Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Top Ten Ballets - The Nutcracker

Here is the Russian Bolshoi Ballet performing the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Grand Pas de Deux. This is my favorite version of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Based on the book, "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" by E.T.A. Hoffman, this ballet is the most famous and well-loved of all. It takes place in Western Europe in the 1880's, and centers around a little girl named Clara who is given a Nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. She falls asleep and dreams that the Nutcracker comes to life as a prince. They travel around the world and have adventures in China, India, Russia, and in magical lands where candy abounds.

Nutcracker Trivia
  • Composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky in the 1890's, near the end of his life2
  • There is a debate as to who choreographed the ballet - Marius Petipa began the work in 1892, but his assistant of seven years, Lev Ivanov, stepped in to take over when Petipa fell ill. The most famous version, however, was created in 1954 by George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet.1
  • Mikail Baryishnikov restaged the ballet in 1976 for the American Ballet Theater and challenged Balanchine's version as the most popular one. Baryshnikov omitted the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince Koklyush, and gave their dances to Clara and the Nutcracker. They not only perform the entire pas de deux usually danced by the Fairy and Koklyush, but also take part in the Waltz of the Flowers and the Final Waltz. In addition, although the Mother Ginger and her Clowns music is heard, we never see Mother Ginger herself, only four court jesters who perform the dance.1
  • First performed at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia1
  • Hoffman's original story was modified quite a bit in order for the ballet to be suitable for children1
  • The 1892 premiere of The Nutcracker failed with both the public and critics. Unfortunately, Tchaikovsky never knew what a huge success the ballet became, as he died less than a year later.2
  • Tschaikovsky was asked to use the celesta, a new instrument, to make the music for the Sugar Plum Fairy sound like the "sprays of a fountain."2
  • Tschaikovsky based the music for the Arabian Dance on a Georgian lullaby.2
  • The Sugar Plum Fairy's dance with the Prince is probably the most famous pas de deux (dance for two) in ballet.2

3. Photo: New York City Ballet

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