How many dances are in the nutcracker

The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet

The Nutcracker Ballet Story
The Most Common of Many Variations

The Nutcracker Ballet is based on the story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" written by E.T.A. Hoffman.  Although what is seen on the stage today is different in detail from the original story, the basic plot remains the same; The story of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads. 

When Marius Petipa had the idea to choreograph the story into a ballet, it was actually based on a revision by Alexander Dumas, a well known French author.   His version reflects more of what we have come to love as the Nutcracker Ballet.

The Party Scene

It is Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house -- A large and grand house with the most beautiful tree imaginable.  The Stahlbaums are hosting their annual Christmas party, welcoming the arrival of their family and friends.  The children, Clara and Fritz, are dancing and playing as they welcome their friends too.

The party grows festive with music and dance as godfather Drosselmeyer arrives.  He is a skilled clock and toy maker and always full of surprises. Drosselmeyer draws everyone's attention as he presents two life-size dolls.  They are the delight of the party, each taking a turn to dance.

The children begin to open gifts when Drosselmeyer presents his to Clara and Fritz.  Although his gift to Fritz is quite nice, he gives Clara a beautiful Nutcracker that  becomes the hit of the party.  Fritz becomes jealous and, having a bit more spunk than a boy should have, grabs the nutcracker from Clara and promptly breaks it.  Clara is heartbroken looking on as Drosselmeyer quickly repairs the Nutcracker with a handkerchief he magically draws from the air.

As the evening grows late, the guests depart and the Stahlbaum family retires for the evening.   Clara, worried about her beloved Nutcracker, sneaks back to the tree to check on him, falling asleep with him in her arms.

The Fight Scene

As the clock strikes midnight strange things begin to happen.  Clara begins shrinking as her beautiful Christmas tree grows high above her.  The toys around the tree come to life while the room fills with an army of mice, led by the fierce Mouse King.  As the Nutcracker awakens, he leads his army of toy soldiers into battle with the mice.  The Mouse King corners the Nutcracker and battles him one-on-one.  The Nutcracker seems to be no match for the Mouse King.

The Nutcracker and his army can go on no longer and are captured by the mice and their King.  Clara makes a final daring charge throwing her slipper at the Mouse King, hitting him square on the head.  The Mouse King drops to the floor and the mice run away, carrying off their leader's lifeless body.

The Land of Snow

The Nutcracker turns into a Prince and takes Clara on a journey to the Land of Snow, an enchanted forest wonderland  where they are welcomed by dancing snowflakes.

The Land of Sweets

The Prince escorts Clara to the Land of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy.  The Prince tells her about their daring battle with the army of mice and she rewards them with a celebration of dances.

  • The Spanish Dance
  • The Arabian Dance
  • The Russian Dance
  • The Chinese Dance
  • The Mirliton Dance
  • The Waltz of Flowers

As a finale, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier dance a beautiful Pas De Deux.

The Dream Ends

Clara awakens from her dream and finds herself by her Christmas tree with her beloved Nutcracker.


The Nutcracker: By the Numbers

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Featuring timeless dances, magnificent costumes, beautiful sets and plenty of magic, The Nutcracker takes you on a journey you won’t soon forget.

But it requires a great deal of time, effort—and pointe shoes (read on for the total number used throughout the show) to get the production from start to finish. Ever wondered how we make it happen?

Here are some fun facts that provide a different look at the beloved ballet.

  • There are 25 company dancers who perform in The Nutcracker. 6 have learned multiple roles.
  • The ballet features 180 students from BalletMet’s academy. This is the highest number of academy students to be featured yet!
  • The dancers put in many hours of rehearsal to learn all of their parts, and the total number varies from year to year. In 2018, the company dancers have put in 100 hours of studio rehearsal. About half of that time is with everyone in one studio together, and the other half is done with 2 to 3 simultaneous rehearsals at a time in different studios.
  • There are 220 total costumes for the run of the show. 132 costumes can be seen on stage during each performance.
  • There are 4 Nutcracker Prince costumes, 5 Adult Clara costumes and 5 Sugar Plum Fairy costumes.
  • 19 Mouse Heads go on stage every night, but only 18 tails. (Granny, who transforms into a mouse in Clara’s dream, doesn’t wear a tail. )
  • Mother Ginger needs 3 people to help her get into her costume for each show.

