This JPAS production was named Best Ballet Presentation of 2015 at the Big Easy Classical Arts Awards. The story of The Nutcracker has been adapted several times. The original story, “Nußknacker und Mausekönig” or \"The Nutcracker and the King of Mice,\" was written in German by E.T.A. Hoffman. It was published in 1816 in an anthology called Kinder-Mährchen (Children’s Stories,) which also included tales by Carl Wilhelm Contessa and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué. Ivan Vsevolozhsky and Marius Petipa adapted Hoffmann\'s story from German to Russian. They also adapted it from a story to dance; Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote the music. Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov designed the dances. The Nutcracker was first performed as a ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 18 December 1892.
Although Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s inaugural performance of “The Nutcracker” ballet was not hailed as a success, it has since become the most widely performed dance production of all time. In New Orleans and Baton Rouge alone at least 10 productions of this holiday classic on average are presented each year. JPAS continues to collaborate with esteemed choreographer Diane L. Carney on our production of The Nutcracker.
This Study Companion begins with history. This section includes a history of the Nutcracker Ballet, a history of ballet in New Orleans and a history of Harvey Hysell, notable New Orleans choreographer and Artistic Director of Ballet Hysell. Throughout the years, Ballet Hysell School trained many leading artists, including Rosalie O’Connor (American Ballet Theatre), Mireille Hassenboehler (Houston Ballet), and Devon Carney (associate artistic director, Cincinnati Ballet).
The lessons in this Companion enable students to develop a deeper understanding of dance, regardless of their dance ability. The Nutcracker: A Hero’s Tale guides students as they reflect on what they already know about The Nutcracker and then introduces variations on the Nutcracker story filled with concepts they may not be familiar with. This includes exploring The Nutcracker as a Hero’s Journey, a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama, dance, storytelling and myth. Joseph Campbell describes the typical adventure of The Hero as the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization. The Science and Math of Dance allows students to explore what they already believe about dance, including explaining the reasons for their opinions. They will learn ballet vocabulary as they investigate “The Land of the Sweets;” this investigation will include discovering the science and math that coincides with ballet terminology (the science and math needed to effectively execute ballet movements.) Students will document what they learn by developing a series of sketches. They will conclude by reviewing their original opinions about dance and reflecting on their opinions have/have not changed. This lesson is followed by an article published in YALE Scientific that reflects on dancers’ ability to spin without getting dizzy. JPAS Coloring Pages are also included for our younger students; they were developed from production stills taken of the JPAS performance.
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