The Nutcracker Education Packet Here!
The Nutcracker, choreographed by Marius Petipa, was first
performed in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892. It was not well
received by audiences or by critics; therefore, it was considered
a failure. In 1944, Director of the San Francisco Ballet William
Christensen wanted to introduce Americans to the classics, so
he presented the full-length Nutcracker in the United States.
However, it was not until 1954 that The Nutcracker became
popular. That’s when the New York City Ballet first performed
the ballet under the direction of George Balanchine. Many
versions of The Nutcracker performed in America are based on
George Balanchine’s version of the ballet. Today, ballet
companies perform, The Nutcracker, across the country during
the holiday season.
It is Christmas Eve and Councillor Von Stahlbaum, a city official, and his wife are entertaining close friends and relatives.The
Stahlbaum’s have two children, Fritz and Marie
who are joined by their many friends and
relatives. The children receive many gifts this
Christmas when another guest arrives - an
elderly man wearing a white wig and a patch
over his right eye. This is the children’s
Godfather Heir Drosselmeier.
Drosselmeier intrigues the children.
Drosselmeier is a clock maker by trade, but he
also produces wonderful mechanical toys for
the children that come to life and dance.
Drosselmeier gives Marie and Fritz a
Nutcracker doll and shows Marie how to use
the Nutcracker to crack nuts. Fritz is jealous
and takes the Nutcracker from Marie and
breaks the Nutcracker’s teeth when he tries
to make the doll crack a very large nut. Drosselmeier and Marie attempt to repair the Nutcracker. As the party comes to an end, the
guests dance “The Grandfather’s Dance” a
traditional German folk dance.
After everyone has left Marie returns to the living room to search for her Nutcracker and she
falls asleep on the couch. Drosselmeier
appears and as the clock strikes twelve, Marie
dreams that she sees many mice scampering
through the living room. The living room
transforms as the Christmas tree grows and
life size toy soldiers and the Nutcracker battle
the mice and Mouse King. The Nutcracker’s
army retreats and the Nutcracker is over
powered by the Mouse King. In an act of
desperation, Marie throws her slipper at the
Mouse King and the spell placed on the
Nutcracker by the Mouse King’s family is finally
broken. The Nutcracker is transformed into the
prince he once was. He leads Marie through
the Land of the Snowflakes on the way to the
Land of the Sweets.
The second Act takes place in the Land of the
Sweets at the Palace of the Sugarplum
Kingdom. The Sugarplum Fairy arrives and
introduces Marie and the Prince to her
kingdom. The Prince tells how Marie saved
him from the Mouse King. Marie and the
Prince are then entertained by a
host of dancing treats:
Spanish dancers (Chocolate)
Arabian dancers (Coffee)
Russian (Candy Canes)
Mother Ginger’s children the
a magical Waltz of the Flowers
and finally the Grand Pas de Deux of
the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier
As Act II comes to an end, so
does Marie’s dream as her
mother awakens her. But for
Marie, this was no dream at all,
it was all very real!
THE MUSIC: THE NUTCRACKER SUITE BY PETER ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
Born: May 7, 1840. Kamsko-Votkinsk, Russian
Died: November 6, 1983 St Petersburg, Russia
In his own words...
“How can one express the indefinable sensations that one experiences while writing an
instrumental composition that has no definite subject? It is a purely lyrical process. It is a
musical confession of the soul, which unburdens itself through sounds just as a lyric poet
expresses himself through poetry... As the poet Heine said, ‘Where words leave off, music
Russian composer, Peter IlyichTchaikovsky began piano lessons at age 5. After accompanying his
parents to a piano concert, he complained that he could not sleep because the music stuck in his
head. Though he was musically gifted Tchaikovsky’s parents sent him to law school. At nineteen
he took a job as a bureau clerk. Though he worked hard, he hated his job. Music was enchanting
him and he began composing.
Tchaikovsky is best known for his ballets and symphonies in which he wrote extremely difficult flute
parts. His orchestration was colorful and touched with emotion. The Nutcracker was not
immediately a successful endeavour, but has now become a Christmas tradition.
Tchaikovsky is said to have argued with a friend who wagered that the composer could not write a
melody based on the notes of the scale in an octave in sequence. Tchaikovsky asked if it mattered
whether the notes were in ascending or descending order, and was assured it did not. This resulted
in the Adagio from the Grand pas de deux, following the Waltz of the Flowers.*
One novelty in Tchaikovsky’s original score was the use of the celesta, a new instrument
Tchaikovsky had discovered in Paris. He wanted it genuinely for the character of the Sugarplum
Fairy to characterize her because of its “heavenly sweet
sound”. Tchaikovsky was proud of the celesta’s effect, and
wanted its music performed quickly for the public, before he
could be “scooped.” Everyone was enchanted.
