In many families in the United States, there is no question of spending the Christmas holidays without visiting The Nutcracker.
Ballet is truly a tradition dear to millions of Americans of all ages.
It has to be said that the show has it all: dancing sweets, a sugar plum fairy and of course the Nutcracker who comes to life and battles the evil Mouse King.
The ballet was presented for the first time in Saint Petersburg in December 1892 with music by the composer of XIXe century Piotr Tchaikovsky and a choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. It is loosely inspired by the tale of Hoffmann with the title The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.
For some dance companies, The Nutcracker is an unmissable manna that brings almost as many spectators to theaters as all their shows during the year. For example, the New York City Ballet, one of the largest ballet companies in the world, is coming through The Nutcracker approximately 45% of its annual ticket sales during approximately 5 weeks of performance, Reuters reported in 2021*. More than 100,000 people attend this production each year.
The show also has so many children that many schools across America stage their own version of the ballet.
School performances attract parents, grandparents and young people and give many people the opportunity to experience ballet and embrace a new graduation tradition.
“Some members of our audience saw the production when they were children, and now they’re bringing their grandchildren to see it,” New York City Ballet artistic director Jonathan Stafford told PBS in 2021.
And those who don’t see the show in cinemas can watch it on TV. Many American families are in the habit of watching the 1977 version of The Nutcracker with Mikhail Baryshnikov. This 78-minute production is available on many public television channels or streaming services.
Americans also love to see new interpretations of this classic. A hip hop version of The Nutcracker can be seen in several American cities, where modern and hip-hop dancers move on stage to Tchaikovsky’s classic score.
Some venues offer family-friendly shows with members on the autism spectrum or with sensory sensitivities.
The Legacy of Russian Ballet Traditions in the United States
According to Natalie Rouland, a specialist in Russian literature, culture and performing arts, many Americans discovered ballet* thanks to Russian personalities and dancers such as Serge de Diaghilev, Michel Fokine and Anna Pavlova during tours of their companies in the United States between 1909 and 1929.
American ballet arose thanks to two significant personalities: the choreographer George Balanchine and the dancer Alexandra Danilova, both born in Saint Petersburg.
Balanchine founded the School of American Ballet in 1934 and the New York City Ballet in 1948. Danilova trained dancers for national and local companies, including American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet and Washington Ballet, “according to the rigorous technique and masterful repertoire” of the Russian theater system, specifies Natalie Rouland.
“The art of Russian ballet has left a lasting legacy in the American landscape and through the ritual tradition of The Nutcracker, its past becomes present at every holiday season. »
Relations between the United States and Russia have gone through many phases over the years. Despite the damage done to these ties by Putin’s war in Ukraine, old Russian-American traditions like ballet The Nutcracker illustrate the continuity of cultural ties between America and the Russian people.