Ballet Stories: The Nutcracker

Ballet Stories: The Nutcracker

A story of the Nutcracker Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy, Clara, the Land of Sweets, and the Rat King!

The Nutcracker is a two-act classical ballet. It is Tchaikovsky’s third ballet. It was first choreographed by Marius Petipa, assisted by Lev Ivanov. It first premiered in 1892 by the Imperial Russian Ballet (now Mariinsky Ballet) in St Petersburg.


On Christmas Eve, Clara and her family and friends gather to decorate the Christmas tree in their home in Germany. The mysterious magician Drosselmeyer arrives and gives presents to the children. Clara receives a wooden soldier nutcracker, which is quickly broken by her brother, Fritz. Fortunately, Drosselmeyer easily fixes it.

At night, after everyone has gone to bed, Clara goes to check on her nutcracker underneath the Christmas tree.

When the clock strikes at midnight, suddenly, rats begin to fill the room. Before she knows it, the Nutcracker has come to life and Clara is in the middle of a battle between a group of rats, led by the Rat King, and an army of soldiers, led by the Nutcracker. Clara hits the Rat King with her (pointe) shoe, distracting the Rat King enough for the Nutcracker to stab the Rat King.

The rats disappear and the Nutcracker transforms into a Prince. The Prince and Clara pass by the snowflakes (who dance the waltz of the snowflakes, one of the most breath-taking scenes of the ballet) and enter the Land of Sweets.

There is a celebration in the Land of Sweets, with dances from Spain, Arabia, China and Russia. The shepherds perform on their flutes. The flowers dance the Waltz of the Flowers. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier perform a grand pas de deux, which includes the famous Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Clara wakes up and realises that it was all a dream.

Fun points

The Nutcracker ballet and its music are almost synonymous with Christmas. However, it is said that Tchaikovsky wasn’t really happy with the Nutcracker (he thought it was worse than the Sleeping Beauty). The ballet also flopped when it first premiered – the audience and critics did not like the sets and costumes, and criticised the ballerina who performed the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Nowadays, there are various versions of the ballet being performed around the world. The most commonly recognisable versions include Sir Peter Wright’s version (after Lev Ivanov) performed by the Royal Ballet and the Australian Ballet, Yuri Grigorovich’s version performed by the Bolshoi Ballet, and George Balanchine’s version performed by the New York City Ballet.

In some versions, the role of Clara is performed by a young girl. In other versions, the role of Clara is performed by an adult ballerina. Some versions also call her Maria, or a variation of the name.