Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Secrets of the Nutcracker Ballet

Man vs. Mouse: Insight to The Famous Holiday Feud

Are you afraid of being dragged to a ballet and not knowing what's going on? For many, going to the see the ballet, The Nutcracker is a holiday of joy or possibly boredom. Often it's the first and only ballet they will ever experience. To make the most of it and perhaps encourage you to enjoy the festive dance performance, here are some facts about The Nutcracker that will help you enjoy the ballet as well as impress your friends with your knowledge of trivia.
There's a Curse
The Nutcracker Prince finds himself imprisoned in a little doll. But not all hope is lost. If a beautiful young girl falls in love with him, then the spell will be broken.
There's Magic
The character, Drosselmeyer, is both a magician and a maker of toys. He presents the Nutcracker doll to Clara.
It's Old
The Nutcracker was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia on December 19, 1892.
Listen Carefully
Tchaikovsky used the production of The Nutcracker to introduce a new instrument to audiences: the celesta. He had heard the instrument in France and wanted to be the first bring its distinctive and new sound to a production score. This cousin to the piano puts out a high octave sound that makes the dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum sound unique.
The Sugar Plum Fairy Throws a Good Party
Some of the best dancing takes place near the end of the ballet when the characters visit the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. While there, dancers from all over the world entertain Clara and company. This showcase of dance is a fan favorite and takes up much of the second half of the production.
The Original Production Had Problems
The ballet featured two choreographers. Lev Ivanov started the work and later Marius Petipa was brought in to finish it. Peter Tchaikovsky created the score but thought the ballet was initially regarded as a failure. Audiences agreed and the production was called a flop.
From a Flop to a Hit
Despite the disappointing debut, The Nutcracker continued to be performed and it eventually reached Europe in 1934 and American shores in 1944. A decade later, George Balanchine brought his interpretation of the production to the New York City Ballet. There it became a holiday favorite which helped inspire other productions around the world.
Variety is the Spice
Today, there are countless presentations of The Nutcracker, which range from the traditional to extremely modern interpretations. In the early 90’s, choreographer Mark Morris created his  parody, The Hard Nut, which includes all male dancers, terrific dancing and tons of humor. Whether you see it on the grand stage or a local theatre - enjoy the Nutcracker this year!

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