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Nutcracker (Act I) [1974]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0471
Run Time
0h 51m 14s
Date Produced
Ruth Page's version of the popular ballet "The Nutcracker" was premiered at McCormick Place's Arie Crown Theater in Chicago, on December 26, 1965. After this, it was presented at the Chicago Civic Opera House in 1967 & 1968; it was then presented at McCormick every holiday season from 1971 through 1997. The ballet uses Tchaikovsky's original score for the story by E.T.A. Hoffman; it was produced by Edward G. Lee, with costumes by Rolf Gérard and scenery by Sam Leve.

This video represents an in-studio practice clothes rehearsal of Act I from the ballet, recorded in 1974. It is shot from rather far away, so events are sometimes hard to make out.
The video opens with a shot of a studio stage, where the adults of the party scene are posed in the upstage area and the party children begin to enter (first girls, then boys) downstage. As they do so and begin to dance together, the adults in the background begin to mill about and then interact/dance with the children. Adults soon retreat to prepare the gifts, and the children all perform an excited ensemble dance facing upstage. They then mill about excitedly before sitting down in a long row, called backward two at a time by the adults to receive their gifts. As the other children move aside, the central gift (a doll for Clara) is brought forth. The children then take turns dancing in groups: first the boys, then the girls with their dolls, then the boys again, and finally the boys and girls together in couples. Once they strike their final pose, all of the children except for a central couple (Clara and Fritz?) retreat, and the two begin another dance--the rest rejoin shortly. Before long, they are all shooed away so that the adults can enter the dance floor two by two. They then move to the sides, where they bow to the children and form adult-child couples. After bowing once again to their new partners, all begin a jaunty dance.

Just as they finish, Herr Drosselmeyer enters with his own gifts. After a bit of magic and movement around the stage, he brings forth two life-size mechanical dolls. The dolls do a dance on their own; after them, two more are brought out and they dance as well.  The children mimic some of the dolls' steps, but they are eventually put away; one remains a bit longer to lead the children in a final dance, but Drosselmeyer soon carries her offstage as well. This leaves one final gift, which he reveals to be a nutcracker. The children do a desirous dance around him as he demonstrates its cracking abilities. He gives the gift to Clara, but before she can enjoy it for long, Fritz (her brother) wrests it from her and stomps on it, breaking the toy. Clara and the other girls are highly upset, so Drosselmeyer sympathetically wraps the Nutcracker in a sling. Then all of the girls but Clara exit and the boys gather for story time, but one sneaks away to help Clara put the Nutcracker to bed. The other boys then catch him and tease him (twice) before the girls and the rest of the adult guests return for a final dance (mainly by the adult couples). Finally, all of the guests leave the Stahlbaums' party. Drosselmeyer is the last to leave, and he places the (magic) Nutcracker under the "tree" on his way out.

Soon, dancers performing as giant mice begin scurrying about the stage and the Mouse King arrives in an imposing cloak, frightening little Clara (who has reentered). Eventually, Drosselmeyer (also in a cloak) enters and reveals the Nutcracker to be a real boy, who then joins Clara for a stroll around the stage. As all three continue moving about the stage, Drosselmeyer gesticulates with grand, open arms (presumably marking a change in scenery to a snowy wonderland). Once Drosselmeyer exits, the mice reappear and the Nutcracker battles them, joined by a small army of toy soldiers. Eventually, all run back and forth across the stage as an ensemble, which is followed by a small cluster of dancers at center surrounded by a long row of others who circle them. The chaotic fight continues, with the Nutcracker and Mouse King taking center stage, until Nutcracker slays the Mouse King with the assitance of Clara's thrown shoe.

As the mice file offstage and the Nutcracker and Clara wander into the wintry wonderland before them, The Snow Queen and Snow Prince enter to welcome their guests. They then perform a pas de deux; when it is complete, the video cuts to a second cast of Snow Queen & Prince performing the same pas de deux, followed by a third cast. Finally, the pas de deux is followed by the entrance of the Snowflakes, who flit across the stage while small children (representing a smaller Clara and Nutcracker?) are caught up in the flurry. Then, the snowflakes dance in small groups and then a single large group, eventually lining the stage to allow the Snow Prince and Queen a modified grand pas de deux at center--some of which the couple "marks" rather than dancing it "full out." Once this is complete, little Clara and her Nutcracker enter stage to be greeted and sent on their way. The Snow Prince then lifts his Queen a final time, spinning her in the air while the snowflakes flutter around them.

The video then cuts to another cast performing the modified grand pas de deux, this time sans snowflakes. A man walks in front of the camera as they do so. The couple eventually completes the dance, and after the final spinning pose, breaks character and begins to walk away. The video ends there. 
Additional Credit
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich (is composer)