By: Ruby Schweitzer
With dance classes having to reduce their sizes or go online to prevent the spread of COVID, many ballet companies have had to forego their Nutcracker usual performances for live audiences. If you’d still like to keep up your yearly winter tradition and watch a Nutcracker performance from home, there are a number of options available that vary in cost and accessibility.
Carolina Ballet puts a lot of effort into making their dances unique, while still sticking to the traditional story. Their Act I is especially entertaining, with multiple magic tricks involving dancers that seem to float in midair with no strings attached and climb out of suitcases and presents after being flattened into pieces of paper. Act II shines with its Tea dancers that jump over each others’ heads and Candy Cane dancers that spin in the air with hoops. If you’re looking for a performance that will keep a younger audience entertained while still serving beautiful choreography, tune into WRAL on Christmas day at 7pm for the exclusive TV showing, and get the chance to support a local ballet company.
If you’ve always wanted to watch a specific ballet company’s performance of the Nutcracker, but never happened to be traveling in their state during winter break, you’re in luck this year. New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and many other famous ballet companies are streaming their performances online this year. The Hip Hop Nutcracker, which is a fun reimagining of The Nutcracker with contemporary choreography and costumes, is also online this year. Most companies are charging $25-$50 to gain access to the stream, but since you can watch with your whole family and don’t have to pay for multiple tickets like you would in person, it’s much cheaper than a normal show would cost.
The Nutcracker may be an acclaimed ballet, but there are still some parts that can drag, especially if you’ve watched them dozens of times before. If you don’t feel like sitting through a whole performance this year, you can find your favorite scenes on YouTube. The Moscow Ballet and Royal Opera House Ballet channels are both very thorough in posting clips of their dances online. For those who are watching The Nutcracker more out of an appreciation for the choreography than for entertainment, this can be a fun way to compare how different companies change up the dances and what different performers can bring to a role.
The 1993 New York City Ballet Nutcracker, starring Macaulay Culkin, is available on Amazon Prime for free as long as you have an Amazon account. This version was produced to be watched like a movie, so it has much closer camera angles than a typical ballet recording and can put more emphasis on the facial expressions of the performers. It also includes narration in some parts, which makes it a good introduction to the ballet for younger audiences, who may have a hard time following the story otherwise.
Instead of watching the actual ballet, you could also watch a movie inspired by The Nutcracker. Barbie in The Nutcracker and Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms are two of the most popular movies based on the ballet. Neither received particularly good reviews, but they could still be fun for a family movie night. The Four Realms features Misty Copeland and a more diverse cast than typical performances, and Barbie has a nostalgia factor for teenagers and young adults who may have watched it in the early 2000s when it came out. Both movies place less emphasis on the actual dancing, and more on their own variations of The Nutcracker’s story.