A Seasonal Standby, Re-envisioned to Reflect Local Flair
From the New York City Ballet’s George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker to the Mark Morris Dance Group’s The Hard Nut, hundreds of unique versions of the Nutcracker are performed around the country each year, and every company tweaks their sets, costumes, choreography, and even Peter Tchaikovsky’s score to tell the story in their own way.
[Art Beat sampled some of the many unique versions of the Nutcracker from around the country. Watch the slide show here.].
Every dance lover knows the basic story: On Christmas Eve, a young girl is given a nutcracker doll by her uncle at the family holiday party. Late at night, after magic has transformed her toys into giant, life-sized versions, she saves her beloved Nutcracker by killing the dreaded Rat King with her slipper. From that moment, she is whisked away through a winter snowfall to the Land of the Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy and treats from around the world dance before her.
The Nutcracker is the cash cow of ballets, with performances raising between a third to the entire amount of a company’s annual budget. Companies big and small put their own spin on their productions to differentiate it from others nearby or connect to the culture of their community, all in hopes of attracting a bigger audience.
Jennifer Fisher, Associate Professor of Dance at UC Irvine is the author of Nutcracker Nation: How an Old World Ballet Became a Christmas Tradition in the New World, about the history behind this cultural phenomenon.
I talked to Fisher by phone last week: