This has got to be one of the most magical and busy Christmases I have ever experienced! And the very first thing I do after putting up my Christmas tree is attend a performance of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker™ at the Academy of Music by the ever-talented Pennsylvania Ballet company. Every year this magical performance wows me with its fanciful sets and whimsy, delightful dancing and holiday treats.
This year I took my fiancé Stephen, who has never seen any ballet before, much less The Nutcracker, for the Sunday afternoon December 14 performance. I was so excited to show him the wonder and merriment of this time-honored Christmas tradition.
The amazingly talented orchestra, conducted by Beatrice Jona Affron, drew us into the world of Marie and Fritz on Christmas Eve while they and their parents, Frau and Dr. Stahlbaum, welcome family and friends for a delightful party. Herr Drosselmeier, all the children’s favorite family member arrives with presents for them all, and he gifts Marie with a unique nutcracker. Tensions build when Fritz steals the dolls from Marie and smashes it’s head. Fritz was a delight to watch, even though he is very naughty!
Drosselmeier tends to the doll, and soon the guests must go. After all are gone, Marie sneaks to the ballroom and falls asleep with her doll to comfort it. Her mother finds her out of bed, and searches for her, finding her asleep, covers her up and hurries back to bed. And then Marie dreams the most wonderful dream- of brave toy soldiers fighting mischievous mice with a scary Mouse King, where she fearlessly assists The Nutcracker as he heroically defeats the Mouse King! Marie and her Nutcracker watch as it snows and the charming snowflakes dance their intricate steps, and wonder off to the Land of Sweets.
Act Two draws us in to the whimsical world of candy as The Sugarplum Fairy and her angels dance and the brave Nutcracker tells his heroic story. More sweets come to visit, including popping candy canes, hot chocolate, and tea, and my favorite- coffee- dance their delights. Mother Ginger and her Polichinelles make the audience giggle as they jump around, and the Dewdrop whirls among her flowers. The Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier are most impressive as they tell their romantic and beautiful story among the sweets, and dance a final pas de deux. Soon Marie and her Nutcracker must go, for it is time to awaken, and sail away with glorious memories and sweets and happiness in a Christmas dream.
George Balanchine's The Nutcracker™ always evokes a warm and fierce holiday spirit and I was so happy to show that to Stephen, which he loved! The Nutcracker is a children’s ballet, but it appeals to all ages and never fails to fill me with delight and wonder.
The Pennsylvania Ballet was founded in 1963 by Balanchine student and protégée Barbara Weisberger. The Pennsylvania Ballet is one of the nation’s leading ballet companies. The Company’s annual local season features six programs of classic favorites and new works, and always the Philadelphia holiday tradition, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™. For more information, visit paballet.org or call215.551.7000.
We continued our adventure to the Nutcracker Market in the Kimmel Center, where we found many glorious local vendors and bought up a good many things – spiced Chai Honey from Taste, seahorse pottery, ornaments, and more. After watching the entertainment – dancers and carolers, we greeted Santa Claus and Mrs Claus then headed out into the afternoon- on our next adventure!
Don’t miss this time-honored family tradition. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ performances run until Wednesday, December 31.
Special thanks to the Academy of Music.
PA Ballet George Balanchine's The Nutcracker company artist photos courtesy of PA Ballet and by Alexander Iziliaev.