No ballet celebrates the delights of Christmas sweets like the Nutcracker Ballet. Taffy, bonbons and sugarplums all dance across the stage in a seemingly endless swirl of color and Christmas joy.
For many families it simply couldn’t be Christmas without the beauty of the Nutcracker. Yet surprisingly when the ballet first premiered in Russia in mid-December 1892, it was not a success. Many of the adult parts were then danced by the young students from the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg.
The members of the czarist court that were attending that first performance were not impressed with the young dancers’ ability. They were used to seeing the best, not talented beginners.
The ballet then fell into disuse. The first non-Russian performance occurred in 1927 in Budapest, followed by the first English production in 1934. These performances were considered a success because many of the former child roles were transferred to adult dancers. Tchaikovsky’s charming music, of course, remained to the delight of both the dancers and audience.
When war erupted in Europe, the Ballet Russe de Mont Carlo sought refuge in America and staged the first stateside production of the Nutcracker in New York City. After the Second World War ended, the first totally American performance was given by the San Francisco Ballet Company in 1944 on Christmas Eve.
The rest, as they say, is history. Today attending a performance of the Nutcracker Ballet with a child is an American Christmas tradition. Almost all major city dance companies stage the ballet throughout the month of December.
Some of the most beautiful performances this years can be seen at the Pacific Northwest Ballet (Seattle), the San Francisco Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre (New York City) and, of course, the New York City Ballet.
To honor this great ballet there are two very special gifts available this season for those who appreciate dance and cuisine. The legendary doll designer Robert Toner has created a series of breath-taking beautiful dolls that echo the haunting linear line of George Balanchine’s original New York City Ballet production.
For those too old for dolls (unless you’re a collector), L.A. Burdick in Walpole, New Hampshire have created a series of chocolate Christmas mice that would delight even a Russian czarina! Available via post through the Internet, they arrive in a charming wooden box, ready to enjoy on the way home from the ballet!
Either gift will help you (or a lucky child) dance your way through the holiday all to the memorable music of leaping candies and whirling chocolates.
What more can one say - Hurray for Nutcracker! It’s Christmas!
Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2010