The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, a story first penned by Alexander Dumas has become a holiday favorite for fans of the dance. Ballet companies throughout the world produce this classical ballet for children of all ages to enjoy.
No matter how old you are, we all feel young again when Clara is given a wooden nutcracker who eventually turns into the charming Prince. We meet a Sugar Plum Fairy and experience a beautiful waltz. For us, this story, this dance, is synonymous with the holiday season and, if you have never had the chance to experience it, we suggest looking in our repertoire.
In the meantime, here are ten companies that perform this classic Christmas ballet.
1. Mariinsky Theatre – St. Petersburg, Russia
It wouldn’t be fitting to start with any other ballet company than the one that dances in the theater where The Nutcracker premiered more than a century ago. The original production, which was choreographed by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa, opened at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia on December 18, 1892. It was performed as a double bill with another Tchaikovsky Iolanta.
Yet, one of their most revered productions of this seasonal ballet was choreographed by Vasily Vainonen in 1934. It is continually revived by the Mariinsky in celebration of its great success and there are recordings available.
Performances of The Nutcracker at the Mariinsky this season are sporadic starting on December 15th with two performances of the ballet on Christmas Day. Their Christmas celebrations begin earlier in the month with a performance of A Christmas Tale on December 4th, which is an opera-féerie in two parts. We realize that it is difficult for our readers to get to St. Petersburg, but it deserves a mention for its place in The Nutcracker’s history – oh, and you can watch the full recorded performance at the Mariinsky Theatre over here!
2. Ballet Austin – Austin, Texas
We thought it would be fun to check out a completely different scene from the classical St. Petersburg and highlight a company is a part of the world that is practically opposite in every way. This will be Ballet Austin’s 54th Annual Production of this seasonal Tchaikovsky tale with the help of the Austin Symphony Orchestra. This version is choreographed by Stephen Mills, the company’s Artistic Director.
Ballet Austin is strong in the direction of their “vision” in the balance of dance between the artists and the community. It is the 11th largest classical ballet company in the United States and is located at the Butler Dance Education Center located in downtown Austin. The Washington Post called this ballet company the “best-kept ballet secrets” so we are sure their holiday productions are worth checking out.
3. New York City Ballet
It would be impossible to skip this major metropolis when it comes to the productions of this loved ballet. There are several productions of The Nutcracker in New York City but we would like to focus on the New York City Ballet because of the man who choreographed it, George Balanchine. His staging of this current favorite began in 1954 and it didn’t take long for the marriage of Christmas and The Nutcracker to sweep the United States.
The Balanchine version has been reproduced by the New York City Ballet since its premiere sixty-two years ago and they typically stage nearly fifty performances every year. A performance from 1993 was filmed and the video is available for viewing.
4. San Francisco Ballet
This next company was the first to produce this Tchaikovsky classic in the United States. Opening night was at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House on Christmas Eve in 1944. The versions they do have changed over the years but it remained a seasonal custom for the San Francisco Ballet.
William Christensen is the visionary behind the tradition of The Nutcracker at Christmas time. His brother re-staged Tchaikovsky’s Christmas tale when he took the reins in 1954. In 1967 a third version premiered on the 75th anniversary of William’s production. Helgi Tómasson, the current Artistic Director, choreographed the versions staged today and his latest interpretation premiered in 2004.
5. New Jersey Performing Arts Center – Newark
NJPAC isn’t only unique in its Hip Hop telling of The Nutcracker for our list, it is probably a one of a kind production, which is why we thought it was worth mentioning today. Jennifer Weber choreographed this urban telling and this is their third year the NJPAC has produced this show. It is being performed one night only on December 17th.
MC Kurtis Blow is a guest performer in this version of Tchaikovsky’s ballet. The original score by the Russian composer is still used and the ballet is part of the NJPAC’s Kwanzaa Festival.
6. Joffrey Ballet – Chicago
Running from December 10th through the 30th of this year, the Joffrey Ballet is premiering a new version of The Nutcracker choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. This interpretation is set during the 1893 World’s Fair, a historical time in Chicago’s history that was pushed back into the mainstream with the popularity of Erik Larson’s novel Devil in the White City.
The music will be performed by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra.
7. The Royal Ballet – London
British choreographer Peter Wright celebrated his 90th birthday on November 25th and, in celebration of his great contribution to the art of ballet in the U.K. The Royal Ballet will be performing the version Wright produced during his tenure at the company. Productions began running on November 23 and will continue through January 12th.
8. The National Ballet of Canada – Toronto
Also, starting their run on December 10th this version of The Nutcracker, choreographed by James Kudelka, will continue until New Year’s Eve. Kudelka is a native Canadian ballet master who served as Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada until 2005. His version has become a crowd favorite for Toronto residents and visitors.
Past reviews include The Globe and Mail, saying that this interpretation “remains as fresh as the day it premiered in 1995.”
9. Moscow Ballet – Touring
The unique thing about his company’s production of The Nutcracker is that it will be appearing in more than one city. Typically touring the United States, the Moscow Ballet has been taking their version of Tchaikovsky’s ballet to cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Dallas, Minneapolis, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco.
10. The Washington Ballet – Washington, D.C.
Our final ballet company on the list is a mere 72 years young in the world of ballet. The Washington Ballet grew out of the Washington School of Ballet. They are dedicated to bringing the graciousness of ballet to the Nation’s Capital. Their version includes founding fathers like George Washington and old foes like King George III putting a patriotic twist on this classic tale of mouse armies and sugar plum fairies.