The English National Ballet's 2016 production of 'The Nutcracker' at the London Coliseum in London, England
© Robbie Jack/Corbis via Getty Image
A Christmas tradition endures
If it's December, then countless ballet companies must be performing ‘The Nutcracker’. The ballet has become an iconic Christmas entertainment staple, produced around the world. This photo captures a scene from the 2016 production by the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum. The company has been performing 'The Nutcracker' there for 20 years. And despite the pandemic, they'll be back at the Coliseum again this year, leaping and twirling to the 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy', but in an abbreviated program before a reduced, physically distanced crowd.
It's perhaps the world's most indomitable ballet today, but when 'The Nutcracker' premiered on December 18, 1892, in St. Petersburg, Russia, it was far from a hit. Some critics appreciated Tchaikovsky’s score, but most found the choreography and dancing 'amateurish' and 'insipid'. Largely forgotten by the early 20th century, 'The Nutcracker' made its US debut with a performance by the San Francisco Ballet company in 1944. It became a true Christmastime classic when choreographer George Balanchine staged his own 1954 production with the New York City Ballet. Balanchine’s version caught on and inspired other dance companies to perform it themselves. Most years, ‘The Nutcracker’ is such a draw that a staging of Tchaikovsky’s Christmas fantasy can help keep a ballet company financially stable. Even in 2020, with all its challenges for the performing arts, ballet companies are doing what they can to keep this seasonal stalwart alive.