The Nutcracker: A Tradition is Born
In 2021 we created and performed our first Nutcracker and a new tradition was born for the students and families of En Pointe School of Ballet. We have completed 3 Nutcracker seasons now and it is more spectacular every year! The Nutcracker ballet is a cherished holiday tradition enjoyed by many ballet companies and their audiences. It is a dream come true and for many it is a rite of passage for ballet dancers to perform each of the roles in the Nutcracker as they mature and grow as dancers.
Several years ago, after enjoying a Nutcracker ballet performance with a friend who was confused about the story after seeing it for the first time, I set my sights on making sure the symbolism was made more clear to the audience. It’s important to me that each member of the audience has an enjoyable experience. I enjoy educating our students and audiences regarding beloved ballet traditions. Our elegant Nutcracker performance is unique since it showcases the foods in the party scene and again in the Sweets scenes. Our performance also includes a narration at the beginning of each act, written and spoken by Nicole Peckham, my friend who I took to see the Nutcracker years ago.
Act 1 is set in an elegant mansion where the Stahlbaum family is hosting a grand holiday party. The magnificent ball gowns, dancing, and a glittering Christmas tree with many gifts beneath it are breathtaking. Our opening scene has Victorian maids and Butlers who dance elegantly with silver trays of treats they serve to the guests at the party which inspires Clara’s dream of the Land of Sweets. There is a French pastry chef serving lemon tarts to represent the French chef and lemon mirlitons that later dance for her. Sugar plums and Sugared flower petals were common sweets that were served at elegant Victorian parties. Spanish hot chocolate and Arabian coffee were served to the family and only affluent families could afford these decadent treats in that era.
Our Uncle Drosselmeyer costume is Steampunk inspired. I always felt like he was more of a tinkerer than a magician as he is usually portrayed. He created these life-like animatronic dolls and I felt like a steampunk image suited him best. He is still somewhat a magician in the eyes of the children with his magical armoire of dolls that appear each time he opens the door to the armoire and seemingly come to life with a few turns of a large key. Clara receives an unusual gift of a Nutcracker doll from her Uncle and as she dances joyfully with it, her brother Fritz takes it from her and breaks it.
As Clara falls asleep on the couch cradling her Nutcracker under the sparkling Christmas tree, a magnificent dream unfolds as the tree appears to magically grow, yet it is actually Clara shrinking to the size of the toys under the tree. At first she is surprised and confused to see life sized mice and ballerina dolls. Our designs for our Rat King and Nutcracker are our own design and creation out of necessity since the traditional huge bobble head masks were too cumbersome. We needed masks that would be easy to dance in since our choreography and the sword fight between the Rat King and Nutcracker is extremely physical with numerous leaps and turns.
The Nutcracker leads the toy soldiers in an epic battle as they defeat the Rat King and his rats and the Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince. Clara then travels with him to the Land of Snow and observes the magical swirling snowflakes dancing through the cold winter air. An old fashioned Father Christmas then takes Clara and the Prince to the Land of Sweets in a beautiful silver sleigh as her dream continues in colorful splendor.
In Act 2, each of the dances in the Land of Sweets represent sweets and beverages that were considered to be exotic in the Victorian Era. Our pink candy maids serve these delicious treats to Clara and the Nutcracker prince as they are entertained by dancers from foreign lands.
Most versions of the Land of Sweets are filled with too much of the color red in my opinion and I envisioned pastel colors, reminiscent of an old fashioned candy shoppe. Our candy cane garlands are a unique and original concept and are the only red and white in the scene. I wanted old fashioned ribbon candy instead of the traditional candy canes or candy striped hula hoops. We created shining candy ribbon candy garlands which represent the candy canes that Clara and Fritz fight over during the party.
Our Spanish hot chocolate costumes are brown with white lace trim that resembles whipped cream including the white rose in her hair. Arabian Coffee and Chinese Green tea were also served at the party and each makes an appearance in Clara’s fantastic dream. English Toffee is rarely performed in the Nutcracker but it is in ours with beautiful Toffee colored costumes and English Fascinators in their hair. Our Lemon Mirlitons dance with a French chef. This year we are adding German Gingerbread cookies with pink and white frosting and our unique version also has cupcakes.
We absolutely love our enormous Mother Ginger costume. She represents a Victorian era Russian cookie tin that contained Gingersnaps. I had a vision in my mind of how I wanted her to look....Marie Antionette elegance in pastel pink and blue like cotton candy. My talented husband built the framework and our Costume Director Taunya Lofgran (2021) and a team of moms on our sewing committee brought her to life, larger than life, just as beautiful as I had imagined. The skirt alone stands at 7 feet tall and the actress playing mother Ginger stands on a platform high up in the air wearing her pink cotton candy inspired wig. She is covered with dozens of beautiful satin ribbon bows created by Melena Walton. When she enters the stage, she is awe inspiring! Little dancers that we call bonbons emerge from under her enormous skirt.
The creation of our extravagant costumes, props and scenery has been an intense and time consuming labor of love that took an army of volunteers to create in only 5 short months in the fall of 2021. Many talented instructors including Natasha Ellis worked together to create the choreography under the direction of Artistic Director, Rachael Ellis. These are the costumes, props, scenery, and choreography that will be featured for many years to come and everyone who participated in their creation can have the pride for years to come of saying, “I helped to create that!”
Britain Soderquist was our scenery and props director in 2021 when we created our Nutcracker. She and our volunteers helped to create a 15 foot growing tree, and numerous giant food props such as cupcakes, ice cream sodas, lollipops, macarons, and a candy covered throne.
Our Ballet program and performances are unique due to our boys and men's classes, and 4 levels of partnering classes. We have over 40 boys and men which is rare even in Utah. We also have dads who are performing as the party dads, Drosselmeyer and Father Christmas. Our boys classes are dancing as soldiers and party boys, and our men’s classes perform as Russian dancers, Rats and Rat King, Nutcracker, Nephew/Nutcracker Prince, and the many other Principal Partnering roles throughout the Land of Sweets that feature professional level choreography and lifts.
En Pointe School of Ballet's Nutcracker is the perfect way to welcome in the Christmas season for you and your families. This Nutcracker is traditional and elegant with extra creative details that make it uniquely our own. Children and adults of all ages have expressed their delight and surprise at how professional and entertaining our Nutcracker performances are.
En Pointe Ballet presents The Nutcracker in 4 spectacular and breathtaking performances, the first weekend in December! Tickets are only $15-$20 and can be purchased at https://28120.danceticketing.com/
An affordable option to watch a professional and stunning Nutcracker that you and your families will want to make a family tradition every year!