Making an annual visit to the New York City Ballet’s “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®” is like tuning into a balletic State of the Union address. This is the time of year when City Ballet asserts cultural and commercial dominance (it has the preeminent “Nut” in the marketplace) and company patriotism burns brightest (in advertising, anyway—just look at all those possessives and the trademark in the title). But though this oft-imitated production is copyrighted and tightly regulated, it is not inalterable. Like the Constitution, it is amendable and evolves with the times. Most of the changes have been positive: in recent years, the Tea costumes and choreography have been tweaked to be less offensive, and the Black women in the company now wear skin-colored tights and pointe shoes instead of pink. But sometimes there are less pleasant cutbacks to ensure fiscal solvency, as in last year’s use of teenagers instead of children to keep the cast, the production, and the troupe afloat (even so, half of the season had to be canceled for a Covid surge).
Mira Nadon, center, as the Dewdrop in “The Nutcracker” by George Balanchine. Photograph by Erin Baiano