Boston Ballet Presents "The Nutcracker"

On November 24th, the holiday season officially began with Boston Ballet’s opening night of The Nutcracker. The show was full of all the holiday magic any kid could ask for ranging from life size toys to dancing snowflakes. If you’re not already decorating your room with tinsel and Christmas lights, The Nutcracker is the perfect thing to get you into the holiday mood.

                                            Lawrence Rines in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of the Boston Ballet

Despite The Nutcracker being an extremely well renowned ballet, the prologue had barely any dancing. Instead, it was packed with storytelling that oriented viewers. The toy maker of the town (also Clara’s uncle) entertained the village children by telling the story of the Nutcracker taking on an army of mice and saving the day. In the next scene, we are reintroduced to the children of the village at a Christmas gathering where gifts are exchanged, while Clara’s brother, Fritz, threw a temper tantrum. Fritz’s tantrum is sparked by his disappointment in not receiving a present to his liking. This highlighted the childish competition of having the best gift. This scene juxtaposed what Christmas is for children and adults: while the children compared gifts, the adults downed shots and engaged in uncomfortable family small talk.

                                          Boston Ballet School Students in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Boston Ballet

                                                      Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Boston Ballet

Clara and Fritz’s favorite uncle comes bearing a “special” present, which makes all the kids drool, emphasizing the consumerism that we’ve ingrained into children as part of our Christmas tradition. When the children realize the magical gift is just a silly old nutcracker, they all lose interest—all except Clara. And this is where the magic begins.

                                   Patrick Yocum and Delia Wada-Gill in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Boston Ballet

Clara’s love for the Nutcracker becomes an extravagant adventure through a fantasy land of dancing snowflakes and a Sugar Plum Fairy and her princesses. Visitors from all around the world come to visit the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy, and each present cultural dances. Dewdrop and her Flowers dance a lilting waltz and finally the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy dance a grand pas de deux for Clara. The whole spectacle was so magical I was literally at the edge of my seat. It felt like I was really watching toys come to life and momentarily escaped reality.

                                                     Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Boston Ballet

While the magic of the Nutcracker Prince’s kingdom blew me away, what impressed me more was the magic behind the dancers and the production. As a fellow performer myself, I’m easily distracted by the actual production of the show and I forget to pay attention to the storyline. While most audience members are blown away by the big jumps and multiple turns the dancers do, a dancer is able to pick up on the more subtle details that may go unnoticed. Every little girl, including me, may dream of being the Sugar Plum Fairy or even one of her snowflakes, but I think the toys and the animals were the real stars of the show. With minimal experience in ballet myself, I know how difficult and unnatural it is to bend your body in the way that these artists do. I can only imagine how much harder it is when your vision is impaired by a giant mask and your movement is hindered because you’re dressed as a mouse.

                                                          Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Boston Ballet

                                                       Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Boston Ballet

The pure physicality of the dancers left my jaw wide open. Not only did the principal dancers demonstrate great talent, the cast of Boston Ballet Students commanded the stage. You could almost see each muscle flexing in the dancers’ legs as they flung themselves through the air. My legs felt like they were cramping just watching them. Aside from the actual dancers, I was in awe of the production of the show. The hand painted sets moved around the dancers as they transitioned from scene to scene so seamlessly it was almost unnoticeable. One hundred and eighty-two costumes appear in each performance, but over 350 costumes were made for multiple casts and more than 200,000 jewels were used on the costumes. (For more fun facts, visit the Boston Ballet website)

                                                       Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Boston Ballet

I walked out of the Boston Opera House feeling like a little girl again— full of wonder and hope that she could one day be a ballerina. While there was ambiguity in whether the whole thing was a dream, there was one thing I was certain about: The Nutcracker brought out the cheer in me and I know it’ll bring out the cheer in you.

                                            Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker; photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy of the Boston Ballet