Other Works: 8 operas, including Eugene Onegin (1879) and
Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades, 1890) 3 ballets: Swan
Lake (1877), The Sleeping Beauty (1890) and The
Nutcracker (1892) Orchestral music, including 7 symphonies
(No.1, 1866; No.2, 1872; No.3, 1875; No.4, 1878; No.5, 1888;
No.6 “Pathétique”, 1893; Manfred, 1885), 3 piano concertos,
1 violin concerto and symphonic poems and overtures
(Romeo and Juliet, 1870) Chamber and keyboard music,
choral music and songs.
Children and some adults are often surprised at the sight of men in tights, but the wearing of tights is
practical and historical. Ballet originated at the royal courts of Italy and France during the 1500s and
1600s. At that time, women wore long, heavy skirts and men wore puffy short pants called trunk hose
with stockings. Dancers wore the same. As time went on, the skirts of women dancers became shorter
and lighter to allow them more freedom of movement and a view of the fancy foot work. Ballet dancing of
men became more athletic, with lifts, leaps and turns. With this change men needed less restrictive
clothing too. Hence, they began to wear stretchy, form-fitting leotards and tights that allowed the
maximum range of movement.
Leotard A one piece, fitted garment, made of
a light stretch fabric that fits like a second skin
to cover a dancer’s torso. Leotards are worn
for class and rehearsal so that the teacher may
see the workings of the students’ muscles and
Tights tightly knit leg coverings worn by both
men and women in ballet.
Toe Shoe special ballet shoes worn by ballerinas to allow them to dance on the points
of their toes. These slippers have a hardened
box, which is made of 7 layers of fabric glued
together. This “box” goes around the toes to
help support and protect the tips of the ballerina’s toes. Ribbons help to keep the shoes
on the feet. But the ballerina’s feet also get
support from her ankle and leg muscles. She
has trained for years with special exercises to
strengthen her legs, ankles, and feet. Student
dancers may not wear “toe shoes” until age 10
or 11. Girls are usually a few years older before they have enough toe shoe experience to
perform on stage.
Tutu a ballerina’s skirt, made of several layers
of fine net-like fabric called “tulle” (pronounced
“tool”). The short kind is called a “pancake”,
the longer “romantic”.
Ballet is an artistic dance form performed to music using precise and highly formalized set steps
and gestures. Classical ballet, which originated in Renaissance Italy, developed further in France,
England, and Russia, and established its present form during the 19th century, is characterized by
light, graceful, fluid movements and the use of pointe shoes. Pointe work and turn out make ballet
different from all other dance forms. Highly trained dancers perform ballets that are choreographed
and set to music using mime, acting, and combinations of dance steps.
In some productions, “Clara” is the name of the lead character and not “Marie.” However, in the original
story, “Marie” is the name of the girl and “Clara” is the name of her doll.
Rehearsals for our production of The Nutcracker begin in early September.
This year’s production includes over 110 cast members and over 200 costumes.
Approximately 30 people work backstage to assist with music, lights, costume changes, and sets.
Marie has 3 dreams. The first dream begins when the jack-in-the-box awakens her. The second
dream begins when the first group of mice enters until the end of the battle scene. The last dream is
when she gets back on the bed and goes back to sleep before waking up before the prince.
The Mouse King has 7 heads. There is one large one with 6 additional heads protruding from it.
In order for Marie’s bed to move, someone gets underneath to steer it. Usually it’s our Artistic Director!
Mother Ginger’s dress is in two pieces, the upper bodice that actually fits the Mother Ginger
character and the skirt. The skirt fits over an oblong stage set made of wood that sits on top of the actual
moving part which someone steers from underneath.
It takes about 10 hours to steam the wrinkles from Mother Ginger’s skirt.
The Sugar Plum Fairy’s costume has 32 pieces of beaded candy decorating the tutu.
The week of The Nutcracker, our dancers collectively go through about 2 pounds of bobby pins (hair
In 2014, 4294 students and teachers from 22 counties in Mississippi and 36 Mississippi
municipalities attended the school performances of Ballet Mississippi’s The Nutcracker.
Thalia Mara Hall, the auditorium where The Nutcracker is performed, is named for Ballet Mississippi’s
first director, Thalia Mara. Later, she brought the International Ballet Competition to Jackson, which
still occurs every four years. Jackson Auditorium became Thalia Mara Hall to honor her contribution to
Jackson’s cultural life.
Peter Illyitch Tschaikovsky is the composer who wrote the music for the ballet. The Nutcracker was
first performed n Russia in 1892, and was considered a failure. Tschaikovsky died less than one year
later; therefore, he never knew what a huge success and popular holiday tradition the ballet later
This year is Ballet Mississippi’s 33rd anniversary of performing The Nutcracker.
Preschool - 6th grade
Have students draw a picture of what their Land of the Sweets would look like. Or have them draw
a modern-day Land of the Sweets.
Preschool - 6th grade
After reading the story, play excerpts of the music. See if students can guess which parts of the
story match the music, i.e. battle scene, snow, flowers, Arabian.
2nd grade & up
Have students draw a picture of their favorite scene.