  • Young Clara has a quick change from the party scene into the battle scene. She has 1 minute and 30 seconds to get changed, which is the fastest change in the entire show. 2 people help with this change.
  • There are 15 layers of tulle and almost 200 beads in each Sugar Plum Fairy tutu. Nearly 3/4 of the beads are on the top of the bodice. That means for all 5 Sugar Plum Fairy costumes there are around 75 layers of tulle, and 1,000 beads!
  • For each show, there are 5 wardrobe crew and 6 academy chaperones assisting with getting the dancers into costumes and helping with quick changes. We couldn’t do it without them!
  • Laundry is done after every show and the wardrobe crew does a minimum of 7 loads of laundry per show.
  • Once all shows have been performed, the wardrobe crew has to use 5 large bottles of laundry detergent and about 15 gallons of vodka to clean the costumes. The vodka is used to disinfect costumes that can’t be washed traditionally.
  • About 96 pairs of pointe shoes will be used throughout the run of the show.

So much work and practice goes into making the magic of each individual Nutcracker show happen.

Words by Anita Burton. Photos by Jennifer Zmuda

Thanks for your interest! We look forward to bringing you exciting content like behind the scenes, performance insights, and more.



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National dances in The Nutcracker

December 17, 2021


The second act of the ballet The Nutcracker always delights the audience, as it is decorated with a bright divertissement from national dances. Anastasia Isayeva, IngoDance expert, tells what to pay attention to those who think about art, and are not looking for inconsistencies with the modern agenda in a production created many years ago.

The history of the creation of the Nutcracker ballet was fraught with difficulties. After the start of work, Marius Petipa abandoned the ballet and the second choreographer Lev Ivanov completed the production. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky also had great difficulty in composing music. In one of his letters he writes:

“The main thing is to get rid of the ballet.”

During the creation of The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky's sister died, he was very worried. Many researchers of Pyotr Ilyich's work believe that this is precisely why sad notes are heard in the main adagio of the second act.

Since the 20th century, The Nutcracker has been repeatedly renewed in new versions. But even today, the production has a difficult fate: accused of being politically incorrect, due to complaints from viewers about stereotypical images of people of other nationalities, the ballet was completely removed this year from the repertoire of the Berlin State Opera.

There are a huge number of editions of the ballet, the divertissement in them is distinguished by a choreographic variety. We will consider national dances using the example of Yuri Grigorovich's version, which, fortunately, can still be seen today at the Bolshoi Theater.

Spanish dance

The action of the second act of The Nutcracker takes place in the magical country of Confiturenburg. The divertissement begins with the "Spanish Dance", which is associated with chocolate. The dance is staged with characteristic features: the hands are raised up with the elbows down, which results in an incorrect second position in comparison with the canonical, generally accepted in the classical dance. In some pas, the non-reversible position of the legs creates a stylization of the Spanish dance. Grigorovich finds a non-standard solution for other familiar movements: assemble combines with the opening of the leg in ecarte, and the final fouetté alternates with a jump, which creates a special dynamic in the dance. And since the "Spanish Dance" is performed in pairs, the synchronism of the elements gives rise to an impressive harmony for the viewer.

Oriental dance

Following the swift "Spanish dance" begins the "Oriental dance", which is also called "Arabian" or "Coffee". The musical accompaniment here is based on a Georgian lullaby. It is worth paying attention to how, it would seem, the usual positions of the hands (in the first or in the third position) are completely modified by changing the position of the hands. Performed grand plie and adagio with a change of positions - ecarte and attitude, but with oriental hands create a feeling of temple deities coming to life.

