Nutcracker In August?
While most American citizens prepare for summer vacations and weekend get-a-ways to a lake or beach, every ballet theatre and sizable ballet academy is starting to plan for their annual performance of the Nutcracker. Every season, every year, it is the Nutcracker. It’s enough to drive a dancer insane. I remember going to sleep with sugar plum fairies in my head and waking up in the middle of the night since I was performing grand battements and jetes in my sleep.
So hundreds, if not thousands, of ballet theaters and academy’s are rehearsing and putting on the same production every year. This may seem like institutional self torture, but this phenomena is not completely the fault of the ballet world. There are millions of enablers who live in the same cycle of repetition, or rather, tradition. A family or even a school group took their children to go see the Nutcracker for the first time. The children were mesmerized by the scenery, costumes, and skill of the dancers. This feeling of awe becomes associated with the overall wonder of the Christmas holiday, and not the beauty and creativity of putting on a ballet production.
Thus, you have millions of people who have to go see the Nutcracker for tradition, it’s not Christmas without it. And the perpetually, financially stressed ballet companies can depend on the guaranteed ticket revenue from the Nutcracker. On the surface it is a smart investment: purchase millions of dollars of costumes and sets once every thirty to fifty years and let the holiday money come in every year.
But enough is enough, Nutcracker fatigue is occurring on both sides and this cycle of sameness is stifling the creativity of choreographers, dancers, and costume and set artists. Even a small change can be tremendously enjoyable to patrons and very profitable for a ballet company. Just take the San Francisco Ballet Company’s new 1915 World’s Fair based Nutcracker. The concept was fresh, the choreography had changed, and the costumes were fabulous. A big reaction– and it’s still the same old Nutcracker. The same can be said of The Hard Nut for the alternative crowds.
Thus, the best antidote for Nutcracker Fatigue would be an artistic collaboration on a whole new Christmas, holiday, or winter ballet. Where is the modern Tchaikovsky to compose a beautiful new score? Or a modern E.T.A Hoffman to adapt a Christmas tale or write a whole new one? An entirely new holiday ballet on that level of excellence would be a beacon to the human spirit, and would certainly be a wise financial investment– while every other ballet theatre is trying to put the Rat King’s head on straight, one unique company will be making history.