The story centers around a young German girl who dreams of a nutcracker prince, a fierce battle against a mouse king and a whimsical journey through enchanted lands. Peter Tchaikovsky composed the music for the ballet, which made its debut in
Chicago Festival Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is choreographed by the company’s founder and director, Kenneth von Heidecke. Known for an artistic style that underscores the precision and discipline of ballet, von Heidecke aptly blends technical prowess, refined athleticism and crowd-pleasing acrobatics in his acclaimed version of the holiday classic.
Coupled with festive staging, the production is brought to life by a diverse cast of company members whose credentials include the Joffrey Ballet, Lyric Opera Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Ballet Internacional de Caracas and Luna Negra Dance Theatre. The 80-member New Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Conductor and Music Director Kirk Muspratt, is to perform Tchaikovsky’s score.
Since its founding in 1990, Chicago Festival Ballet has performed in hundreds of venues around the world, receiving accolades for its commitment to technical excellence and often collaborating with other artistic disciplines as a means of stimulating growth and creativity.
Serving as Chicago Festival Ballet's honorary artistic advisor is Prima Ballerina Assoluta, Maria Tallchief, director of Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet. Tallchief was the original Sugarplum Fairy in George Balanchine’s 1954 version of “The Nutcracker.”
Von Heidecke began training with Tallchief in 1975 while working as a dancer for the Lyric Opera Ballet, where Tallchief was artistic director until 1981. She continued to coach him as he began his choreography career in the 1980s. In 1990, von Heidecke founded Chicago Festival Ballet as a touring ballet company, with Tallchief’s direction and support.
In 1997, von Heidecke launched his international career by presenting four premiere works for “An Evening of Ballet” at the Badisches Staatstheater in Germany. He received a 20-minute ovation and wide critical acclaim in European publications. Since then, he has received accolades for his work with dozens of major opera and ballet companies and has choreographed more than 50 works around the world. In spring 2008, he is to choreograph “Aida” for San Diego Opera.
Von Heidecke also has performed with Maria Tallchief's Chicago City Ballet, BalletMet, and Carla Fracci's company in Verona, Italy. He has choreographed for the Opera Company of the Los Angeles Music Center, the Dallas Opera, the San Diego Opera, and the Washington Opera at the Kennedy Center, among others.
The National Machinery Foundation is sponsoring the Ritz’s performance of “The Nutcracker.”
Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students. For more information, contact The Ritz Theatre Box Office online at http://www.ritztheatre.org'>www.ritztheatre.org or call (419) 448-8544.
The Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier reign over a celebration of dance in this scene from “The Nutcracker.” The ballet is to be performed this weekend at The Ritz, with area dancers joining the cast.
Fact BoxMore about the story of ‘The Nutcracker’
"The Nutcracker” ballet is based on the story “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” written by E.T.A. Hoffman in 1816. Most people do not know Hoffman’s original version was a morbid tale never intended for children — very different from “The Nutcracker” of today.
In 1844, Alexander Dumas, a well known French author, revised Hoffman’s story. It is his version that reflects what most have come to love as “The Nutcracker.”
In 1891, Marius Petipa began choreographing Dumas’ story into a ballet, commissioning Peter Tchaikovsky to compose the music. A year later, the first Nutcracker ballet premiered at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Since that original production, hundreds of variations have been staged all over the world. Today, the most well-known and most-emulated version is George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker,” originally performed by the New York City Ballet in 1954.
The setting for the story is Christmas Eve at the Silberhaus house, where the family is hosting its annual Christmas party. Siblings Clara and Fritz are dancing and playing as friends and family arrive.
One of the guests is Godfather Drosselmeyer, a skilled toy maker who always is full of surprises. Drosselmeyer gives Clara a beautiful nutcracker that becomes the hit of the party. In a fit of jealousy, Fritz grabs the nutcracker from Clara and breaks it. Although Clara is heartbroken, Drosselmeyer quickly repairs the nutcracker with a handkerchief he magically draws from the air.
As the Silberhaus family retires for the evening, Clara creeps back to the Christmas tree to check on the nutcracker and falls asleep while holding him. At midnight, the toys around the tree come to life while the room fills with an army of mice, led by the fierce Mouse King.
The Nutcracker awakens and directs his army of toy soldiers into battle with the mice. The Mouse King and the Nutcracker battle one-on-one. Eventually, the mice capture the Nutcracker and his army. In a daring move, Clara throws her slipper and hits the Mouse King on the head. The Nutcracker stabs the Mouse King, who drops to the floor. The mice retreat, carrying their leader’s lifeless body.
At that point, the Nutcracker turns into a Prince and takes Clara on a journey to the Land of Snow. Dancing snowflakes welcome them to an enchanted forest. Next, they enter the Land of Sweets, protected by the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier. When the fairy hears of the Prince’s battle with the Mouse King and his men, she commands a celebration. This segment of the ballet includes the Spanish Dance, the Arabian Dance, the Russian Dance, the Chinese Dance, the Mirliton Dance and the Waltz of Flowers.
The Sugarplum Fairy and the Cavalier are featured in a beautiful pas de deux for the finale. Shortly after, the spell is broken. Clara wakes up embracing her beloved nutcracker.