Chinese dance

“Oriental dance” is followed by “Chinese dance”, which has just been accused of being politically incorrect. Nevertheless, bright musical accents are reflected choreographically with the help of double tours in the male part and pirouette with pas de bourrée in the female part. Despite the fact that the dance is short, it requires technical skill from the artists, as it is necessary to repeat the same element many times. It ends with a circle of jete, while the female performer does a sauté with her legs open to the second position with shortened feet, which is rare in classical ballets, but always causes a standing ovation from the audience.

Russian Dance

The choreography of "Russian Dance" is stylized with shortened feet - all steps are performed from the heel, and arms that bend elbows down with straightened palms. At the same time, all the grand pirouette and tours chaines are not performed according to the canon of classical ballet. Pay attention to how masterly the stylization of the national type of dance takes place: the changed elements do not cause rejection and do not violate the aesthetics, since all pas consist of canonical movements.

French Dance

"French Dance" (or "Dance of the Shepherds") in Yuri Grigorovich's version is performed with a sheep tied to a ribbon and is part of the choreographic composition.

This number is often performed in ballet academies, because it contains a whole set of the ABCs of classical dance. It is filled with cabriole, which immediately gives way to arabesque, then pas de bourrée with pas suivi - such an alternation of different movements requires the performers to be extremely accurate in their performance. Elements of adagio are replaced by a technically complex circle of pas de basques with pique tours, then diagonal grand jete follows - this gives the dancers the opportunity to demonstrate the entire arsenal of ballet pas.

The divertissement ends with a common code of all dances, forming the feeling of a single composition and preparing the viewer for the further development of events.

  • Author: Anastasia Isaeva
  • Tags: Ballet Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky Nutcracker
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P.I. Tchaikovsky ballet "The Nutcracker"

The most magical and New Year's work P.I. Tchaikovsky , known throughout the world - the ballet "The Nutcracker". Often in classical operas or ballets there is one or several well-known numbers that become iconic for the work and are dearly loved by the public. You can't say the same about The Nutcracker, because the whole ballet consists of such "hits"! Perhaps this is the most recognizable work in the whole world. What is the bewitching 9 worth0050 Dance of the fairy Dragee , the most delicate Waltz of Flowers , a series of dances: Chocolate, Coffee, Tea and many others. And which of the children, in the end, did not dream of being in the place of Marie and the Nutcracker in this fabulous place made of chocolate, caramel, marshmallows and other goodies ?!

Summary of Tchaikovsky's ballet " The Nutcracker " and many interesting facts about this work, read on our page.




Stahlbaum medical adviser, it is in his house that all the events of
Marie Stahlbaum's daughter who received the Nutcracker as a gift
Fritz Marie's brother who broke the Nutcracker at the party
Drosselmeyer Marie's godfather, who gave her the Nutcracker and told her about the wonderful city
Nutcracker enchanted prince
Fairy Dragee ruler in the magical city of Confiturenburg
Prince Whooping Cough the prince from the fairytale city meeting the girl and the Nutcracker
Mouse king the evil overlord of the hostile army of mice that attacked the Nutcracker

Summary of The Nutcracker

The main events in the ballet unfold on the eve of the great and bright holiday - Christmas.

Guests gathered at Stahlbaum's house and godfather Marie, who came with a bunch of gifts for the children. Among them, a doll designed for cracking nuts, the Nutcracker, stands out noticeably. A rather clumsy toy with a wide smile immediately liked the girl Marie. All the children had already gone to bed, but she still could not part with the Nutcracker.

The girl played so much that she did not notice how everything around her began to change. The tree became huge and a strange rustle was heard. An army of mice appeared in the room, and the Nutcracker himself suddenly came to life, turning into a beautiful young man. He immediately gathered an army of soldiers and went to the enemy, but their forces were unequal. Marie, seeing this, decided to help the Nutcracker and threw her shoe at the Mouse King. The enemies were afraid of a sudden attack and fled.

