The Nutcracker Suite was an elaborate fairy- tale ballet written by E.T.A. Hoffman in the late 1800’s which was accompanied by the brilliant music of Tchaikovsky. It included two acts consisting of five scenes: The Party Scene, The Fight Scene, The Land of Snow, The Land of Sweets and The Dream Ends. This 1993 version of The Nutcracker Suite performed in New York City was directed by George Balanchine and had a non- traditional ballet aspect in the setting, costumes and dances. This was story of a little girl named Marie, and an adventure which she had on Christmas Eve. What was unusual about this Christmas Eve was that her mysterious uncle, Drosselmeyer, arrived and brought a special doll for Marie. What happened next was a magical adventure where my favourite scenes were The Christmas Party, The Fight Scene, and The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
I had never seen The Nutcracker Ballet before, and witnessing it for the first time was a captivating unique experience. It was both visually and musically stunning, and was a treat for both my eyes and ears. The choreography was spectacular and the music accompanied the dancer’s movements very well. Although, I did not anticipate the non- traditional ballet aspect of the production, thinking it would be more old- fashioned since it originated from Russia in the late 1800’s, I still was enchanted with a magical feeling and enjoyed the modernized production. In the near future, I wish to go to a Nutcracker performance in a nearby theatre to take on a different perspective of the story.
Christmas Party – Most famous musical piece of the production The music is very strong and energetic. I observe that the dancers have colourful costumes of the late 1800s, but they were not quite the traditional ballet attire as in other Nutcracker productions from Russia. The choreography is a mix of ballet formation and ballroom dancing. All dancers, youths and adults, seem very happy and joyful with a lot of finesse. Their movements are playful, and sometimes include pretended fighting as well. Quick bouncing steps from the younger dancers are accompanied by light notes, whereas long graceful bows and twirls by the mature performers are accented with a legato melody. The stage background is of a theatrical nature with a setting of a rich family party room filled with a Christmas tree and other holiday decorations. The music variety is at its strongest in this scene, with a combination of delightful scores for a happy gathering, and rather suspenseful tunes for the arrival of the mysterious uncle, Drosselmeyer. The Fight Scene – Climax of the production
The music in the scene is very strong and loud at some parts. There are no more soft and happy melodies, but rather suspenseful and sharp compositions to emphasize the intensity of the fight between the Nutcracker and Mouse King. The dancers have typical military and mouse costumes, with cannons, swords and other weapons. The setting has an oversized Christmas tree which is consistent with the scene where the dancers are supposed toy soldiers and mice. Marie has shrunk in size due to a spell casted by her uncle. She tiptoes around the fight, being fearful for the Nutcracker. The choreography is fast paced with fighting gestures combined with ballet movements.
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – Most popular dance of the production The music is soft, and is played at piano dynamics, with the sound of crystal clear bells. The dance steps of The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier are light and feathery. The stage and background have settings of a fairy magical land with soft light and toned down colours. Short staccato notes are coordinated with bouncy quick movements, whereas long legato measures accompany flowing and extended twirls. The visual impact is mesmerizing, and my eyes never leave the main ballerina of the scene. The audio enhances the dancer’s strength, endurance, and gracefulness. Also, accented notes land on strong extended positions of the dancer.
I enjoyed George Balanchine’s 1993 production of The Nutcracker, despite the non- traditional ballet aspect was very different than what I expected. This adapted version was very surprising and I would rate it three and a half out of five stars. Throughout the production, I took the time to fully appreciate the elaborate music accompanied by the wonderful dances and realized that the level of entertainment in The Nutcracker Suite was captivating. There is a definite reason why this production has been running in the New York City Ballet during the holiday season for 55 straight years. I would encourage others, especially young children to experience The Nutcracker Ballet close to home in nearby theatres and be enlightened by its enchanting entertainment.