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'Nutcracker'

January 11, 1987

The American Ballet Theatre visited Los Angeles during the holidays and performed Mikhail Baryshnikov's production of "The Nutcracker." For weeks, my husband, our two young children, and I had looked forward to this wonderful Christmas season event.

Midway into the first act, Drosselmeyer the Magician brings on his toys, including the Nutcracker and the Moor. Only this Moor was different from any I'd ever seen before: dressed in blackface, with hugely exaggerated orange lips. My husband and I looked at one another in the dark, and all we could say was "Can you believe they did that?"

How did such an offensive racial caricature find its way into this famous ballet? Especially a production choreographed by an artist who came to this country seeking freedom from oppression of all kinds? Last year, Baryshnikov appeared in "White Nights," a movie that condemned racism. Didn't he learn anything from that?

I wonder how my children will remember this special Christmas Eve outing. Unfortunately, their parents' anger probably made more of an impression than the ballet did. Next year, maybe we'll all just stay at home.

SYLVIA DREW IVIE

Los Angeles

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