‘Tis the Season for Nutsqueezer

Starting this Thanksgiving weekend is two full months of the one ballet that makes most bunheads and ballet aficionados groan with distaste – The Nutcracker. Where does this widespread displeasure amongst dancers rise from? Is it having danced a Mouse as youngster and then Snow as a teenager over and over and over again? Is it the insipid, overplayed Tchaikovsky score? Is it the massive amounts of tinsel, fake snow, classical sparkling tutus, rat costumes, and contrived smiles that smother the stage?

It’s all these things. And dancers certainly aren’t alone in our aversion to the ballet. A recent article in the New York Times discusses how jaded so many people have become when it comes to the Nutcracker and what it is that makes this ballet is so “unkillable.”

I’ve found that many of my non-ballet friends think of Nutcracker as the epitome of ballet and therefore have shunned ballet because of their own aversion to the spectacle that is ‘Nutsqueezer.’ This is like eating a piece of cheese that you don’t like and deciding that hence forth you dislike all cheese everywhere . Now that’s just not fair to cheese. And it’s not fair to judge ballet based on Nutcracker. Nutcracker is the farthest thing from the kind of ballet that I enjoy- the kind like Morphoses, or Room, where the dance itself is beautiful and stirring, not just entertaining in the most gaudy sense. This is my main gripe against Nutcracker. I’m sure that for millions it’s an awe inspiring and a beautiful holiday tradition. And certainly I wouldn’t discourage anyone from including dance as part of their holidays (on the contrary- more dancing, please!). But this holiday season, whether you find yourself running to Nutcracker or being dragged to a show, just remember that one Sugar Plum Fairy doesn’t represent all pointe shoe clad dancers.

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2 Responses to ‘Tis the Season for Nutsqueezer

  1. Philip says:

    I love NUTCRACKER – I always go to a half-dozen performances of it each season at NYC Ballet. Because it’s been used to death in commercials and cartoons, the score is often thought of as trite. Actually it is amazingly beautiful, especially the orchestration in the snowflake scene. It’s such a melodically rich ballet.

  2. Allison says:

    I think Nutcracker is a lot like Romeo and Juliet: it’s beautiful and brilliant but Shakespeare also wrote 37 other plays, many of which are largely ignored. So people judge Shakespeare based on that one play. I don’t deny Nutcracker’s greatness but I wish it wasn’t quite so much the focus of the ballet world this time of the year. Thanks for your post, Philip!

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