The evolution of the Nutcracker

Audrey Smiles, Staff writer

The Nutcracker has become an essential part of the holiday season—not to mention a part of most dancers’ DNA. These days, the ballet is a beloved tradition, and the lifeblood of many dance companies, whose budgets depend on its reliably great ticket sales. But did you know it is not the same all over the world. The original two-act production, in 1892 in St. Petersburg, was the brainchild of Ivan Vzevolozhsky (director), Marius Petipa (choreographer) and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (composer), adapting Alexandre Dumas’s version of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story. Somehow, however, “The Nutcracker” became a Christmas fixture in the mid-20th century.

Every year productions pop back into life by the hundred, from Vienna to Hawaii. Most still follow the same basic conventions established by that first version: a little girl heroine, her mysterious godfather (the magician Drosselmeyer), a battle between toy soldiers and mice, a forest full of dancing Snowflakes, a ballerina Sugarplum Fairy. However one adaption is the Hip Hop Nutcracker, just like the original it has the same storyline and characters but with innovative digital graffiti and visuals transform the landscape of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s beloved story. In Nutcracker Swings, the familiar Tchaikovsky score mingles with the swinging sounds of Duke Ellington’s jazzy take on The Nutcracker Suite. In this version of the story, set at the end of World War II, the action opens at a swinging Christmas party to welcome home a returning hero. The Nutcracker is not just made to be a traditional ballet anymore and it is quite special to see the new and revised versions.