People don’t like to hear this about beloved cultural institutions, but The Nutcracker is racist and that needs to change. As Fisher notes, people tend to get defensive when it’s pointed out to them that the ballet trades in regressive and offensive stereotypes, and “the most common defense is historical precedent. In other words,” Fisher writes, referring to the very first production of the ballet, which was staged by the Russian choreographer Lev Ivanov, “Russian imperialists thought up these portrayals of ‘somewhere far away,’ so it’s okay to uphold the tradition.” But Balanchine’s Nutcracker, beloved and beholden to tradition though it is, has been changed before. When it was first staged in 1954, Arabian featured a bare-chested male dancer smoking a hookah. Ten years later it was changed to its current iteration.
It’s time to change it again. City Ballet sets the standard for Nutcracker productions around the country, and it’s time for that standard to be raised.
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