So what is all this Nutcracker stuff anyway?

I hear you ask.
Or not.
I'll tell you anyway, since this is all I'm doing for the next week.

Probably most of you know the standard Nutcracker ballet storyline:
Clara is the daughter of the house and gets a Nutcracker doll at Christmas.
She has a dream in which the Nutcracker leads some toy soldiers in fighting the mice, and kills the Mouse King.
Then the Nutcracker/Prince leads Clara through a snow storm to a dreamland where a bunch of candies dance for her.
Then there is a garden of flowers, and the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Clara wakes up.
A nice production usually has it all done as wealthy Victorian, maids in the background, ladies in jewels, and all very silk-lined and comfy.
Clara is a little princess character, and it's all maybe a little cloying.

Anyway, that's not our Nutcracker.
Our Nutcracker was Choreographed by the founder of Sair's school about twenty years ago.
(I've never seen a date on it, so this is my best guess. I know of it back that far.)
The music is the same, and much of the dancing, but the storyline is different.
Our Nutcracker is about a homeless girl and her brother sleeping on the street in Russia in the snow outside a grand house where a party was going on.
The party has ended and the bratty son of a departing family harasses the children.
The brother points at the warm house and then their own pitiful blanket.
The host, Drosselmeyer sees them and takes pity.
He invites Clara and her brother Fritz are into the house, and give them presents, but at first the children behave badly and they quarrel.
Fritz finally breaks Clara's new Nutcracker doll on purpose, and Drosselmeyer turns him into a mouse.
Drosselmeyer does some magic, or maybe Clara is dreaming, but the children shrink.
Scary mice attack Clara, led by Fritz as the Mouse King, and toy soldiers led by her Nutcracker defend Clara.
The Nutcracker and Mouse King duel, but at the last moment Clara recognizes Fritz in his mouse disguise, saves him, and turns him back into a boy.
No mice are killed; soldier dolls and mice do kissy-poo, and The Nutcracker leads Clara and Fritz to the Land of Snow.
The Sugar Plum meets them and leads them to the Land of Sweets where all the treats dance for them.
But it has only been a dream — the dancers finish, the music stops.
Clara and Fritz are asleep on the cold street.
The party has just ended, and a wealthy family is leaving.
But this time the family is shocked to find the two children out in the cold, and the parents draw them to them.
The little girl is carrying a nutcracker doll, and gives it to Clara.
As Clara is about to walk away with her new family, Drosselmeyer calls her attention to where the backdrop for the house/street has been drawn away, and all the dream dancers are waving farewell to her.

I should probably add that it's touching to see.
It is a school production — they hire three professional male dancers for the pas, otherwise it's all our kids.
Sarah started out as a little angel; this year she's the big angel leading them out (among other things).
It's good dancing though.
The choreography at each level allows the kids to dance pretty much at their level of competence — the lambs are about seven and they are lambs.
The mice are fourteen and sort of ratty.
And the more demanding parts are well-danced.
Maybe not SF Ballet, sure, but every year our graduating seniors include kids going to places like Indiana University, or Julliard, or even ballet companies.

And what I can't convey in this telling, is that it is also pretty witty.
Fritz is a brat, and the guy who usually dances the part is one of my favorite performers ever.
Mother Ginger is one of our male dancers in cowboy boots.
There are clueless shepherdess who can't count three sheep.
And, damn it, after twelve years of it, the ending can still make me cry.

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13 responses to this post.

  1. "No mice were harmed in the making of this ballet".Shame we're back in the UK and can't see it – I love Nutcracker! Am introducing Sarah to it after Christmas at the ROH.

    Reply

  2. Oh I do like this telling. Would love to see it. I would cry. lol

    Reply

  3. That sounds like a cool theme. You did a great job of explaining it, too!
    12 years? Wow!

    Reply

  4. Wow, when I was in 4th grade we acted in a play which had almost the same storyline as you did.

    Reply

  5. It's like Nutcracker meets The Little Match Girl.Is there no photography allowed or will you post pics of Sarah as the lead angel, among other things?I'm about to blog up a Nutcracker post myself, when I noticed yours!The music alone makes me want to cry. Waltz of the Flowers! Such drama.

    Reply

  6. Cool! I would love to see that version =)

    Reply

  7. The Little Match Girl is such a sad story! At least the children in this Nutcracker version get new homes..=)

    Reply

  8. I also like to watch performances with children's play! They are so sweet and touching!

    Reply

  9. Did you surface yet?

    How'd it go?

    Reply

  10. Wow, it went beautifully.I haven't been at rehearsals, so Sarah's Arabian was a revelation.Completely confident, absorbed in the dance, extension out the wozoo, like the still center of the universe.The pas teacher complained about it being her last year.Then 10pm after the last show I got the flu, and have been sleeping since.

    Reply

  11. Oh pooh! Sorry you got the flu!
    So glad to hear the ballet went well. Do you have any pics?
    Doesn't it just make your soul sing to see beauty/art/talent brought to life like that?
    I love those moments!
    PS…Happy New Year!!!

    Reply

  12. sorry about your flu — a few days after the funeral I got a bad cold and am just getting over it now…I've never seen the Nutcracker — just bits of it — it always looks so pretty and fun.I loved your description – and I'm glad you were pleased with the show!

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