The Nutcracker Should Be Good: A Holiday Classic, Cracked Wide Open
Well, it’s that time of year again… some call it winter, others identify it as the holiday season, I will forever refer to it as...Nutcracker season. Just a few notes of the music send a grin from ear to ear. I have an extra spring in my step from mid-November through January with memories of the ballet and with eager anticipation to see the next performance.
But...you say you haven’t seen a production? Really?
My Nutcracker addiction started when I was 12 years old and was cast in the New Jersey Dance Theatre Guild’s (now the New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble) production. The ballet was performed by students except for the lead roles (For New Jersey Ballet fans, the beautiful Rosemary Sabovick-Bleich danced the Sugar Plum Fairy every year). The experience of dancing with this company for six productions and working my way from a soldier and an angel to a snowflake and the dew drop fairy was significant to me. The hours and hours of rehearsals, the sore feet, the heat of the lights, the thrill of an audience, and the friendships made will never be forgotten.
So for 30 years now, I have been either in a production or seen a production of The Nutcracker. Yes, the fact that I know each count of the music and, at one point, could probably perform a one-woman Nutcracker (why has no one done this yet?), does not deter me in the least from seeing the beautiful show each year. And, New Jersey is full of fantastic performances. From student to professional companies, you can find quality productions throughout the state.
Still have not gotten tickets for you and your family? Someone once hinted to me that seeing another Nutcracker production was like receiving another fruitcake for a gift. I was dumbfounded. Who doesn't get thrilled by the Nutcracker? What child would not have his/her eyes glued to the stage? The first time I took my son, he drew pictures of scenes from the ballet for weeks afterwards. Nutcrackers, mice, huge Christmas trees, people snowflakes…
THE CHECKLIST: REASONS THE NUTCRACKER IS AWESOME.
First, there's the easy-to-follow story. Girl gets toy; jealous little brother breaks toy; toy gets fixed; the toy turns into a prince; prince takes her off to a magical land; oh well, the prince part was only a dream.
Second, it's fun. Who can resist a party, life size dancing dolls, a fight between a mouse and a prince, a snowfall, and a magical land of candy, food, and flowers?
Third, the music composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky is magical, especially the second act with its various countries. The score is beautifully orchestrated and nearly impossible to get out of your head.
Fourth, there are children dancing on stage. Even the New Jersey Ballet, American Repertory Ballet, Roxey Ballet, and Atlantic City Ballet companies have students perform with the professionals. Not many ballets include parts for children to perform. Need I continue?
Oh, wait, you've already seen the Nutcracker? So, why not see it again? Attend a performance by a different company. Each company/choreographer stages the ballet differently (There are many ways to solve a puzzle). Or, there are several companies who have done different twists on the classic. Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre performs El Sueño (The Dream), a Hispanic Version in celebration of Three Kings Day. Nimbus Dance Works presents Jersey City Nutcracker, the story of two children's urban Christmas adventure, as an adaptation. New Jersey Tap Ensemble has offered a tap version of the story, one which I hope will be presented again soon. Risa Kaplowitz, Artistic Director of DanceVision, is working on a new winter ballet, the Snow Queen. This is not from the Nutcracker itself, but based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and is sure to please.
Ready to go? Need to find a performance? Check out Dance New Jersey’s performance calendar or JerseyArts.com. Many sites give information about performances, including this comprehensive national database, which gives information on performances listed by town.
So get out to the ballet this month and go see a Nutcracker. You might see me there. I'll be the one dancing in the aisle and humming a song on the way out.
Photo Credits: 1. NJ Ballet's The Nutcracker. Courtesy of NJ Ballet. 2. American Repertory Ballet's "Battle Scene" from The Nutcracker. Courtesy of American Repertory Ballet and George Jones.