Nutcracker Nation


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How an Old World Ballet Became a Christmas Tradition in the New World

Jennifer Fisher

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A lively discussion of North America’s favorite ballet—its history, productions, and significance?

The Nutcracker is the most popular ballet in the world, adopted and adapted by hundreds of communities across the United States and Canada every Christmas season. In this entertainingly informative book, Jennifer Fisher offers new insights into the Nutcracker phenomenon, examining it as a dance scholar and critic, a former participant, an observer of popular culture, and an interviewer of those who dance, present, and watch the beloved ballet. Fisher traces The Nutcracker’s historyfrom its St. Petersburg premiere in 1892 through its emigration to North America in the mid-twentieth century to the many productions of recent years. She notes that after it was choreographed by another Russian immigrant to the New World, George Balanchine, the ballet began to thrive and variegate: Hawaiians added hula, Canadians added hockey, Mark Morris set it in the swinging sixties, and Donald Byrd placed it in Harlem. The dance world underestimates The Nutcracker atits peril, Fisher suggests, because the ballet is one of its most powerfully resonant traditions. After starting life as a Russian ballet based on a German tale about a little girl’s imagination, The Nutcracker hasbecome a way for Americans to tell a story about their communal values and themselves.

Jennifer Fisher teaches dance history, theory, and ethnology at Pomona College and at the University of California, Irvine. She writes regularly on dance for the Los Angeles Times.

"The book is a delectable study of our cultural identities, of the way art can evolve, of the sociology of stage productions. But, for those of us who love the ballet—from the inside-out and the outside-in—it's another way to plunge ourselves into its inexplicable magic."—Dany Margolies, Back Stage West


"Fascinating. . . . Nutcracker Nation mines the myriad ways that a single artwork can penetrate everyday life and reflect a nation’s values. . . . Nutcracker Nation is informative and reflects years of worthy intellectual investigation."—Nicholas Fox Weber, New York Times Book Review

"A lively historical and cultural analysis of The Nutcracker."—Publishers Weekly

“A valuable piece of cultural anthropology as well as a worthwhile addition to dance history.”—Susan Walker, Toronto Star

“Fisher’s sociocultural exploration is written with wit and empathy, for nearly all have started humming along upon hearing Waltz of the Flowers, whether ballet aficionados, youngsters fascinated by dancing flowers or parents just enjoying the holiday spirit.”—

“Fisher is a respected dance scholar whose fascination with the underexplored subject promises an intriguing read for those moments when you are overwhelmed by the holidays, and just need to sit it out for a while and read a good book.”—Cincinnati Enquirer

“A lively historical and cultural analysis.”—Ihsan Taylor, New York Times Book Review

“A book for dance outsiders and insiders, for all grownups who have lived the Nutcracker experience and wondered about its sometimes crazy mix of history, kids, and pure stage magic.”—Lynn Garafola, coeditor of The Ballets Russes and Its World

Special citation to the 2004 De la Torre Bueno Prize, awarded by the Society of Dance History Scholars.

Won Honorable Mention for the 2005 Golden Light Awards sponsored by The Maine Photographic Workshops.

ISBN: 9780300105995
Publication Date: October 11, 2004
256 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
40 b/w illus.