It’s that time of the year when visions of sugarplums dance before audiences in the classic ballet, The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker tells the tale of a little girl named Clara and her magical adventures with a nutcracker doll. The night of Christmas Eve, the doll comes alive to battle and defeat the King of the Mice with Clara’s help. The Nutcracker Prince then whisks Clara on a journey through the “Land of Snow” and into the “Kingdom of Sweets” where the pair meet many characters, including the Sugar Plum Fairy. Not only is this a fabulous ballet for your child to view, but also it introduces them to classical music composed by Tchaikovsky. During the month of December, major and local companies in many cities perform this ballet. If a live performance is impossible this famous story is available on DVD. In any case, enchant your child this month with a viewing of The Nutcracker.
There are many performances that cater to the young child, usually the matinee. It’s a performance full of children where kids can be kids and the atmosphere is far from quiet. If an outing is just too much for you and your child at this time, try a video. An enchanting version for the very young is Scooby Doo / Nutcracker Scooby (animated—1996). Another video that captures the young audience is with McCauley Culkin and the New York City Ballet (Warner Home Video—1993). Since movement is part of a child’s development, invite your youngster to dance along with the music in the story. Attach crepe paper streamers with tape to your child’s clothes and hands. As he twirls and spins around, the streamers will dance in the wind. Tickle your child’s sense of sight and touch by allowing him to handle any Nutcrackers dolls you might own. Compare the designs, colors, facial features and uniforms.
A ballet tells a story using only dance, music and mime. As your child watches the ballet, live or video, pay attention to the musical changes. Listen for marches, battles, magic, Arabian, Chinese and Russian music, waltz of the flowers, clowns, flutes, and the famous dance of the Sugarplum Fairy. At home, play the musical score by Tchaikovsky, and invite your child to wave scarves to the tempos or make dancing wands. Attaching lengths of colorful ribbons to a cardboard paper-towel tube with a stapler can make the wand. Encourage her to decorate the tube with holiday art and/or stickers. Another fun enhancement is to have your child draw their version of the “Land of Sweets” on construction paper. Make the artwork come alive by gluing several pieces of wrapped candy to the drawing. This picture can be displayed in the kitchen and then a piece of candy can be taken each day and eaten as an after-meal treat.
After viewing the Nutcracker, throw out a few of these trivia questions to see if your child has caught the details in the story:
- The story begins on what day? (Christmas Eve)
- What are the three toys that dance at the party during the first act? (The Harlequin, Columbine, and Toy Soldier)
- What are the names of the candies that dance in the “Land of Sweets”? (Chocolates, Coffee, Tea Sweets, Candy Canes, Marzipan, and Dew Drops)
- Who rules over the “Land of Sweets”? (The Sugarplum Fairy)
- Clara and the Nutcracker Prince conclude the ballet and depart in a boat shaped like what? (A Walnut)