How “The Nutcracker” Became A Family Tradition

For more and more families, watching a performance—or several—of “The Nutcracker” is one of the delights of the holiday season.

(NAPSI)-It’s one of the newer Christmas traditions, but it’s still had time to become near and dear to many hearts. Each holiday season, many families attend the only piece of ballet or live theater they’ll see all year: “The Nutcracker.”

But how did “The Nutcracker” become such a popular tradition? And where, exactly, did it come from?


“The Nutcracker” Of The Past

The story itself is quite old, and the one we see onstage isn’t even the original but a popular adaptation by the French author Alexandre Dumas, best known for writing “The Three Musketeers.” Once the story made the leap from page to stage, though, history was in the making.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed “The Nutcracker” as his final and least satisfying ballet, taking on the project with a marked lack of enthusiasm. So it is ironic that it would become one of the most beloved Christmas traditions of the 20th century.

The ballet premiered in Russia in 1892 but “The Nutcracker” didn’t exactly make an instantaneous leap to the annals of American Christmas traditions. In fact, 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, performing the ballet as an annual tradition.

It was George Balanchine who really sent “The Nutcracker” on 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.

Balanchine was the first to have the roll of Clara danced by a child, necessitating a much simpler choreography. By the late 1960s, other ballet companies across North America had jumped on the bandwagon, enthusiastically performing “The Nutcracker” to a receptive annual audience.

“The Nutcracker” Now

Today, many cities have a production of “The Nutcracker.” It has even become a tradition on TV. Ovation, the only channel devoted to art and contemporary culture, hosts an annual “Battle of the Nutcrackers” programming event every December. For a week, the network runs various productions of the ballet-both traditional and modern interpretations-and asks viewers to vote online for their favorite. The ballet with the most votes is revealed on Christmas Eve and a marathon of all the ballets is featured all day on Christmas Day.

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