From Traditional To Politically Correct: Brooklyn Versions Of “Nutcracker” Abound

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Since the late 1960’s, productions of “the Nutcracker,” originally a two act ballet, in the United States have been extremely popular around/during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday time/season. Nowhere is this more true than in Brooklyn, which has a wide variety of Nutcracker offerings this December, ranging from traditional to reimagined, from kid to adult oriented, and with settings ranging from far away in time and place to local and current. What they all share is at least some of Tchaikovsky’s original 1892 score, a testament to the enduring popularity of this music. 

It is interesting to note that when the Nutcracker ballet was first performed in Russia in 1892, it was not a success. What was more successful, however, was Tchaikovsky’s score, especially the big tunes, contained in the famous 20 minute suite. Fast forward to December 2016 Brooklyn. Despite the variety of choices in choreography, settings etc. that various Nutcracker productions display, they all share at least some of Tchaikovsky’s original score. (In this writer’s opinion, the situation in the 21st century is somewhat analogous to the late 19th century.”)

So with no further adieu, here’s KCP’s take on this month’s various Nutcracker performances around the borough.

Perhaps the most traditional offering is by Kirkland Ballet, a classical ballet company. Their Nutcracker will be performed in their new home at the GK Arts Center, 29 Jay Street in DUMBO.

The company believes in “dramatic storytelling” in ballet. Co-Artistic Director, Gelsey Kirkland writes, “Each time I come back to The Nutcracker, I find more layers of meaning in the [story of the] of the symbolic rite of passage of the child…”.

Kirkland danced the female lead with Mikhail Baryshnikov in the American Ballet Theater’s production of The Nutcracker which became a film. Although traditional, the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet company version differs from the original in that unlike the way that Ms. Kirkland performed in the film, as the young girl protagonist, in the second act, watched her escort dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Gelsey Company’s female lead is an active participant, dancing the famous pas de deux with her Prince herself.

The Gelsey Kirkland Ballet performance dates are Dec. 8-11, and Dec. 15-18. For more information visit or the GK arts center at

The Moscow Ballet

Also very traditional is the Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” version, recently performed at the historic King’s Theatre, 1027 Flatbush Avenue in Flatbush. The company is about true classical ballet excellence in the Russian style. In their version, the setting is Russia, and Russian folk characters are included. Also, in Act II, instead of the original “Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” Moscow Ballet has added its “Land of Peace and Harmony” and the “Dove of Peace;” Two dancers together form a soaring white dove bird. Noteworthy to this Nutcracker are the sets that were hand painted in Russia.

The Moscow Ballet is a touring company and performed last Saturday at King’s Theater. For more information visit

“Dance Theatre in Westchester,” a classical ballet company headed by Rose-Marie Menes, moves the Nutcracker setting closer to Brooklynites, to the U.S., with their “The Colonial Nutcracker,” set in the historic Davenport house in colonial Yorktown. Choreographer Rose-Marie Menes says that she made this choice because of the beautiful and historic colonial houses in Yorktown Heights, NY, the company’s home. They perform it annually at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College.

The choreography is by Rose-Marie, who trained with pre revolution Russian teachers with the Ballet Russ de Monte Carlo. What is different or special in this version is its child orientation and its accessibility to all. Menes says that this production is less serious and more cute than most traditional versions. Most importantly, there will be simultaneous narration to help children as well as adults understand what is going on. Ms Menes believes strongly in the need for this. Also, according to Ms. Menes, the first act’s choreography has more action and seeks to make the story clearer than other productions. Unlike the wooden doll (held in the young girl’s arms) in the original, the Colonial Nutcracker has a young boy ballet dancer portraying the doll. (Adding to its attractiveness to families is that) it also may be the most affordable of Brooklyn’s Nutcrackers.”

The company is performing “The Colonial Nutcracker” this Sunday, Dec. 11. For further information visit the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College at The Dance Theatre in Westchester information can be found at

The Mark Morris Dance Company performs a contemporary version of The Nutcracker.

A very different kind of Nutcracker will be at the grand and historic BAM, 30 Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene. Even the name in this Mark Morris Dance Group version is untraditional. It is titled “the Hard Nut.” The company is a modern dance company, and so instead of ballet dancing, the choreography by Mark Morris, is mostly on the modern side of a modern dance – classical ballet mix. Instead of the original 1890’s setting from Hoffman’s story, the setting is swinging 1970’s suburbia. The scenery and costumes are based on the comic book art of Charles Burns and were created by collaborating with Robert Crumb. Also different here is that both genders dance certain roles that were originally exclusively for females. Unlike many traditional Nutcrackers that include many children as performers, in “the Hard Nut,” all the performers are adults. “Perhaps the most untraditional and noteworthy aspect of this Nutcracker is the subtle layer of adult humor.

The Mark Morris Dance Group version of The Nutcracker performance dates are Dec. 10-18. For more information visit BAM at The Mark Morris Dance Group can be found at

Although having traditional components, perhaps the Nutcracker that most departs from tradition and is also the newest is Brooklyn Ballet’s “the Brooklyn Nutcracker,” which will be performed at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights.

According to the Brooklyn Ballet, the company,  “brings a contemporary vision to … ballet” and diversity is important to them. Their Nutcracker is all about putting Brooklyn into the Nutcracker. The scenery will be by projections of Brooklyn landmarks such as Prospect Park and Flatbush Avenue. Most importantly, the actual dancing will reflect Brooklyn’s diversity. At the start of the show, the Drosselmeyer character is a hip hop dancer. In Act 2, rather than having classical ballet movements to mimic or represent several ethnic dances, this show features actual traditional or folk dancing and makes its own choice as to which ethnic groups to represent. For example, Native American hoop dancer Nakotah LaRance, of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo will be featured.

The Brooklyn Ballet’s final performance at the Brooklyn Museum is slated for this Sunday, Dec. 11. For further information log onto or the Brooklyn Ballet at