In 1892, when the Nutracker premiered in St. Petersburg, it was hardly a hit. Said one noisy critic: ‘In the first scene the entire stage is filled with children, who run about, blow their whistles, hop and jump, are naughty, and interfere with the oldsters dancing. In large amounts this is unbearable.’
Some praised the dancing of one Olga Preobrazhenskaya as a mechanical doll. ‘With great art she transmitted the automatic movements of a doll, maintaining this manner until the end. Columbine’s entire pas was staged on pointe. Having elegantly danced her pas, Miss Preobrazhenskaya called forth friendly applause in this audience. To this dancer belongs the best success of the first scene of The Nutracker.’
Other dancers did not fare as well. ‘Neither the corpulent, podgy Dell’Era nor her bearded partner who had put on weight could produce model fairy-tale characters, and thereby did not contribute to the success of the performance.’
Critics could not agree if Tchiakovksy’s music was ‘beautiful, melodious, original’ or ‘sombre,’ ‘burdensome’, ‘simply boring’ and ‘unsuitable for dancing.’ An 1893 performance brought out more sourpusses. ‘It is difficult to imagine something more boring and foolish than The Nutcracker.’
How would all of these Nutcracker naysayers react if they knew that 125 years later, Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky’s ballet has become a high priority holiday tradition for families across the world?
As ever, Vancouver has multiple Nutcrackers on offer.
From December 28th through the 30th, Ballet BC presents The Alberta Ballet performing The Nutcracker. The choreography is by Edmund Stripe, the costumes by Zack Brown, winner of two Emmys for his work on La Gioconda with the San Francisco Opera.
The Goh Ballet, founded by Choo Chiat Goh and Lin Yee Goh, is now under the directorship of Chan Hon Goh, once a Prima Ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada. Every year, they put on a professional production of The Nutcracker that brings their own Academy dancers together with Principal Dancers from the National Ballet and the Vancouver Opera Orchestra.
The Goh’s Nutcracker is choreographed by Anna-Marie Holmes and runs between December 14th and 19th at The Centre in Vancouver.
Goh Ballet Nutcracker
If you’re looking for an untraditional Nutcracker, then you might want to try Arts Umbrella’s annual Mixed Nuts production. The Arts Umbrella dance program, helmed by Artemis Gordon, has deep ties to the professional dance community.
Their Mixed Nuts production includes a mix of dance styles and choreography by company members from Ballet BC and Kidd Pivot. Mixed Nuts runs from December 8th to 10th at the Vancouver Playhouse.
Written by Elizabeth Newton
Header: Dancers in Pink. Edgar Degas. 1880-85