HOW FAR THE NUTCRACKER HAS COME
FROM OLD WORLD FAILURE TO NEW WORLD SUCCESS
The Nutcracker got off to a slow start in Russia but has since come a long way. “Today, The Nutcracker is known throughout the world. It has become the most popular and most often staged ballet in the world” (wiki). It truly offers something for everyone. Beginners and professionals work together in it. Parents, children, music lovers and dance lovers all find something to enjoy while the companies and communities get to be part of the magic working on the sets, costumes and choreography. The array of fun gifts available and the ability to generate revenue keep many ballet companies going and intertwining the ballet and Christmas means it makes sense to perform it every year.
The Nutcracker has gained a mass appeal in America. The beautiful music and dancing, the sense of family togetherness and the celebration of the holiday seem to resonate with Americans. “Clara represents the innocence and imagination of childhood and a belief in miracles that is presumably rekindled at Christmas…Clara’s message is that dreams come true” (Fisher). That message appealed to American children, after all, how many children have dreamed of their favorite toy coming to life? It also appealed to middle class America in the post WWII era. America was becoming an industrial giant and there were more upwardly mobile opportunities than ever before. Many people wanted to believe in dreams coming true. The Nutcracker himself as a character appealed to many Americans working to improve their lives. “He’s a good guy who has some hard times and comes out on top” (Fisher).
In America, The Nutcracker has become an inseparable part of the holiday season. “About half of all worldwide productions this year of The Nutcracker will be in The United States” (cpr). America embraced the ballet to such an extent that it was chosen as the first white house decorating theme. “In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree. She decorated a tree placed in the oval Blue Room with ornamental toys, birds and angels modeled after Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” ballet” (White House Historical Association).
In fact, The Nutcracker was the decorating theme for the White House twice. “In 1990, First Lady Barbara Bush revisited “The Nutcracker” with little porcelain dancers. White House florists dressed the figurines, and a castle from the Land of Sweets was constructed by White House craftspeople” (White House Historical Association). The Nutcracker was also the theme chosen by Lego for its 2017 limited edition Christmas gift with purchase.
Jennifer Fisher sums up the success of The Nutcracker nicely when she writes “memory, familiarity, involvement, holiday mood – these are ingredients that help the annual Nutcracker form close relationships with both dancers and audiences. Each year the ballet is back in our midst and the fact that a wide assortment of people perform in it, or know someone who does, contributes to feelings of membership in a club that seems pleasantly open to many” (Fisher).
This pleasant feeling is enhanced by the togetherness and joy of the holiday season and by the elaborate and beautiful fundraiser boutiques that can be found at most Nutcracker performances. The sparkly nutcrackers and lovely snow globes add to the joy of the season and allow audience members to purchase fabulous gifts and support their ballet companies at the same time.
“Since “The Nutcracker” became an almost inescapable holiday event in the mid-20th century, it’s been nothing if not an ambassador for polite ballet civility, complete with a rhapsodic Tchaikovsky score that makes you believe in heaven. In it, friends embrace, foreign emissaries dance, children follow orders, and a fond, beautiful couple — the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince — shows what spouses who respect each other look like. That might be reason enough to buy a ticket this year.” (Fisher LATimes)
Learn more in The History of The Nutcracker part one.
Read more in The History of The Nutcracker part two.
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