I saw The Nutcracker this afternoon. It was my first time seeing a professional ballet company perform it. Plus, my kid was in it as a member of the mice regiment. The mice regiment was, of course, the highlight, but instead of bragging about my kid, I wanted to give some thoughts on the ballet in general.
The Nutcracker is easily the most famous ballet ever. Virtually everyone who celebrates Christmas is familiar with Tchaikovsky’s suite of selections from the score. One of the funny things is that only two selections from that suite are in the first act. The other six are all in the second act. That means that almost all the famous tunes are towards the end of the performance.
The ballet starts with the famous overture. Then, there’s the party scene. This is what establishes the plot. Clara receives a nutcracker as a gift and is smitten by it. She plays with it throughout the party and falls asleep holding it lovingly. The rest is the dreams she has.
The first dream sequence is a battle scene. This is where the mice fight a battle against the cavalry. The mice ultimately lose, but I think it was rigged. The mice looked way better than anyone else on stage. Alright, I might be biased, but my kid did a great job.
Most of the rest of the ballet is just a series of dances. There is far less plot in the second act. The dances are beautiful and very impressive. Ballet dancers are extremely athletic. Even at my best, I could never do anything like that.
One of the odder things about the ballet is I can’t hear the March from the first act without thinking of Smurfberry Crunch cereal. Those commercials were probably the first time I heard Tchaikovsky’s music. Whenever that part of the ballet plays, all I can hear is, “Smurfberry crunch is fun to eat/a smurfy, fruity breakfast treat/made by Smurfs so happily. . .” The brain is downright weird sometimes.
The audience seemed to be made up of the parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles of the kids performing. I know I’m included in that group, but I still found it a little disappointing. Ballet, and dance in general, deserves a spot in the wider culture. The Nutcracker is a good entrance for everyone interested.