When Marie woke up, her godfather, Drosselmeyer, appeared in front of her in the form of a magician. He spoke about an amazing fairy-tale world, which is not easy to get into, overcoming a snow storm. But Marie and the Nutcracker go to this country. They find themselves in the wonderful city of Confiturenburg, where there are a lot of sweets and guests who meet them. The Pellet Fairy throws a lavish ball in their honor and Marie becomes a real princess after the Nutcracker tells how she saved him. When the celebration ends, the wizard helps Marie to return home from her wonderful journey.

Show duration
I Act II Act
50 min. 50 min.


Interesting facts about the Nutcracker

  • preserved information that the ballet at the first performance of the Mariinsky Theater (December 189 1892 years) the audience was unusually surprised by the power of the orchestra's sound. In particular, the musical instrument celesta attracted their attention.
  • Starting with the performances of The Nutcracker, a tradition arose to give secondary roles to students of choreographic schools.
  • Dance "Coffee" is based on a folk Georgian lullaby.
  • According to the German legend, nutcrackers bring good luck and protect the house. Therefore, these wooden mechanical dolls were popular as Christmas gifts for children.

  • The Christmas tree, which is usually placed on the stage in the first act, weighs about a ton.
  • During the gentle dance of snowflakes, confetti falls onto the stage, the total mass of which is about 20 kg.
  • Approximately 150 different costumes are shown on the stage throughout the performance.
  • For the full operation of all equipment, applying makeup and changing costumes, about 60 people should be behind the scenes during the performance.
  • Usually up to 700 lighting fixtures are used to illuminate the ballet.
  • One pack of Fairy Dragee takes 7 layers of tulle.

  • There is some confusion about the girl's names (Marie, Masha or Clara). In fact, as stated in the original source, Clara is just a doll of a girl named Marihen. In the French manner, her name sounds like Marie, it is this version that went to the director of the Imperial Theaters Vsevolzhsky. In Soviet productions, starting from 1930 years old, the ballet was Russified and the girl Marie received the name Maria, and her brother became Misha. Also, the Christmas holiday was replaced by the New Year.
  • Before starting to write the ballet, Tchaikovsky first completely wrote the plot from the words of Vsevolzhsky and only after that he began to compose music.
  • The magical city of Confiturenberg from the second act was also invented by Vsevolzhsky.
  • The largest nutcracker was made in Germany and was over 10 meters high.
  • Frank Russell Galey performed the role of the Nutcracker at a record age of 74 years and 101 days.
  • The original source of the famous performance was the German fairy tale E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" , published in 1816.

Popular numbers of The Nutcracker

Waltz of the Flowers (listen)

March from Act I (listen)

Dance Fairy Drazhe (listen)

Waltz of snow flakes (listen)

Pa-de-de Fairy Drazhe and Prince Orshada-Skikoio (listen)

Pyotr Ilyich embodies the theme already known to him in the ballet - overcoming hostile forces thanks to the power of love. Music is saturated with new expressive images. It is interesting to observe how expressiveness and figurativeness, vivid theatricality and the deepest psychologism are combined here.

The musical fabric of the ballet is very bright and full of strong, memorable numbers. So, before the scene of the growth of the Christmas tree from the first act, music of extraordinary expressiveness sounds. It begins ghostly, conveying mouse fuss. Gradually, it takes on a wider scope, transforming into an unfolding melody.

Tchaikovsky tried to make the music very subtly convey the entire content of the fairy tale taking place on the stage: drumming, fanfares or the squeak of mice. Particularly loved by the public is the Act II Divertimento, which includes a series of dances at a ball in a fairy-tale land. This is a bright Spanish dance - Chocolate, an exciting oriental - Coffee, a characteristic Chinese - Tea, as well as an unusually bright and lively - Trepak. Next comes the graceful dance of the shepherds, Mother Zhigon and the pearl of Divertissement - Waltz of the Flowers with its mesmerizing melody. The dance of the Dragee Fairy attracts with its sophistication, and the adagio can be safely called a real lyrical and dramatic climax.

