The opening pantomime is efficiently handled (compare the ABT Le Corsaire—and these are children). The Dance of the Snowflakes echoes Scherzo à la Russe. The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy has about three ideas turned at an angle that gives an impression of force commensurate with her powers. The danseur cuts a figure in the Chinese Dance that resembles Chinese characters.
There’s a prodigious little elaboration of Balanchine’s articulated hips, and gags that are very elegant or very funny. The pas de deux has a ballerina on one toe drawn across the stage; Mother Ginger (who also has “so many children she doesn’t know what to do”) powders her face lavishly.
The direction attempts to render Peter Martins’ stage production, and has its points as seen on television—in a theater, one has high hopes that Ardolino’s “many and various” choices of lens will all prove correct ones.
Tchaikovsky’s music is familiar to the point of contempt, principally Roger Ebert’s. It took Stravinsky to value so much invention at its worth.