“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Nutcracker season! Every year around this time, numerous ballet companies, dance studios and community theaters are putting on their productions of The Nutcracker. People all across the globe have made their plans to attend this ballet. It has become a staple occasion, just like ice skating or going caroling, and it seems as though the holiday season would not be complete without it. The Nutcracker’s evolution and influence on the world is unlike any other ballet in history. Here are some fun facts about the show:
* The very first production of The Nutcracker premiered on December 18th, 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. This two-act ballet was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and later taken over by his assistant; Lev Ivanov after Petipa had become too ill to continue.
* This production was not well received at first because many people felt that it was unbearable to have so many children running around the stage and that there was not enough ballet in it compared to other ballets, such as The Sleeping Beauty or Giselle.
* In 1954, George Balanchine created his version on the New York City Ballet, after playing the role of the Nutcracker Prince himself, at the age of 15 in Russia. Today, this production is still running each and every year, presenting about 47 performances from late November until New Years Eve.
* Other classical productions have been created by legendary choreographers Rudolf Nureyev (1963), Mikhail Baryshnikov (1976) and Matthew Bourne (1992), among many more.
* The Mark Morris Dance Group developed their own unique version of the ballet entitled “The Hard Nut,” which premiered in January of 1991 in Brussels. This production takes inspiration from the comic artist, Charles Burns. Click here to watch “The Hard Nut: A Look Back” and see it live at BAM now through December 18th!
* The Radio City Christmas Spectacular also contains a short Nutcracker excerpt in their production, which pays homage to the classic tale.
* Among the more unique versions of this story is the Harlem Nutcracker, created in 1996 by Donald Bryd using Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s adaptation of the Nutcracker Suite. “The Harlem Nutcracker that I created had its own form of exclusivity: It was directed at the African American family. The question I asked myself at the time was: How can I include the African American family into the Nutcracker experience? I wanted to make a Nutcracker that reinforces some values that are important to the African American family just as the traditional Nutcracker reinforces values important to Anglo-Americans.” Donald explained his reasons for creating The Harlem Nutcracker to me, referring to a Dance Magazine article he was featured in a few years back. Click here to check out The Harlem Nutcracker promotional video.
* This week only you can catch Battle of the Nutcrackers on the Ovation channel, where you can witness full recordings of various companies’ productions. Check your local listings and find out who wins during a special screening on December 19th!
Not only is The Nutcracker a special and historical tradition for the dance world, but for people all over the world. It is a holiday classic that creates an exciting and somewhat sentimental feeling in all of us. Immersing yourself in The Nutcracker experience will complete your Christmas bucket list, plus you’ll have “visions of sugar plums dancing in your head…”
-Steps on Broadway Intern