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Nutcracker Nation

Nutcracker Nation: How an Old World Ballet Became a Christmas Tradition in the New World

Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Nutcracker Nation
    Book Description:

    The Nutcrackeris the most popular ballet in the world, adopted and adapted by hundreds of communities across the United States and Canada every Christmas season. In this entertainingly informative book, Jennifer Fisher offers new insights into theNutcrackerphenomenon, examining it as a dance scholar and critic, a former participant, an observer of popular culture, and an interviewer of those who dance, present, and watch the beloved ballet.Fisher tracesThe Nutcracker'shistory from its St. Petersburg premiere in 1892 through its emigration to North America in the mid-twentieth century to the many productions of recent years. She notes that after it was choreographed by another Russian immigrant to the New World, George Balanchine, the ballet began to thrive and variegate: Hawaiians added hula, Canadians added hockey, Mark Morris set it in the swinging sixties, and Donald Byrd placed it in Harlem. The dance world underestimatesThe Nutcrackerat its peril, Fisher suggests, because the ballet is one of its most powerfully resonant traditions. After starting life as a Russian ballet based on a German tale about a little girl's imagination,The Nutcrackerhas become a way for Americans to tell a story about their communal values and themselves.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13343-1
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-2)
  5. ONE The EarlyYears
    (pp. 3-41)

    In the first half of the twentieth century, when waves of immigrants were steadily adding to America’s evolving mix of ethnic groups and blended identities,The Nutcrackeralso arrived. Born in 1892, the ballet had a checkered past, but its image was about to change. Technically, the Russian import was just visiting at first, making its initial, truncated appearances in the tours of Russian ballet companies. But eventuallyThe Nutcrackerwould become a kind of immigrant, having its first full-length professional American production in 1944 at the San Francisco Ballet, then finally settling down at the New York City Ballet...

  6. TWO Making Friends at Christmastime
    (pp. 42-79)

    Balanchine may have had a strong effect on the fate of the immigrantNutcracker,speeding along the assimilation process, but he did not single-handedly make the ballet a Christmas tradition. That process was helped along by two fortuitous aspects of theNutcracker’s multiple-personality syndrome—its ability to make the rarefied ballet world feel more accessible, and, perhaps most important, its connection to Christmas. Nothing breeds success like a happy marriage between a major holiday and an appropriate performance. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Clara and the gang started turning up in dozens of locations across the United...

  7. THREE Fitting In
    (pp. 80-131)

    At the Clinton White House, back in 1994,The Nutcrackerwas chosen as the official Christmas decorating theme, and suddenly effigies of the Nutcracker Prince, Clara, and the Sugar Plum Fairy were hanging off trees and mantles all over the building. There was even a needlepoint Christmas stocking on which two nutcracker soldiers were pictured guarding the Capitol, thus accomplishing the difficult feat of linking Christmas cheer to national defense. This wasn’t the first time a nutcracker had been drafted to serve as a symbol of U.S. patriotism. The German nutcracker carving industry long ago recognized the American market by...

  8. FOUR Experiences and Relationships
    (pp. 132-170)

    Although the Nutcracker himself is an easygoing, everyman kind of icon, willing to be part of any professional or amateur community, he has also embraced the celebrity status that has been thrust upon him in the New World. The spin-off products and personal appearances alone keep his image fresh and friendly—he’ll appear on a sweater, guard the door to a bar, hold your keys, hang from your ears, or even, if he’s feeling sturdy enough, crack the proverbial nut. But in a society that thrives on digging beneath the glossy surface of celebrity, you have to start to wonder...

  9. FIVE The Meaning of Life
    (pp. 171-194)

    The meaning of life forThe Nutcracker,despite its many strong connections to people and the holidays, hasn’t always been clear. Everything seemed fairly straightforward at birth—the ballet needed critical and popular acclaim to fulfill its destiny at the Maryinsky. But life on the imperial stage proved rocky, and the ballet’s reason for living remained tenuous for a while. OnceThe Nutcrackerwent on the road, the copious renaming, twisting, and truncating resulted in a kind of identity theft—or at the least, a series of identity crises—so that a deeper meaning became even more elusive. Then came...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 195-212)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-220)
  12. Index
    (pp. 221-228)
  13. Photo Credits
    (pp. 229-230)