It’s been 30 years since Ballet Northeast opened, and its winter performance has always been the same – and no one ever tires of it.
How could they, when said performance is an array of lovable characters and colorful “sweets?”
“I think what makes ‘The Nutcracker’ so popular,” began Bob Stanley, Ballet Northeast’s board president, “is that it’s very colorful, very intriguing, engrossing visually.”
The tale has never changed: based on a story by German author E.T.A. Hoffman and a musical by Tchaikovsky, it tells the tale of young Klara, who receives a nutcracker present on Christmas Eve that she falls asleep with under the tree. She awakens to find herself immersed in a fantastical world of larger-than-life mice, soldiers, angels, and the Nutcracker himself, who has turned into a handsome prince. He whisks Klara away into the Land of Sweets, where the duo meets all types of characters, from Arabian Coffee to Russian Candy Cane dancers.
“When it premiered in 1896 in the Soviet Union, the music by Tchaikovsky was popular, but the ballet wasn’t such a big hit,” Stanley, who will dance in the production for the fourth time this year, said. “It caught on in America in the 1950s with television. And now, every holiday season, it’d be hard to find a ballet company that’s not doing it. Also, for most ballet companies, this accounts for 40 to 50 percent of their income every year.”
Stanley said “The Nutcracker” remains a top performance because it’s the perfect ballet to see if you’ve never been to the ballet before.
It’s also great for kids.
“It’s really just a series of little vignettes,” he continued, “and because of that, even young children with a short attention span will still be captivated.”
Performers in Ballet Northeast’s production range from three years old to 88.
As Stanley pointed out, it’s a colorful production as well. Costumes are bright and eye-catching, with each group of “sweets” sharing a common, sugary theme.
Ballet Northeast owns its costumes, though Stanley said they had to replace some tutus this year, which cost six to seven thousand dollars.
“Our operating budget every year is $75,000,” he said, “and we’re looking to expand that. We want to replace scenery, get a few more props.”
Allowing for the Ballet to do such things is important, as it helps to keep it going, something Stanley said is imperative for the local art scene.
“We’ve always felt that the ballet is the best kept secret in the Valley,” he said. “It’s a great organization and an important part of the community. It’s very important to keep the arts alive.”
Ballet Northeast will hold its annual performances of the Christmas classic this weekend at Wilkes University.