The Nutcracker

IU Ballet Theater celebrates 52nd annual holiday production


The Snow Princess, played by Brette Benedict, dances a solo during a rehearsal of the snow scene on Wednesday at the MAC. Courtney Deckard Buy Photos

But before students depart, “The Nutcracker” is here to celebrate holiday cheer.
The classic holiday ballet filled with sugar plum fairies and mouse kings will open Friday at the Musical Arts Center.

“It’s a very important ballet because it’s very popular,” choreographer and Chairman of the Department of Ballet Michael Vernon said. “Many companies produce this ballet because it attracts so many people.”

“The Nutcracker,” a holiday tradition, is produced by the IU Ballet Theater every year. This weekend marks the 52nd annual production.

Many dancers joke about how many times they’ve been a part of the show. Sophomore Jacob Taylor, for example, has been a dancer 11 times.

“The most challenging part about doing the same ballet year after year is bringing your new strengths and putting them into the old cart of something you have done before,” senior Caitlin Kirschenbaum said.

Many times, dancers who are in “The Nutcracker” play many different parts. Taylor, for example, is playing the Arabian, Cavallier, Doll, Snow Prince and Flower Prince throughout the course of the run. By playing so many different parts it gives the dancers something new to work on each night.

Some dancers like Kirschenbaum have danced some of the same parts more than once. One of the advantages as a dancer revisiting the same part during the years is to discover things on stage and find different ways to approach each charter every time, she said.

During a rehearsal, dancers were seen hugging each other and bonding. They are a family, complete with a head figure in choreographer Vernon. Vernon is protective and nurturing of the dancers.

He showed his care during a rehearsal this week as he was asking for the loading dock doors to be closed to avoid injury to the dancers because of the cold. As the chairman of the Ballet Department and choreographer of the production, his main priority is the dancers. 

Vernon said because the school has a turnover each year, there is always a new cast that makes it a different show. The production is different from professional companies. The IU Jacobs School of Music double casts all of its productions in order to give more students an opportunity to perform.

“Because we are in a university setting, we have four performances,” Vernon said. “This gives four different people a chance to dance the same part.”

The story of “The Nutcracker” is about a young girl named Clara who receives a nutcracker at a Christmas party. After her jealous brother breaks the nutcracker and her heart, the nutcracker comes to life and transports her to a magical world.

“It’s not just about a child but about a child’s journey through her dreams and magic,” Vernon said. “It’s about Christmas and beauty.”

The ballet is based on the story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” which was
written by E.T.A. Hoffmann. The original story is considered to be morbid and was never intended for children.

Later, writer Alexandre Dumas, who also penned “The Three Musketeers,” wrote a revised version. This is the version original choreographer Marius Petipa based the ballet upon.

“No matter where it’s being done, this ballet is always full of joy,” Kirschenbaum said. “This ballet is about celebrating the journey and beauties of life.”

By dancing to songs recognized outside of the ballet world, such as “The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy,” the students earn professional experience.

“I couldn’t think of a better preparation to the real world,” Kirschenbaum said. “The department is run in such a professional way, we get some things some professional companies don’t get, like a live orchestra.”

Aside from the performances, the ballet department is also hosting “Nutcracker Tea,” a tea party for children and their families.

“This is something the whole family can see,” Taylor said.


The Snow Queen, played by Caitlin Kirschenbaum, and the Snow Cavalier, played by Paul Dandridge, pose during the rehearsal of the snow scene for "The Nutcracker" on Wednesday at the MAC. Courtney Deckard Buy Photos

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