Every source on The Nutcracker talks about how it is the most popular Christmas Time performance. No doubt even A bush-bound hick might recognize Tchaikovsky’s suite as a classic Christmas song even if they don’t know what it’s from or who wrote it.
How many people know it started out as a short story for children? Ernst Theodor Amadeus (better known as E.T.A.) Hoffman originally wrote and published it for a German Christmas collection in 1816.
In the 1840s, Alexandre Dumas wrote his variation on the story which became the inspiration for the ballet which was among the last pieces of art brought from Russia to the west before the rise of communism and the social divide resulting from it.
The ballet itself didn’t catch on in the west until the 1950s. Now, it is the premier media that we associate the story with, next to maybe a children’s picture book.
The acapella group, Straight No Chaser, probably best depicts the average attitude toward The Nutcracker Ballet. When my roommate first offered me the opportunity to attend a performance, my redneck identity brought a similar thought across my mind.
Then again, I grew up with Rodgers and Hammerstein and attended a couple Italian operas in college. So, culture wasn’t entirely lost on me.
And I was not disappointed.
It’s amazing how well a person can escape into a story when explicit explanation is lacking. We now live in a world where answers and information lie right at our fingertips. An entire generation is so obsessed with absolute information that they suffer mental paralysis when they have to guess.
However, uncertainty heightens the experience of a viewer or reader. Don’t give them every iota of every detail in the story. Leave enough to the consumer’s imagination to keep them engaged.
The Nutcracker offers both fantasy and realism depending on the particular portrayal. Every performance is adapted to the cast and varied according to the particular ballet company.
Therein lies the beauty of seeing a live performance. It’s a once and only time experience that even the audience takes part in.
Sure, it’s nice to go back and revisit such performances, but evidence has shown that when people view the world through a cell phone camera they tend to remember less of the experience. They commit the memory to digital encryption and forget the experience a few weeks later.
Sometimes that is how we experience our holidays. We endure the time with less than desirable family members just to get to the presents, dinner or to get the whole ordeal over with.
This year, take the time to stop and experience the world around you and absorb the memories. Don’t make this a Holiday to remember. Make the effort to remember it instead.
Happy holidays everyone!