Every year during the first weekend in December thousands of people visit Butler University campus for Butler Ballet and Jordan College of Fine Arts Presentation of The Nutcracker. For some families this has become more than just a night at the ballet. Families across Indianapolis, and in other cities around the world, have made The Nutcracker an annual tradition (along with the Starbucks seasonal red cups) that signifies the start of the holiday season.
Despite its popularity with families, there are still amounts of people who may be familiar with the story of The Nutcracker or its easily recognizable score by Tchaikovsky – compliments of the department stores from the end of November through January, but may have never seen it live. Let me just say, there is nothing that beats a live performance of The Nutcracker. “The Ballet” has a reputation of being stuffy, complicated, and awfully silent, but The Nutcracker has become a family tradition because it is the perfect ballet-beginners starting point. The Nutcracker is relatively short, has a simple plot, fantastic music, and still packs a punch with visually stimulating sets and elegant displays of human athleticism.
For those of you still hesitant about attending a ballet, here is a summary of how the evening will run after you find your seat and the house lights dim. The ballet begins at the Stahlbaum house as the family finishes preparing for their annual Christmas party. As the guests arrive, the whole family including the children, Clara and her younger brother Fritz, welcome their guests. As the party builds, the children run off to play while the parents start in on the eggnog. It’s about half way through the party when the final guest, and fashionably late, uncle Drosselmeyer arrives. This quirky guest brings magic, gifts, fun, and laughter to the party, and most importantly a nutcracker that he gives to Clara. Clara instantly falls in love with gift, and is devastated when her brother Fritz breaks it. Luckily, Uncle Drosselmeyer hasn’t run out of magic quite yet, and fixes the nutcracker just before the end of the party. There is a final dance, and then the guests begin to head home. Even after the party, Clara is still filled with joy as her mind dances with thoughts of her friends, family, and her beloved nutcracker as she falls asleep.
When the clock strikes midnight, strange things start to happen. Clara shrinks to the size of her nutcracker and all the toys come to life. A battle between the mice and the toys commence, and just when it seems like there is no hope for the nutcracker and his toy soldiers, Clara throws her shoe at the Mouse King and hits him on the head bringing victory to the toys! The Nutcracker is injured from the battle and Uncle Drosselmeyer heals him up again, but this time he is revealed to be a prince. In gratitude for saving his life, the prince decides to take Clara to The Land of Sweet so she can meet the Sugar Plum Fairy, and their journey begins in the Land of Snow.
Intermission – stretch you legs, hit the restroom, grab a quick snack, and hurry back
Finally, after a brief intermission, Clara and the prince arrive in the Land of Sweet and they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The prince tells her of Clara’s bravery in battle against the mice, and in commemoration of their victory, she rewards them with a celebration of dances. Each dance that follows represents a different sweet from a different land – Spanish chocolate, Arabian coffee, tea from china, candy canes from Russia, bon-bons, marzipan, and the waltz of the flowers. After the divertissment (or short) dances, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Prince perform for Clara. The two dance individually and together in the pas de deux and the climax of the ballet. Once they are done, everyone from the land of sweet thanks Clara again as she journeys from the Land of Sweets, out of her dream, and back to her living room.
Now see, The Nutcracker is nothing to be afraid of. In fact the incredible sight of ballet performed just feet in front of you, paired with a full, live orchestra, makes the ticket well worth its value. This experience will leave you craving more every year, and who knows, maybe The Nutcracker will become a new holiday tradition.
For information on dates, times, and tickets on Butler Ballet and Jordan College of Fine Arts Present The Nutcracker visit Clowes Memorial Hall and join in on the holiday spirit.