History of The Nutcracker

In 1890 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was asked to compose an opera consisting of one act and a ballet. According to the plan, these works were to be performed in one evening. He started working on the ballet together with Marius Petipa . It is noteworthy that when writing the score, Tchaikovsky constantly consulted with him, even about music. The work proceeded quite quickly, however, in the spring of 1891, Pyotr Ilyich was forced to pause. The reason was valid - he went to the United States, where the long-awaited opening of the famous Carnegie Hall took place. Information has been preserved that Tchaikovsky managed to compose even on the road on a steamer, as he was afraid of not being able to meet the deadline.

Despite all his efforts, the composer was forced to send a letter to Vsevolzhsky from Paris and ask him to reschedule the premiere. As soon as Tchaikovsky returned, the work went much more productively. So, by February 1892 years he completely finished his performance. The suite from The Nutcracker premiered at the Russian Musical Society under the direction of the author. The audience enthusiastically greeted the new work of the composer. At this time, Petipa falls seriously ill and the role of the choreographer is now played by L. Ivanov, who was just finishing his career as a dancer and had previously tried himself as a choreographer. Since Petipa could no longer work on the libretto, the composer's brother Modest Tchaikovsky continued to create it. Work in the theater on the production began in the fall of 1892 years, the premiere was scheduled for December of the same year.

Literary basis of the Nutcracker ballet Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, published in 1861. According to the plot, Marichen Stahlbaum receives a small doll for chopping nuts as a Christmas present from her godfather. On the same night, the Nutcracker miraculously comes to life and enters into a strong and unequal struggle with a detachment of insidious mice. In the morning, the godfather Drosselmeyer told the girl an interesting story about his nephew, bewitched by the evil king of mice. And at night, Marihen, along with her doll Clara and the Nutcracker, were again attacked by enemies. Having managed to defeat the insidious army, they all together went to the fairy-tale kingdom, where the girl was elected a princess.

This tale was translated into French in 1838 by the writer Émile Labedollière. It was this translation that went to the famous writer Alexandre Dumas. It is curious that he decided to create his own version of the work. This slightly modified version of the tale with some digressions caught I.A. Vsevolzhsky, who decided to create a ballet.

Performances of The Nutcracker

First production of The Nutcracker together with the opera Iolanta " took place in December 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre. Vsevolzhsky himself was involved in the development of the costumes, and R. Drigo was at the conductor's stand. The success was the broadest, although there are reports that the public liked the opera more at first. Despite the fact that a single action did not work out, as the director of the theaters had planned, they were wonderful performances individually and they were no longer used in one program. The work of L. Ivanov was recognized as magnificent, especially the critics noted the dance of air snowflakes created by him. After its premiere, the ballet remained in the theater's repertoire for another 30 years. At 19In 1923 the choreographer F. Lopukhov again turned to the performance of Tchaikovsky, and in 1929 an updated version of The Nutcracker was released. After that, the ballet was repeatedly staged on different stages of the world. Among the most striking productions, one can note the version by choreographer George Balanchine, performed in 1954 in New York. Moreover, this production has been attracting more and more enthusiastic spectators every year for more than 50 years. Along with theatrical performances, the ballet has also been filmed many times.

Nutcracker's music was also noticed by many animators. In 1940, Walt Disney's Studio released the cartoon " Fantasia ", which features some of the pieces from the ballet. In Soviet times, Boris Stepantsev created his famous cartoon based on Hoffmann's fairy tale , also with music by Tchaikovsky. You can learn more about these versions in the special section "Music from cartoons".

The version of Matthew Bourne, a British choreographer, can be attributed to unusual productions. It has nothing to do with the classical version of the ballet, however, it reflects the music well. In particular, he gave a different interpretation of the pas de deux from the second act. The events are moved to an orphanage for street children, where they are looked after by Dr. Dross. The dream of the main character turns out to be completely different from the original version. Everything in it is unstable and any objects suddenly turn into various things, sometimes even ominous. And the heroes themselves are separated because of the rival Marie, and the Nutcracker himself completely loses his memory.

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