The Nutcracker dazzles children’s eyes, but it also confirms their deep suspicion that toys come to life, even when no one is looking or poking them repeatedly with cattle prods. Feel the season’s electricity with this GrouponLive deal to see Ajkun Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker at Whitney Theater. For $18, you get two general-admission tickets (up to a $30 value). Doors open one hour before showtime. Choose between the following performances:
- Friday, November 30, at 7 p.m.
- Saturday, December 1, at 2 p.m.
Based on a novel by the 19th century romantic fabulist E. T. A. Hoffmann, The Nutcracker weaves a magical tale of holiday adventure. Clara, the story's heroine, receives a nutcracker from her godfather, a wizardly toymaker named Drosselmeyer. Sneaking downstairs to see the toy after everyone else has gone to bed, Clara suddenly finds herself caught in the middle of a pitched battle between the toys and an army of mice. After saving the nutcracker with a well-thrown shoe to the Mouse King's head, Clara and her now-living prince venture into the Land of Snow and the Land of Sweets to celebrate amid the dances of nimble snowflakes, the regal Sugar Plum Fairy, and seasonally confused vampires.
Tchaikovsky’s score features some of the most recognizable tunes in music, repurposed beyond the ballet world in works including Disney's Fantasia, which naturally chose to illustrate the music’s delicate beauty with dancing mushrooms and leaping radishes. Notable sections include the Waltz of the Snowflakes, which floats weightlessly above the angelic voices of a youth choir, and the second act's medley of exotic national dances, including a Spanish bolero and Russian Trepak. The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy's music-box-like theme springs from a celesta, a new instrument Tchaikovsky came across in Paris and hurriedly inserted into the score before his musical rivals could make use of its haunting, bell-like sound.
Initially unpopular when it premiered in Russia, The Nutcracker languished for decades with a reputation as one of Tchaikovsky's lesser works. Then, in the 1950s, the ballet’s status as a fixture of the holiday season began to grow as suddenly as Clara’s magic Christmas tree when renowned American choreographer George Balanchine staged it for the New York Ballet. Balanchine's elegant staging remains the most popular, alternating between breathtaking displays of balletic mastery by soloists and duos and large-scale set pieces that fill the stage with luminous costumes.
The globetrotting careers of dancers Leonard and Chiara Ajkun inspired the scope of their very own Ajkun Ballet Theatre, where they continue to direct classic ballets and choreograph an average of five new programs each year. Joining the company of The Nutcracker is a cast of children from the Public School District of New Rochelle, who charm audiences by infusing the production with wide-eyed innocence and trying to sneak into the cast after-party with oversize trench coats.