February 28, 2024

THE NUTCRACKER: A BALLET TRADITION

The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker

Pittsburgh, PA, USA – The Nutcracker has become a ballet tradition, and many people from around the world have come to enjoy performances. The world-renowned Pittsburgh Ballet Theater (https://pbt.culturaldistrict.org/) performs one of the most captivating performances of The Nutcracker throughout the holiday season. Pittsburgh adds its style and influences to make many come back each year. The Benedum Center is rich in history and beauty, it is the perfect setting for The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker Clock
The Nutcracker Clock, Photographer Tiffini Taylor

Upon entering the Benedum Center, one notices the lovely theater and it is enhanced by the talented ballet dancers who take the stage. The stage setting and costumes set itself apart with a grand carousel, elegant costumes, and graceful dancers.

The Nutcracker has been performed in Pittsburgh since 1970. This latest performance is the concept and choreography by Terrance S. Orr, and the music is by P. I. Tchaikovsky. The performance is made special by different Pittsburgh ideas put into the performance, the reference to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kennywood amusement park, the Kauffman Clock, the many beautiful mansions in Shadyside of Pittsburgh’s Gilded Age, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Mount Washington. The Pittsburgh ballet brings in different special guests to attend the party scene during The Nutcracker. These guests included Kym Gable who is a news anchor for KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh and Giselle Barreto Fetterman, former first lady of Pennsylvania and a local advocate. All this combined with the talent of The Pittsburgh Ballet is making a variety of generations make wonderful memories.

A production of this size can include hours of rehearsals and there are many people behind the scenes helping to bring the show to life. Here is a small breakdown of interesting facts. Altogether there are 13 Pittsburgh connections. The Scenic design for the snow scene is the view from Mt. Washington in 1906. The clock above the stage was inspired by the clock outside the old Kauffman’s department store in downtown Pittsburgh. Pittsburghers have used it as a meeting spot for decades. There are a total of 31 magic tricks during The Nutcracker performance. The ringmasters’ stilts have a height of 32 inches. Along with 56 Grand Jetes in the Snow Scene. A Grand Jete is a big, high leap through the air: a dancer springs from one foot to land on the other with one leg forward from their body and the other stretched backward. There are 180 Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School students performing dozens of roles in The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker , Photography Tiffini Taylor

Then there are the elegant and beautiful costumes. 210 costumes to be exact. 240 hours to create the snowflake points (the decorative panels at the waist) on the snowflake costumes:  Twenty, six points per costume, two hours to stitch the sequins and the border and assemble the layers. There are 1500 costume accessories, such as belts, jewelry, tiaras, etc., to keep track of so as not to lose anything. After the performance at the Benedum Theater, there are six loads of laundry to be done in the laundry room.

The brilliant carousel with a weight of 1000 pounds. Six stagehands are needed to operate the carousel. Eight is the average number of roles each dancer learns during the run of The Nutcracker. A few of the dancers have 14 roles.

The story of the girl who dreams of a Nutcracker to life with the music of P.I. Tchaikovsky accompanying ballet is enchanting to every age group. After 130 years The Nutcracker is still performed and loved by generations. The new year 2024 Pittsburgh Ballet will include Beauty and the Beast, a Spring Mix with the PBT Orchestra, and Cinderella. Anyone interested in finding more information about The Pittsburgh Ballet can find more information here: https: //pbt.culturaldistrict.org/

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