Inland Dance Theatre celebrates 46 years of the Nutcracker


The marquee outside of the California Theatre of Performing Arts in San Bernardino. (Elizabeth Molloy/Ethic News)

Watching ballets can be a popular tradition among families, especially around the holidays. One of the most popular ballets, the Nutcracker, has been showcased locally in numerous theaters for many to enjoy. The Inland Dance Theatre, or IDT, has been performing Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker at the California Theatre since 1976. The studio brings together many dancers to perform the ballet, from the age of four to a professional level. The theatre performs four shows in total over a weekend, with the initial show being a school performance. 

The ballet was choreographed by Marius Petipa and composed by Tchaikovsky in 1892. The premiere of the ballet was performed at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and was not performed in a western country until 1934, performed in England. The first performance in the United States was in 1944 by the San Francisco Ballet. 

The “party scene” featuring the Staulbaum family and friends enjoying eachothers’ company before the story really begins (Elizabeth Molloy/Ethic News)

The ballet is centered around the Stahlbaum family’s Christmas Eve celebration, focusing on their daughter Clara or sometimes, Marie. Act One starts as the Stahlbaums welcome friends and family into the home. Clara’s uncle, Herr Drosselmeyer, joins the celebration. Drosselmeyer is a magician and toymaker, arriving and bearing gifts for all the children. He brings two mechanical dolls who leave their wrapping and dance around to entertain children and adults alike. Drosselmeyer gifts Clara a toy nutcracker and out of jealousy her brother, Fritz, breaks the toy. The doll is magically repaired by Drosselmeyer and placed underneath the tree by Clara. After the celebration comes to an end and the Stahlbaums are asleep, Clara sneaks into the living room and falls asleep holding the nutcracker. The rest of the ballet is based on the young girl’s dream.

Uncle Drosselmeyer brings out his mechanical dolls to entertain the children, including Clara and Fritz. (Elizabeth Molloy/ Ethic News)

At the start of her dream, the family Christmas tree grows as Clara seems to shrink. Clara is “awakened” by an army of mice led by an evil Mouse King. As she attempts to escape the mice, her nutcracker comes to life and defends Clara with an army of toys. The Nutcracker defeats the Mouse King and all the mice run away after their loss. Magically, the Nutcracker turns into a prince and invites Clara to journey to the Land of Sweets. 

The Nutcracker and Mouse King battle to the Mouse King’s demise (Elizabeth Molloy/ Ethic News)

In order to reach the Land of Sweets, they must first pass the Land of Snow. As Clara and her Prince enter the Land of Snow, they are welcomed by dancing Snowflakes. The Snow Queen and Snow Prince suddenly appear and join Snowflakes in dancing for Clara and her prince, further welcoming them on their journey. Act One ends with the Snow Scene and snow falls upon the dancers and audience. 

The audience feels as they are apart of the show as faux snow falls upon viewers (Elizabeth Molloy/Ethic News)

After a short intermission, the ballet resumes with a whimsical Act Two. Clara arrives at Candy Castle in the Land of Sweets and is greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. In Clara’s honor, the fairy throws a festival with many sweets from around the world. The individual scenes and groups of dancers are representative of different indulgences. After Clara and her Prince are seated the dancing begins. 

The polichinelle children parade around Mother Ginger (Elizabeth Molloy/Ethic News)

The first sweet introduced to the children is chocolate from Spain, which is sometimes depicted as hot cocoa. Chocolate dancers perform an adaptation of a Spanish fandango. The children are then presented with Arabian Coffee, two dancers perform in a way that mimics the movement of steam rising. After the slow-paced Coffee, the vibrant and playful Chinese Tea is performed when dancers leap around. Next, the galvanized Russian Trepak is performed, and the dancers are meant to mimic candy canes. Following Trepak, the French Marzipans perform. Mother Gignone, or Ginger, then enters the scene with her Polichinelle children. Polichinelle refers to the little clowns that emerge from Mother Ginger’s oversized skirt. In other versions of the Nutcracker, Mother Ginger is a gingerbread house and the Polichinelle are gingerbread men. The clowns prance about and then disappear under the skirt again, the same way in which they arrived. 

The finale of the sweets from around the world, including the flowers (Elizabeth Molloy/ Ethic News)

At the sound of a harp, three flowers arrive. This scene is known as the Waltz of the Flowers and is one of the most well-known scenes of the ballet. These flowers beautifully sway about to the orchestral music and are joined by the Dew Drop Fairy. The Dew Drop Fairy is referred to as a single dewdrop floating above the flowers as they perform. After a period of comfortable silence, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier perform a pas de deux for Clara and her Prince. 

A pas de deux is a dance duet in a ballet, usually performed by a man and woman. Many well known ballets besides the Nutcracker feature a pas de deux as well. The phrase translates to “step of two”. The main part of a pas de deux is typically a partnered adagio. An adagio is a slow paced dance consisting of high extensions of the ballerina’s leg. The next component of the pas de deux is a variation, or solo, from both the Cavalier and Sugar Plum Fairy. The Cavalier starts his variation and Sugar Plum subsequently performs hers. This is called the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, the most famous variation in the ballet. The finale of the pas de deux highlights both dancers, individually and together. At the end, all the dancers, including the sweets, perform a grande finale for Clara and her Prince. 

The pas de deux performed at the end of the ballet with the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier (Elizabeth Molloy/Ethic News)

That is how the ballet ends. In other adaptations, Clara wakes up still holding her toy nutcracker. Each ballet company performs The Nutcracker differently from the next company. The Nutcracker is originally based off the 1816 story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”, written by E. T. A. Hoffman. The Nutcracker is a whimsical Christmas story and even those who are unfamiliar with ballet enjoy it. This is one of the significant ways the art of ballet is celebrated and regarded. 

Categories A&E

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