It's Nutcracker time and few South Floridians will be farther than a few miles from a stage presenting Tchaikovsky's beloved holiday ballet, first staged in 1892.
The Nutcracker's score and imagery are the framework of Christmas memory for a lot of mostly older people. They were taken to see it as children and, remembering the experience, took their own children. That's how so many family holiday traditions were born in the story of a broken nutcracker and the fantastical dream of a troubled little girl.
Is It Still For Kids?
Can it continue? How many modern children would enjoy a 120-year-old story without a single zombie or CGI explosion in it?
Maybe more than you think. Richmond Heights Middle School music educator Leslie Cooper says kids still find The Nutcracker entertaining.
"The absolutely naturally entertaining part is, these are live performances," said Cooper, who regularly takes her band, orchestra and chorus members to dress rehearsals of the Florida Grand Opera (they love it, she swears). The live dancers and musicians are an engaging novelty to children more accustomed to video screens and iPods, according to Cooper, and whether the ideas and the 19th-Century model of childhood are dated is just not an issue.
"I think sometimes taking a departure from 'what was' to 'what is now' is OK in a sense. But people still tell the stories of Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel. We can stick with some traditional art forms and stories. It hasn't hurt anybody."
Sometimes It's Frightening
Not that The Nutcracker is without violence and action scenes. There's a big battle between the army of the Rat King and forces loyal to the wounded Nutcracker. And little Clara ("Marie" in the George Balanchine-branded productions) becomes a modernistically dynamic female character when she bonks the Rat King with her shoe, winning the day for the desperately injured Nutcracker and making possible his final transformation.
Kids have been confused by The Nutcracker, and even frightened. So, a little talk before the show may be in order. This guide may be useful. Here's a synopsis of The Nutcracker. And here's a list of some of the Nutcracker productions available this holiday season in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.