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Ballets:The Nutcracker

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I'm curious as to why The Nutcracker is so popular in North America. I'm in Europe and while The Nutcracker is performed as a Christmas ballet sometimes, it's nothing like it seems to be in the States with every studio, student company and professional company all putting on performances for the holiday season, as well as audiences coming to see it as part of the Christmas holiday "culture". Getting a part in "The Nut" seems to be a part of the "ballet experience", which doesn't exist where I am. In addition, I'm quite taken aback by the ability of dance studios to put on a full-length ballet in the first place -I'm assuming they're full length -which is perhaps another puzzle to me. Can anyone throw any light on this for me?

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The Houston Ballet calls it a Houston tradition. It's definitely full length! Very long! A smaller ballet company here does a shortened version which I like just as well if not better. A few dance schools put on their own versions as well, but I don't think they are the full ballet. I don't know the history of how The Nut became part of the ballet experience here. I'd love to hear about it as well. You should see the Houston Nutcracker Market. It's unbelievable.

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I'm a parent of a young dancer and at our school, which is affiliated with a company, the Nutcracker is only ballet that can provide performance opportunities and accomodate over 350 children of varying dance levels. Dancers as young as 5 can start out as mice or snow angels and if they continue to advance in the school, they can work up to pointe roles. So in terms of dancer advancement, it's a BIG DEAL. I also think that the Nutcracker is a highly adaptable ballet that companies can "make their own"-I've also seen Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap Nutcrackers as well as Nutcracker on Ice. One smaller ballet school here does only Act II-Land of Sweets. The Nutcracker ballet and its wonderful music are pretty much ubiquitous.

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It is interesting why this particular ballet is so popular. It is the one ballet that people who do not normally ever go to the ballet will come to see. It tends to be a money maker for many ballet companies, big and small.


In my immediate region, I can think of 6 different Nutcrackers that are performed within a 20-30 minute radius of my home. 4 or 5 of those are full length productions! I can't even guess the number performed within an hours drive as that would include both Philadelphia and NYC!


This year, our group has decided to do something radical and NOT do a Nutcracker. We will be doing a different winter themed ballet. Plenty of parts (over 100). If we had more children, it would not be an issue. The show will accomodate the abilities of dancers as young as age 4 all the way up to pre-professional and professional dancers. So, it is possible to create a ballet that uses similar numbers of dancers at a wide range of abilities. It is, however, a lot more work to create something new.

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There have been books devoted to this very subject!!!!


Perhaps it goes along with the "American Dream" mentality.... perhaps it taps into the zeitgeist of Victorian manners that we all secretly wish were de rigueur. And then, there's just the Disney theme of a little "princess" who is kind and decent, lovely and sweet, but deep down a heroine who saves the day.


We started doing The Nutcracker back in the late 1960s here in Columbus. We didn't intend to do it every year and in fact, we rented the scenery from the Ballet Russe's Alexandre Nikolayevich Benois for that first performance. It was beautiful...... you can see somewhat what the sets looked like on the Butler Uni website, but not enough to do them justice.


People began to call and ask when we were doing it again. It kind of accidentally became a Columbus Tradition! It is one of which I am quite proud to have been associated with since the very beginning!

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It's also very kid friendly for the audience. The story is fast-paced, and they can easily follow it. And, according to my DD, there's none of that "gushy love stuff."

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THE book on the American Nutcracker epidemic is Nutcracker Nation by Jennifer Fisher. It explores the phenomenon of Nutz being everywhere, and is not a difficult read. Lots of good history and journalism there.

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Thank you. I will look out for that book. I like the sound of hip-hop Nutcracker too! The idea that a dance studio can put on a full-length ballet with children of all ages and abilities, with scenery, is still amazing to me.

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