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Making a New American Nutcracker

A girl falls asleep after a raucous holiday celebration; a Christmas tree grows to dwarf the stage; skittering mice fight valiant toy soldiers; snowflakes, candy canes, and sugar plums dance. The Nutcracker is a staple of the holidays across North America. But, as with many traditions, the beloved ballet is resistant to change. People are attached to their favorite production, seeing it year after year. How do you update a cherished holiday tradition?

Making a New American Nutcracker takes you behind the scenes as the Joffrey Ballet reinvents The Nutcracker into an inclusive American tale, relocating the ballet to the World’s Fair in 1893 Chicago and changing the aristocratic family of the original into a close-knit, working class immigrant family. The Joffrey’s creative team rewrites the story. They build elaborate rat puppets and a magnificent tree. Vivid sets and video projections are designed. The dancers learn new choreography. But the essential magic of the original must be preserved. We reveal the process as the Joffrey tinkers with a classic, hoping to start a new holiday tradition. As even Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told them — with a slightly stronger word choice — “Don’t mess it up.” It’s a new American Nutcracker.

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The Joffrey Ballet

MAKING A NEW AMERICAN NUTCRACKER is made possible through the generosity of The Grainger Foundation of Lake Forest, Illinois.