No school for us this week, because we’re on Christmas vacation, but I thought I’d share some ideas for using the Nutcracker in school or at home. In the last 10 years, we’ve done anything from a “Nutcracker Day” to stretching our studies out over a full week. In that time, we’ve learned the story of the Nutcracker, listened through the entire score, compared and contrasted many different productions, seen a live performance, learned a bit about Tchaikovsky, made some fun crafts, and read about how the Nutcracker came to be a Christmas tradition in America. It’s one of my favorite things about Christmas School!
Nutcracker Stories (It’s up to you whether you choose to teach the story before introducing the ballet. I think there can be value in both approaches, because being unfamiliar with the story before seeing the dance can really encourage students to “read” the ballet, but knowing the story first prepares children and lets to know them what to expect.)
- The Nutcracker–I like this picture book edition because it includes so many details from the story without being too long to read out loud. It also has fantastic illustrations!
- Nutcracker and Mouse King and The Tale of the Nutcracker–If you want the whole, weird Nutcracker story, this is the edition you’re looking for.
- The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet–This is a good introduction to the story of the ballet for the smallest of viewers.
Other Nutcracker Books
- The Day Before Christmas–A sweet story about a little girl and her grandfather going to see a performance of the Nutcracker together for the first time.
- The Nutcracker Comes to America–A mostly true story about how the Christensen brothers made the Nutcracker a popular Christmas tradition in America.
- Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite
- The Nutcracker in Harlem–A jazzy retelling of the classic.
- The Nutcracker Mice–A cute twist on the Nutcracker, set in the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.
- Degas and the Little Dancer–This book isn’t specifically about the Nutcracker, but it is about a little girl who wants to dance in a Christmas ballet.
- Nutcracker Ballet Coloring Book
- The Story of the Nutcracker Coloring Book
- The Nutcracker Colouring Book
- The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Complete Nutcracker and Symphony No.4
- Duke Ellington: Three Suites (Including the Nutcracker Suite)
Ballet Productions (Of course, seeing the ballet live is the best option, and we’ve been fortunate enough to get to do that twice. But since it’s not always an option, I also like watching recordings of various productions, which also provides a great opportunity for comparing and contrasting how different companies interpret the story differently)
- San Francisco Ballet—This is my perennial favorite. I love the slightly unusual setting: the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition
- Dutch National Ballet–Our second-favorite production includes a unique Greek dance, and an unexpected setting for the Land of Sweets…inside a camera!
- Bolshoi Ballet
- Royal Ballet–Another unusual setting for the Land of Sweets…on a cake!
- Wiener Staatsballett
- Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin
- Mariinsky Ballet
- George Balanchine/New York City Ballet
- Nutcracker Prince–We done two different ornaments of the Nutcracker Prince over the years…one made of laminated paper and jointed, and one from a kit, which gave us a chance to paint our own.
- Waltz of the Snowflakes–Snowflake crafts are so much fun, whether you’re making paper snowflakes or ornaments!
- The Land of Sweets–We haven’t done this craft yet, but you could do all kinds of fun candy and treat themed crafts to go along with the Nutcracker Prince’s magical kingdom.
What kinds of fun Nutcracker activities do you like to do?