The martial Nutcracker may have triumphed over the Mouse King in their first North American skirmish, but the production was hardly a winner when the San Francisco Ballet first presented the Russian import to the war-weary public in the winter of 1944. The response was so underwhelming that the next year the company, looking to established a holiday season tentpole, went back to “Hansel and Gretel,” which had received a similarly lukewarm reception in 1943.
Given another shot in 1946, William Christensen’s resetting of “The Nutcracker” started to catch on, launching the ballet’s ongoing reign as an unstoppable cultural juggernaut.
More than a holiday tradition, “The Nutcracker” has become a ubiquitous American phenomenon. Supremely malleable, the ballet retains its magic even as countless choreographers have attempted, and still attempt, to put their own stamp on the tale, drawing new details from the E. T. A. Hoffmann story that inspired the libretto, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.”
Some versions add or subtract characters, change the setting, or edit the plot, though every “Nutcracker” worth its sugarplums retains some version of Tchaikovsky’s enchanting score.
A gateway to dance and classical music for children, a holiday ritual for families, and a fiscal lifeline for dance companies large and small, “The Nutcracker” retains its magic by offering a domestic fantasy that encompasses the world from the safety of home. It’s not the only seasonal dance staple, but there’s no competition on the horizon challenging its dominance.
San Francisco Ballet “Nutcracker”: Company artistic director Helgi Tomasson’s take on the classic, now in its 19th year, sets the celebratory proceedings in San Francisco. Besides 83 company dancers, the production features 110 S.F. Ballet School children performers, live musical accompaniment as well as 150 pounds of artificial snow. Details: Dec. 8-27; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco; $19-$465; 415-865-2000, www.sfballet.org.
Mark Foehringer’s Dance Project|SF: “Mark Foehringer’s Nutcracker Sweets” is a well-known Bay Area tradition, abridged to 50 minutes with younger viewers in mind. Details: Dec. 3-18. Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, San Francisco. $22.50-$44.50; nutcrackersweets.org.
San Jose Dance Theatre “The Original San Jose Nutcracker”: Dec. 8-18; San Jose Center for the Performing Arts; $44-$95; www.sjdt.org/the-nutcracker.
Oakland Ballet Company: “Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker,” created by the company artistic director, follows Hoffmann’s original story line and includes the Oakland Symphony and the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir. Details: 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 17, 1 p.m. Dec. 18; Paramount Theatre, Oakland; $33-$127; oaklandballet.org.
Berkeley City Ballet “Nutcracker”: 2 and 4:30 p.m. Dec. 17-18; BCB Studio Theater, Berkeley; $20-$25; berkeleycityballet.org.
New Ballet: “The San Jose Nutcracker” sets the action in — where else — San Jose, complete with historical references to the city and Silicon Valley. Includes live orchestra. There is also a 45-minute version for young viewers. Details: Dec. 16-18; California Theatre, San Jose. $25-$95; www.newballet.com.
Smuin Ballet dancer Tess Lane performs in the company’s “The Christmas Ballet,” returning to tour the Bay Area through Dec. 24. (Chris Hardy/Smuin Contemporary Ballet)
Smuin Ballet “The Christmas Ballet”: OK, this is NOT a “Nutcracker.” But the company’s production is nonetheless …read more
Source:: The Mercury News