Toy dolls, soldiers and mice dance alongside fairies, dewdrops and flowers in Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”
Composer Tchaikovsky’s ballet, “The Nutcracker,” will premiere at the Musical Arts Center on Nov. 30 and run through Dec. 3.
“The Nutcracker” tells the story of a young girl, Clara, and her magical Christmas Eve adventure with the help of her magician uncle, Herr Drosselmeyer.
“This production is based on the original,” choreographer Michael Vernon said. “Its really developed into the story of a young girl who aspires to be the Sugar Plum Fairy as an adult.”
The production features a range of personified characters and dancers, ranging from the mouse king to the toy nutcracker and snowflakes. These characters exist in the land of snow and the land of sweets, two magical realms Clara explores with the help of the magic of Herr Drosselmeyer.
The dance moves reflect the magical aspects of these settings, Vernon said.
“It sort of helps to accentuate the theatrical magic and the telling of the story of 'The Nutcracker,'” Vernon said.
At one point, Clara finds herself in the midst of a battle between an army of gingerbread soldiers and mice. After the Nutcracker saves the day, the story follows Clara’s journey to become the Sugar Plum Fairy.
“This is definitely a family ballet, in terms of the Christmas spirit and in terms of learning about ballet,” Vernon said. “It’s like going to see ‘A Christmas Carol.’”
Children dancers take the stage alongside student dancers, a common tradition in Russian performance ballet. Without dialogue, each character and conflict is represented through setting, music and dance.
“The flavors of the different dances that occurred to entertain Clara all have these different themes and feels,” said Sarah Wroth, associate chair of the ballet department. “Tchaikovsky designed them to communicate a different ethnicity or a different flavor or candy.”
Tchaikovsky received specific instructions by the original choreographer down to the tempo, number of measures and styles of music in particular moments, Vernon said.
“One can really achieve some interesting movements with music and atmosphere,” Vernon said. “The music that Tchaikovsky wrote for the snow scene is like a mini blizzard.”
It is an opportunity to see top-level dancing in a university setting, Wroth said.
"This is a professional quality Nutcracker,” Wroth said. “These students are working in a professional level, and they’re right here in Bloomington. And you have a chance to see them before they were stars.”
The story and music make “The Nutcracker” an approachable ballet for those who wouldn’t normally see a ballet, Wroth said.
“It’s an easy story,” Wroth said. “You know what's happening on the stage, you’re not going to feel confused. It’s not scary, it’s not an unknown. It’s a good first taste of ballet.”
Overall, the music, the story and the characters make “The Nutcracker” compelling for any audience member, Vernon said.
“If you’re going to see the football and basketball players who are the stars of tomorrow, you should come and see the artists and ballet dancers that are the stars of tomorrow,” Wroth said.
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