Tis the season for…“The Nutcracker!”

No holiday season is complete without a trip to the magical Land of Sweets with Clara, the Prince, and the Sugar Plum Fairy. Ballet companies across the country are keeping this festive tradition alive by going digital, giving you many Nutcracker options to experience from home!

Ballet West in “The Nutcracker.” Photo by Luke Isley.

What happens in The Nutcracker?

The story of The Nutcracker begins in the Stahlbaum family home as they prepare for their annual Christmas Eve party. As the festivities begin, the toymaker Drosselmeyer appears with gifts for Fritz, Clara (sometimes called Marie in certain productions), and the other children at the party, and presents Clara with a toy Nutcracker. As the party continues late into the evening, Clara falls asleep beneath the Christmas tree with the Nutcracker in her arms…

Clara wakes at midnight as the toys, Christmas tree, and house appear to be getting larger (or is she getting smaller?). Suddenly the Mouse King and his army appear, and the toys in the room spring to life and jump in to battle. Her Nutcracker defeats the Mouse King’s army and then is transformed into a handsome prince. He whisks Clara away on a sleigh through the snowy forest as snowflakes dance around them.

The pair travels to a magical land and are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy, who throws them a lavish festival filled with dancing delights such as Spanish fandango, dances of coffee, tea, and Russian dolls, and the Waltz of the Flowers. The festival ends as the Sugar Plum Fairy and a handsome Cavalier dance a pas de deux to one of the production’s most recognizable melodies.

Clara awakes the next morning underneath her family Christmas tree with the toy Nutcracker in her arms. Was the adventure real, or just a dream?

Who choreographed The Nutcracker?

The original production that premiered at the Imperial Mariinsky Theater in 1892 was choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. In the 128 years since its premiere, many prominent choreographers have created their own productions. Some of the more popular productions you might see today are by George Balanchine, Willam Christensen, Yury Grigorovich, or Alexei Ratmansky, among others.

What about the music?

The music was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who also composed The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, and has gone on to become one of his most well-known works. At the time the composition was unique for its use of the celesta, and instrument that looks similar to an upright piano but has a delicate, bell-like sound. Listen for it in the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy:

The Royal Ballet’s Lauren Cuthbertson performs the famous “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score.

Want to dive deeper? Navigate the history of this iconic ballet:

The Nutty History of “The Nutcracker” (Dance Spirit) Read the article >

Cracking Open The Nutcracker: Explore the most popular ballet of all time (Kennedy Center) Read the article >

How can I watch “The Nutcracker” this year?

Choose one (or more!) of these digital productions, short clips, or behind the scenes look-ins that you can watch from the comfort and safety of your home this holiday season:

A Super(numerary) Story | A Kennedy Center Digital Stage Original

Each year, hundreds of children audition to be “supernumeraries” — the aspiring young dancers who play the soldiers, mice, party guests, and other characters in the beloved Nutcracker ballet — in a visiting company’s production at the Kennedy Center. Journey with them from auditions through rehearsals to their performance on the grand Opera House stage.

Boston Ballet: Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker One-Hour Special

Tigran Mkrtchyan and Mia Steedle in Mikko Nissinen’s “The Nutcracker.” Photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet.

Mikko Nissinen’s heartwarming ballet enthralls audiences of all ages with its colorful characters, breathtaking costumes, and majestic scenery. Follow Clara as she embarks on a journey filled with brave toy soldiers and dancing snowflakes. From the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy to the iconic snow scene, this classical ballet — set to the memorable music of Tchaikovsky — conjures the childlike wonder in us all.

Watch for FREE Here >

Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker with the Debbie Allen Dance Academy

This Netflix documentary spotlights the career of dance icon Debbie Allen and follows her group of dance students as they prepare for Allen’s annual Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.

Watch on Netflix >

Read more from Allen on her production:

‘Magic Is Important’: Debbie Allen on Bringing Her ‘Hot Chocolate Nutcracker’ to Netflix (LA Magazine) Read the Article >

American Ballet Theatre: The Nutcracker Pas de Deux

This unique virtual performance of Alexei Ratmansky’s choreography for The Nutcracker, filmed in early November at New York City’s Highline Hotel, features ABT Principal Dancers Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside dancing the pas de deux to the iconic Tchaikovsky score. As set by Ratmansky, the variation for Boylston features choreography by Lev Ivanov from the original 1892 production as notated by Nicholas Sergeyev.

Watch for FREE Here >

The Joffrey Ballet: Making a New American Nutcracker

Olivia Tang-Mifsud and ensemble in The Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.” Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Go behind the scenes of The Joffrey Ballet’s 2016 production of The Nutcracker in the original documentary film Making A New American Nutcracker. This new production, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, was inspired by the 1893 World’s Fair that took place in Chicago.

Watch for FREE here >

Learn More about Christopher Wheeldon’s new production:

Inside Christopher Wheeldon’s Working-Class ‘Nutcracker’ (New York Times) Read the Article >

San Francisco Ballet: Nutcracker Online

San Francisco Ballet in Helgi Tomasson’s “The Nutcracker.” Photo © Erik Tomasson.

An interactive, virtual experience for family and friends from the comfort of your home, Nutcracker Online is San Francisco Ballet’s fantastical, digital holiday offering, available November 27 through December 31. Watch SF Ballet’s spectacular Nutcracker stream in HD, take a virtual tour of the War Memorial Opera House full of fun activities, send downloadable holiday snaps to your friends and family, enjoy historical highlights of San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker, and learn steps from the choreography.

Book Now>

New York City Ballet: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®

New York City Ballet in “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®.” Photo © Erin Baiano.

This holiday season New York City Ballet and Marquee TV will bring viewers around the world the opportunity to revel in the magic of NYCB’s acclaimed production of the beloved masterpiece George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® in a special streaming event available from December 11, 2020 through January 3, 2021 on Marquee TV — book your tickets today!

Filmed during the Company’s 2019 season at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, the broadcast features NYCB Principal Dancers Maria Kowroski as the Sugarplum Fairy, Tyler Angle as her Cavalier, Megan Fairchild as Dewdrop, and more than 50 New York City Ballet dancers.

Book Now>

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