Celebrating the holidays is a wonderful time to start family traditions that will last a lifetime and provide special memories for your children. One holiday traditions that many families partake in is taking in a showing of The Nutcracker.
Help your young children enjoy the production even more by introducing them to the story and help them understand what to expect when they first see The Nutcracker. A picture book following the story of Clara and her journey, like George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, with photographs of the New York City Ballet production.
Or recount the story as you would a fairytale, embellishing perhaps with details you remember from times you have seen the program in the past. This is also a grand way to relive the event once you see the production, and have your child help tell the story as well.
Here is a helpful reminder to get you started on your retelling of the classic The Nutcracker:
The story opens at the Stahlbaum family Christmas celebration, where they are welcoming many friends and family members into their home to celebrate the holiday. There is a very large tree, which is the focus of the stage. Clara is a young girl in the Stahlbaum family, and her godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer, makes wonderful toys. Herr Drosselmeyer entertains the guests with two life-sized dolls that wind up and dance around the room. Then, Herr Drosselmeyer gives gifts to the children, including a special gift for Clara – a nutcracker. The children play with their toys, and as they do, Clara’s brother Fritz, becomes jealous of Clara’s gift. He grabs the nutcracker and swings it around carelessly and breaks it. Clara is heartbroken over her broken doll.
It is getting late, and the guests begin to leave. The family says goodnight and the children go to bed. Clara awakens in the middle of the night and goes downstairs to find her nutcracker under the tree. She falls asleep and begins to dream. Her mother finds her asleep on the couch and covers her with a warm blanket for the night. In the dark, Herr Drosselmeier returns and fixes the Nutcracker’s broken jaw while Clara sleeps.
In Clara’s dream, she finds herself in a Christmas fantasy where the Christmas tree has grown enormous, and her nutcracker has grown to the size of a human and is the Nutcracker Prince. Clara becomes surrounded by Mice, who begin fighting with soldiers and with the Nutcracker. Then, the Mouse King appears and attacks. The Nutcracker Prince tries to valiantly defend young Clara, but is struck down in the battle. Clara is able to save the Nutcracker Prince by throwing her shoe at the Mouse King and defeating him.
Clara runs to thank the Nutcracker Prince. When she kisses him, he turns into a human! Clara and her Prince are whisked away through the Enchanted Forest, where they see dancing snowflakes and many other wonders. Together they travel on an icy boat further to the Kingdom of the Sweets.
(This begins Act II)
In the Kingdom of Sweets, Clara and the Prince experience the wondrous beauty of the Sugarplum Fairy, who receives them in the great hall of her castle. When the Prince reveals how Clara saved his life, the entire court greets her with honor. Clara is escorted to a miniature throne to view the presentation that has been prepared for her.
Delicacies of the Kingdom of the Sweets appear. Chocolate, coffee and tea are represented by Spanish, Arabian and Chinese dancers. Other dances follow – a lively Russian trepak, dance of the merlitons (penny whistles), Mother Ginger (the French equivalent of the Old Woman who lived in a shoe) and her children, the beautiful Waltz of the Flowers, and the great pas de deux by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. In the finale, the courtiers of the kingdom kneel in homage to Clara for rescuing their Prince. The ballet concludes with a brilliant waltz.
When the dancers are finished, Clara and the Nutcracker Prince sail home in a magic sleigh made of ice and candy. On Christmas morning, Clara wakes under the tree holding her nutcracker doll.
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