70 Years of Nutcracker

Our festive tradition

By English National Ballet

Rina Kanehara as Clara and Fernando Carratala Coloma as the Nutcracker in English National Ballet's NutcrackerEnglish National Ballet

A 70-year history

English National Ballet has performed a version (and there have been many!) of Nutcracker every year since the Company was founded in 1950. 

Erina Takahashi as Clara and Skyler Martin as the Nutcracker in English National Ballet's NutcrackerEnglish National Ballet

The ballet has become a household name and is now seen in its many iterations by thousands of people in the UK every year.

Nutcracker was not, however, frequently performed in its entirety in the UK until London Festival Ballet, as we were then known, staged it in full in October 1950 for the Company’s first London season at the Stoll Theatre.

Erina Takahashi as Clara and Francesco Gabriele Frola as the Nephew in English National Ballet's NutcrackerEnglish National Ballet

A Christmas classic throughout the decades

In the 70 years that have followed, the Company has performed a further eight different productions in full of Nutcracker, including the much-loved Wayne Eagling choreography of our current repertoire.

Erina Takahashi as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Francesco Gabriele Frola as the Prince in English National Ballet's NutcrackerEnglish National Ballet

Nutcracker Delights is a special adaptation for 2020: it comprises a sparkling selection of divertissements from Eagling’s festive favourite, all set to Tchaikovsky’s sublime score, in a new orchestration by Gavin Sutherland.

Artists of London Festival Ballet as Snowflakes in a 1950s production of NutcrackerEnglish National Ballet

A beloved tradition

Fittingly for our 70th anniversary year, it is, in some ways, a return to our beginnings: the Company’s first official performance in August 1950 at the Kings Theatre in Southsea concluded with a performance of Nutcracker’s final act – the Kingdom of Sweets!

Our star and founder Alicia Markova was known for her portrayal of the Sugar Plum Fairy. 

Along with co-Founder Anton Dolin, and with Grace Cone and Nicholas Beriozoff, she then created a new, complete staging of Nutcracker ‘after Lev Ivanov’, which premiered in London in October of that year.

Rina Kanehara as Clara and Fernando Carratala Coloma as the Nutcracker in English National Ballet's NutcrackerEnglish National Ballet

Eight further Nutcrackers

English National Ballet’s subsequent Nutcrackers were choreographed by David Lichine (1957); Jack Carter with André Howard, Vassilie Trunoff and others (1965); Ronald Hynd (1976); Peter Schaufuss (1986); Ben Stevenson (1991); Derek Deane (1997); and Christopher Hampson (2002).

We first performed Wayne Eagling’s Nutcracker in 2010.

Schaufuss’s production reframed the story as a study of Tchaikovsky’s family; Deane’s gave it a modern setting complete with Barbie dolls and Robocops; Hampson’s was a colourful cartoon fantasy with costume and set designs by cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe.

James Steeter as the Mouse King in English National Ballet's NutcrackerEnglish National Ballet

Nutcracker is arguably unique in its potential for both timelessness and reinvention — a trait mirrored in English National Ballet’s seven-decade history as a company.

Ken Saruhashi in the Russian dance in English National Ballet's NutcrackerEnglish National Ballet

A sprinkling of festive magic

After a challenging 2020, more than 70 years after the Southsea audience were treated to the Kingdom of Sweets, Nutcracker Delights offers a joyful ride through many of the ballet’s most beloved scenes.

Long-time Nutcracker fans will instantly recognise the Sugar Plum pas de deux, Snowflakes, Flowers, Spanish and Russian dances, and more.

Shiori Kase as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Joseph Caley as the Prince in English National Ballet's NutcrackerEnglish National Ballet

Celebrate with us

Let our dancers and musicians transport you to the glittering Land of Snow and the vibrant Puppet Theatre.

We are delighted to be able to share this magical world with you again.

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