The Wonderful History of Balanchine's Nutcracker

I used to be one of those crazy people who danced in 500 performances of The Nutcracker every year. Now I'm an even crazier person who goes to watch 500 performances of The Nutcracker every year. And as someone who's seen all kinds of versions from all kinds of angles, I can tell you that few Nutcrackers compare to the marvelous confection George Balanchine choreographed for New York City Ballet in 1954.

NYCB in the snow scene from Balanchine's Nutcracker (photo by Paul Kolnik)

Odds are you know the Balanchine Nut pretty well, thanks to the 1993 film version starring one Macaulay Culkin. But do you know the history of the production?

Turns out, it's totally fascinating. Dance writer Laura Jacobs recently penned a wonderful story for Vanity Fair about how this Nutcracker came to be, and it's full of gems. Did you know that there's a trap under the Koch Theater stage constructed specifically for the giant tree? That Balanchine lifted the Candy Cane divertissement straight out of the Mariinsky Ballet Nutcracker he performed in as a young dancer? That the cape the Grandmother wears today is from the original 1954 production? That before the Arabian dance became an awesomely slinky solo for a woman, it starred a man with a hookah and four little girls dressed as parrots (!!!)?

There's a heck of a lot more where that came from: Read the whole story here. And once visions of sugar plums are dancing in your heads, watch the Sugar Plum pas de deux from the film version, starring Darci Kistler and Damian Woetzel, below.

Happy Nutcracker, everybody!

Latest Posts


Because there's never been a better time to binge-watch "Bunheads" (via Freeform)

5 of the Danciest TV Shows Streaming Right Now (and Where to Stream Them)

We're about two months into #SocialDisDancing, and let's be real—while we all wish we were spending every spare minute stretching, cross-training, or taking online classes, sometimes we just need to Netflix and chill.

We figure, if you're going to be watching TV anyways, why not make it dancy TV? After all, watching pros dance on-screen is basically dance class homework...or at least we'll say it is. Here are five of the danciest TV shows for you to watch—and where to find them.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Larry Saperstein on "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" (Disney+/Fred Hayes)

Celebrate National Tap Dance Day with "HSM" Star Larry Saperstein

Happy National Tap Dance Day, friends! We're marking the occasion by catching up with one of our favorite talented young tappers: Larry Saperstein. The "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" star began taking tap classes at 12 years old, studying at the American Tap Dance Foundation, where he quickly discovered his love for the art. These days, he's putting his skills to good use as Big Red on "HSMTMTS." (Who could forget that iconic moment at the end of season one where he broke out into a tap routine that shook us all!)

We chatted with Larry about why he loves tap so much, and why the art form needs more and better representation in the dance world (and the world world).

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

2020 Dance Grads: We Want to Put You on Our Cover!

Hello, all you members of the great Dance Class of 2020. With the world on lockdown, this hasn't been the graduation season you expected. You likely weren't able to go to prom; your commencement ceremonies have probably been delayed or canceled; and you might not have been able to take your planned-for final bow onstage.

Since you're missing out on so much, we'd like to give you a virtual ovation, to recognize all you've accomplished. And what's the highest honor we can bestow? The cover of Dance Spirit!

Here's the plan:

  • If you're a high school or college senior dancer, use this form to submit your information and dance portrait.
  • Each day during the month of May, we'll create a digital Dance Spirit cover starring one of you, chosen at random—31 covers in total.
  • At the end of the month, we'll create a "commencement video" featuring even more of your submitted dance photos.
  • 100 of you, selected by lottery, will also receive free one-year subscriptions to the print magazine.

Merde, 2020 graduates, as you dance your way into the future!

High School and College Senior Dancers: Submit Your Photo Here

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search