2nd grade & up
Have students draw a picture of their own costume design.
4th grade & up
After seeing the ballet, have students write a narrative from the perspective of another character
(i.e. Drosselmeyer, the Mouse King, the Sugar Plum Fairy).
4th grade & up
Have students write a review of The Nutcracker. It should include likes/dislikes, and suggestions
for improvements. Discuss how the qualities of the production (movement, music, lighting,
costumes) contributed to the production.
R M S K N U P F S D U R H D N W
N E U A U R I A T E L I A O X C G S M I T N R I H V V M I U A A N T T S C E O E G O M S E V R Z I E S M R R U U I T S D A P M U G L I T A S E E T I E L L R A E R I R E C L T Y M D I U H S R S E K H L K R T R W
S E M S S I I H A C I E N E A R O A E E N E B T A T B R T P R T M D G P J C F O S U N N D G E S N O T I L R I M X T I D N P O L I C H I N E L L E U T T P A N T O M I M E J E T E T E L L A B E D S P R O C E P BALLET
PAS DE DEUX
Created by Puzzlemaker at DiscoveryEducation.com
1. Means step or dance
2. A ballerina dancing on her toes while wearing toe shoes
3. Dancers focus on one spot as they turn. This helps them avoid dizziness.
5. A female ballet dancer.
7. Literally means “whirligig,” which is an old fashioned name for a child’s top. Pirouette is now
used to describe the many kinds of turns that dancers do either on demi-point (on the ball of
the foot) or on full point for the women (on the tips of the toes with the support of pointe
8. A dévelopé is done by drawing the toe of the gesture leg (which bends at the knee and hip) up
the front, side, or back of the supporting leg, until it reaches knee height. It is then
“unfolded” to its full extension, either to the front side or back of the dancer’s body.
10. A male ballet dancer
11. A jump in which a dancer springs from one foot to land on the other with one leg extended outward
from the body while in the air.
12. A position of the body balancing on one leg while the other leg is extended (usually) to the back.
13. Most movements in ballet technique begin and end with a plié, which is a bend and stretch of the hip,
knee, and ankle joints. Demi- and grand-pliés are done as an exercise at the beginning of the barre
work and are done as half-bends and full-bends of the knee.
14. A horizontal bar at waist level on which ballet dancers rest a hand for support during exercises.
15. The members of a ballet company who dance together as a group.
16. The characteristic that most distinguishes ballet from other forms of dance. It refers to the outward
rotation of the legs in the hip socket, so that if one were to look at the feet in first position (heel to
heel), they would appear to make a straight line.Down
1. a form of acting in which gestures and facial expressions are used instead of words to convey
the story. Ballet dancers frequently use pantomime to help tell the story of a ballet.
4. A movement in which both legs are kept straight and one leg is kicked outward from the body and
6. A position of the body, related to the arabesque, where the extended leg is bent at the knee.
9. dances done by two people together, usually a man and a woman. The Sugar Plum Fairy and the
Nutcracker Prince perform one near the end of Act II of the Nutcracker.
17 of 17 words were placed into the puzzle.
Created by Puzzlemaker at DiscoveryEducation.com
Draw a line connecting the accomplishment to the person’s name.
Wrote the story of The Nutcracker
Wrote the music for The Nutcracker
Choreographed the first The Nutcracker
Dances with the Sugarplum Fairy
Choreographed first American Nutcracker
Conquered the Mouse King
Choreographed popular version of The Nutcracker
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
A live performance is much different than sitting at home in front of your
television set, so live performances require a different set of conduct. Here
are a few suggestions:
1) The signal for the start of the ballet will be the dimming of the lights It will
seem very dark. The curtain will not go up yet, but music will start to play; this is
called the Overture. The Overture is a sampling of the music that will be heard
all during the performance. During this time the performers are getting to their
places and getting prepared to dance. The audience should also get ready for
the performance by getting to their seats and finishing their conversations.
2) Once the Overture ends, dancers will emerge from the wings (offstage areas
on either side of the stage). These dancers, and every dancer who follows, will
help tell the story by pantomime. There are no spoken “lines” in ballet - Dance,
gesture, and facial expression are used to tell the story. Also, the changing sound
of the music will also help set the mood for a scene and help tell the story. There
will be no words spoken during the entire performance. All noises, camera
flashes, phones, and talking are distracting. Please power down all electronic
devices - Phones, ipods, mp3 players, cameras.
3) Be courteous to the other audience members by using the rest room before
you enter the theatre or during the intermission and refrain from talking or
4) No food, drink, or chewing gum is allowed inside Thalia Mara Hall.
Nutcracker – A Young Reader’s Edition of the Holiday Classic by E.T.A. Hoffman, adapted by
Nutcracker – by Maurice Sendak
– by Joel Meyerowitz Photograpy of New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker production
The Story of The Nutcracker Ballet – by Deborah Hautzig The Nutcracker Backstage – by Angela
Whitehill & William Noble
The Nutcracker – Peter Tchaikovsky