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The Nutcracker - Ballet vs. Movie

News of the upcoming Nutcracker and the Four Realms Disney movie reminded me of my ballerina days. Every year the Nutcracker is the biggest performance that draws in a full house for weeks. Months and months are spent in rehearsal, long Saturdays practicing your part with your group and teacher, and watching the other parts of the ballet rehearse. It is a simultaneously excruciating and wonderfully exhilarating experience. I was a student at the Orlando Ballet School for ten years and, after I received a camera as a gift from my father, I often took photos backstage from the wings, hidden behind the curtains that connect the stage to the back of the theatre.

The story of the Nutcracker follows the 19th century journeys of a young girl, Clara, who is given an enchanted doll by her uncle Drosselmyer at her family's Christmas party.

There is a written fairy tale by ETA Hoffman, later adapted by Alexandre Dumas and later turned into a ballet by Marius Petipa with a score by Alexander Tchaikovsky. The ballet had a resurgence in popularity in the 1960's due to the importance of ballet in the Cold War. It is still one of the most popular ballets of all time, and is performed by nearly every major ballet company all around the world. Now there is a film adaptation is set to come out next December, and we shall see how closely the movie sticks to the original story.

All photos of the Christmas party taken by my dad. He was a backstage photographer for the ballet for a few years. All other photos are by me unless otherwise stated.

Clara's uncle Drosselmeyer gives her the enchanted Nutcracker doll.


The parents dance, and Clara and her friends dance together.

Everyone finally departs from the party and Clara goes to bed, using her new doll as a stuffed animal.

When she wakes up, she has shrunk down to the size of the doll. The Nutcracker, who has come to life, has a swordfight duel with the Rat King and his minions. An army of toy soldiers comes to help the Nutcracker and he commands them against the army of rats.

Clara helps the Nutcracker win when, after the Rat King has underhandedly taken advantage in the fight and is about to kill the Nutcracker, she takes off a shoe and throws it at the Rat King. It startles him and he starts lunging towards Clara, but then the Nutcracker, laying on the ground wounded, seizes his sword and plunges it into the Rat King. He dies dramatically and they win the fight, the rats retreating back into the walls of the house.

Clara begs to bring the prince back to life, and he not only revives but transforms from a wooden Nutcracker into a handsome prince.

The Nutcracker then whisks Clara away to his magical homeworld. They waltz through the snowflakes, which turn into fairies that dance around them.

In the second act they are greeted by the Sugarplum Fairy and her court. As it is Christmas, there are ambassadors from all different parts of this alternate magical world, representing different countries and their signature candies. For example, Spainish chocolate, French marzipan or candy canes, depending on the production, waltz of the chocolate flowers, child bon bons with Mother Ginger, an Arabian dancer who comes out of a lamp, China, Russia, etc.

Mother Ginger and bon bon photos by my dad.

After all the ambassadors have performed, the Sugarplum Fairy dances with her prince.

The story ends when Clara wakes up back in her homeworld. She wonders if it was all real or just a dream. It is implied that it is real and that her uncle is a magician, who knew that she could unlock the enchanted prince.

Throughout the years I played one of Clara's friends, a toy soldier, a follower of the Rat King, a bon bon, and an angel. It was a big deal when I got to be one of the six candy canes, which is a part usually reserved for company members instead of students.

Above is me as a child in rehersal, my teacher putting me through the paces.

Backstage at the Bob Carr theatre, where we performed annually.

Putting rosin on your pointe shoes helps to prevent you from falling. Most theatres have very slippery floors and it can be very anxiety inducing. Rosin is the same powder that violinists use to wax their strings.

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