The “Peanutcracker” is a charming introduction to a holiday tradition. This abridged version of the iconic ballet, the Nutcracker, is perfect for putting audiences of all ages into the holiday spirit. Sierra Nevada Ballet’s recent performance of it at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts did a wonderful job of stirring up this holiday spirit and providing a more accessible taste of this Christmas classic.

Rather than the entire story being portrayed through dance alone, the “Peanutcracker” uses occasional narration to explain what’s happening as characters frolic about onstage. This, combined with the shortened runtime – 45 minutes, rather than the traditional two hours – helps younger audiences and those who struggle to focus on a wordless performance stay engaged in the story throughout the entire show.

I recently saw a full-length performance of the Nutcracker, and I think that the “Peanutcracker” does a great job of staying true to the spirit of the original show while making it more approachable to younger audiences. Though the full story from the original ballet was retained, each section was abridged – dance numbers were shortened, each part of the story happened in quicker succession, and narration took the place of lengthy dances demonstrating what was happening in each scene. That isn’t to say, however, that the performance lacked anything in terms of dancing. Both adult and child dancers gave great performances of the dances
from the original Nutcracker – they were just shorter.

In a way, I think I actually enjoyed this version more than the original Nutcracker. As much as I enjoy the traditional version of the holiday classic, it can be difficult for me, and I imagine, many others, to stay engaged in a two-hour long performance with no words, and to understand what’s happening on stage without any explanation or context. This combined with the great performance, made the “Peanutcracker” very enjoyable. The audience was mostly children, given that this was a school event, and they all seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. Kids seemed excited before and after the event, and many were dressed up nicely, showing that this was truly a special event for them.

Overall, seeing the “Peanutcracker” was a great experience. I think it did a wonderful job of keeping true to the spirit of the original Nutcracker while making the story accessible for younger audiences. And perhaps it helped create a new generation of ballet fans. The show is a lovely introduction to this holiday tradition, and is sure to put anyone in the Christmas spirit. I think they should add a public performance in Reno, so adults can enjoy it as much as we kids did.

By Madeline McGwire