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It’s a bit curious that The Nutcracker ballet has become a Christmastime classic, given that the story has nothing to do with the birth of Christ. Thanks to its holiday setting, however, replete with glimmering gifts and that unforgettable growing Christmas tree, the ballet has become an annual tradition for many families. The child-centered plot no doubt helps (what child hasn’t dreamed of a Land of Sweets?), and makes the show a wonderfully accessible entry point for introducing little ones to the world of fine arts and theater.
For those who look forward to seeing The Nutcracker each year, or who planned on taking their children and grandchildren to see a beloved performance, the pandemic restrictions on theater shows are no doubt hitting hard. In the endless annals of things that the pandemic has taken from us, a ballet performance may seem relatively insignificant, but sometimes it’s those smaller things—the ones we didn’t even realize how much we would miss—that sting the most to go without.
If you’re feeling disappointment over skipping your annual Nutcracker tradition, take heart in knowing that you can still celebrate and enjoy the ballet this year. In fact, your at-home Nutcracker ballet celebration might be even more fun than attending the real performance. And it will be a sweet and special memory for your family to cherish long after the pandemic is over.
One mother’s letter encouraged the New York City Ballet to do something amazing
Setting the scene
As beautiful as the ballet is, its appeal might not be immediately obvious to young children unfamiliar with the medium. The first step to a successful Nutcracker viewing at home is to familiarize children with the story.
Listen to … The Maestro Classics recording of The Nutcracker is an ideal starting point. Vivid, exciting narration is mixed in with the musical score for a delightful introduction to the story and a worthy complement to the performance.
Read aloud … Susan Jeffers’ picture-book edition closely follows the plot of the ballet. With its engaging illustrations and succinct yet beautiful wording, this retelling brings the youngest children into the magic.
Re-enact … Children learn best through play, so once they’ve heard the CD and read the book, encourage them to re-enact their favorite scenes as you play the musical score in the background. One child might want to dance the Waltz of the Flowers, while another lives to clash swords with the Mouse King, and that’s the beauty of the story—there’s something for everyone!
Invite … In advance of your planned Nutcracker viewing, invite each member of the family to attend the “Tea Party” or “Royal Ballet.” You might put a crafty child in charge of making simple invitations to deliver to siblings.
Dress the part … When it’s time for the performance, you might encourage your children to dress up for the occasion, or get cozy together in Christmas pajamas. Of course, if you have a child who loves to dance, ballet attire is wonderfully appropriate!