Nine Facts You Never Know About The Nutcracker Ballet!*



  1. German folklore presents the idea that nutcrackers protect the family and bring good luck to the home. Therefore, nutcrackers were often given to children at Christmastime.
  1. The little girl featured in Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet’s production at UDPAC is called Marie not Clara. The Nutcracker ballet is based on the book by German writer E. T. A. Hoffman (1776–1822) The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The book was published in 1816 and the little girl in the book is called Marie Stahlbaum.
  1. The original book is a much more darkly themed version of The Nutcracker story, in which the young Marie is forbidden from discussing her dreams, and at the end, she does not return to her family, but escapes to live in a kingdom of dolls.
  1. Despite this somber theme, Hoffman’s book influenced the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens and Maurice Sendakauthor of Where the Wild Things Are. In fact, Sendak was eventually enlisted by the Northwest Pacific Ballet to design the costumes for their production of The Nutcracker, which opened in 1983 and sought to recapture the mood of Hoffman’s original.
  1. In 1847, Alexandre Dumas rewrote Hoffman’s story, removing some of its darker elements. Because The Nutcracker ballet developed from two versions of a single book, the lead role of the story is sometimes named “Clara” and sometimes “Marie.” nutcracker_rehearsal_111914_0909
  1. The Nutcracker ballet was first performed in Russia in 1892, and the first American production took place on December 24, 1944, directed by Willam Christensen for the San Fancisco Ballet. But it wasn’t until 1954 when George Balanchine’s produced the ballet that it began to gain popularity. By the late 1960s, The Nutcracker became an established holiday season tradition.
  1. Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 to 1893) composed the score for the ballet. His beautiful score is one of his best known pieces of music, but he did not feel that it was his best. He felt his other works, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake were far superior to the Nutcracker.
  1. Sadly, less than a year after the original production of The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky who was just 53 years old, died of cholera most probably contracted through drinking contaminated water. He never knew the impact his The Nutcracker would have on audience members for decades to come.
  1. The uniquely twinkling instrument you hear in “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” is a celesta. Tchaikovsky smuggled this relative of the piano into Russia from Paris to add a unique sound to accompany the character of the Sugar Plum Fairy.


About PABS’s production of The Nutcracker at UDPAC:

Takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving:

  • November 20 at 7:30 pm
  • November 21 at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm (Pictures with cast members after the Saturday performances!)
  • November 22 at 1:30 pm and 5:30 pm

Tickets only $10 – $22 – Available by calling the box office: 610.622.1189 or visiting the website:



*Sources: California Ballet; “All Things Considered,” NPR; Treva Bedinghaus, “About Home;” NYC Ballet


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