing George Balanchine’s classic vision of the story — in which a young girl accompanies her nutcracker prince to a magical land filled with delicacies — daily for rapt audiences. This year, NYCB has canceled all live performances, although “Nutcracker” nuts can stream a recording from the 2019 season starting Friday, Dec. 11, for $25.

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India Bradley dances in the virtual “Nutcracker” performance.
Erin Baiano

Walker, who has been dancing since the age of 9, said his version is different in more ways than one.

For one thing, it was all done over Zoom. Walker said he worked with the two performers — NYCB soloist Sebastian Villarini-Velez and Corps de Ballet member India Bradley — remotely, for safety reasons. “We didn’t rehearse in person for this at all until the day of [filming],” Walker said.

It’s also going to sound a little different. The dance is set to to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s iconic “Waltz of the Flowers,” which is normally in the second act of the ballet. But here, it’s been remixed into a novel, urban-techno soundtrack.

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India Bradley of the New York City Ballet
Erin Baiano

Finally, they’ve traded the gilded Lincoln Center stage for a diamond-studded Sotheby’s gallery. “Just taking the energy of that remixed music and the familiarity of ‘The Nutcracker’ and combining those things with the beautiful space that is the galleries at Sotheby’s really makes the whole production visually stunning,” Walker said.

Although Walker is looking forward to a time when dancers can delight audiences in person again, he also said he hopes virtual performances become a permanent part of ballet’s new normal. 

“I hope that in the future we find some sort of a middle ground,” he said. “This digital component … makes ballet more visible and more accessible to a younger and larger audience.”

NYCB’s ‘The Nutcracker,’ kicking off Sotheby’s Festival of Wonder luxury sale, airs 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, on Sothebys.com as well as on Sotheby’s YouTube, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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