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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Christmas Explained: N is for Nutcracker

At Christmas time it is not uncommon for many families to attend the only ballet the will see all year. The name of that ballet? The Nutcracker. But how did a ballet about a mechanical device for cracking nuts become such a popular festive tradition?

The story itself is quite old, older than the one we see portrayed on stage, which is actually an adaptation by the French author Alexandre Dumas, possibly better known for such titles as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

The Nutcracker was actually Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky's final and least satisfying ballet, after he took on the project with a marked lack of enthusiasm. It is ironic then that it would be The Nutcracker that was to become one of the most beloved Christmas traditions.

The Nutcracker premiered in Tchaikovsky's native Russia in 1892. It wasn't until 1944 that an American ballet company decided to perform the entire ballet. That year, the San Francisco Ballet took on the task, from then on performing the ballet as an annual tradition.

But it was really George Balanchine who really set The Nutcracker on the path to popular fame. In 1954 he choreographed the ballet for a New York company, and not a year has passed since when the ballet hasn't been performed in New York City.


You will find many other such tasty morsels of information in my book Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts.

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