Last night I had the wonderful treat of seeing "The Nutcracker" ballet performed by the Joffrey Ballet at the Music Center in Los Angeles. I was smiling as I walked through the lobby which was decorated for Christmas and watched all the children dressed in their best holiday clothes excitedly walking into the theatre. As I watched the familiar dances and listened to the enchanting music, I felt the excitement and magic of this enduring classic. Seeing "The Nutcracker" ballet at Christmas time is one of the most beloved traditions at this time of the year.
We took our seats and I sat back and let the familiar dances and enchanting music sweep over me. The Christmas Eve party at Clara's house was as festive and cozy as always. Dr. Drosselmeyer brought his mechanical dolls who performed for all the guests. His magical cape produced many surprising treats, including a Nutcracker for Clara. When she goes to sleep and has her dream the real magic begins.
I was in awe as always when the snow falls, when the Christmas tree grows, and when the Nutcracker becomes a real Prince. I felt the joy of the dances performed by the Divertissements for Clara when she goes to the Kingdom of Sweets, and was moved by the beauty of the dance of the snowflakes in The Land of Snow. The Grand Pas De Deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Prince gave me a thrill as I watched the familiar and traditional ballet dances. The dancing between these two was exquisite and romantic and included enough spinning and leaping to to please any ballet fan.
I thought about the enduring value of cherished traditions such as this and how they provide comfort and hope. Last year at this time there was a series of articles in the New York Times about why Americans love this ballet so much. I read all of them because I wanted to understand why I love it so much. I agreed with the author that the winning combination of children, parents, sweets, a Christmas tree, and Tchaikovsky's magnificent score is reason enough. But beyond that is the fact that more than any other ballet, "The Nutcracker" is about children and Americans love to watch children and innocence in general.
My feeling is that many people remember the magical feelings of Christmas they had as children and seeing "The Nutcracker" helps them get in touch with those feelings again. The music, the dancing, the spectacle, the snow, the giant tree...they all inject magic into the holiday season. After all, how can we not be thrilled as the magnificent music builds and we watch the tree grow from the Earth, climbing higher and higher into the snowy sky?
Photo from The New York Times