San Francisco Ballet: The Nutcracker
By December 23, 2013
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Attending a performance of the Nutcracker is one of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit. The San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker is extra special since this is one of the best dance troupes in the country and the show takes place at the War Memorial Opera House, a gorgeous beaux-arts historical theater featuring plenty of gold embellishments and old-world charm. The American premier of Nutcracker first took place here on Christmas Eve in 1944, and has continued to be a San Francisco holiday tradition ever since.

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The rat king.
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A Uniquely San Franciscan Nutcracker

In the first act, the sets feature graceful old Victorians and plenty of classic San Francisco fog, while dancers in the second act pirouette in the “pavilion of dreams,” which is reminiscent of San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.

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Clara receiving the nutcracker from Drosselmeyer.
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Clara and Drosselmeyer.
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Snow queen.

Magical Sets and Costumes

The costumes are exquisite, and the sets are nothing short of spectacular. In the classic scene where the Christmas tree grows, large cabinets and presents seem to whirl in from all sides, magically shrinking the entire stage. But most impressive of all is the transformation that occurs when the scene switches to the snow-filled forest. Snowflakes rain down on the dancers who seem to emerge and withdraw into the snow, creating a shallow depth of field that spotlights different dancers as they cross center stage. As the snowfall grows heavier, so does the sound of the snowflakes hitting the ground, resounding much as they would if you were actually outside in the snow.

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Snow queen and king.
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Arabian dance.
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Chinese dance.
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Sugar Plum Fairy.

The Land of Sweets

Act II features the Sugar Plum Fairy in the land of sweets, where magnificently outfitted dancers gracefully perform all the classics. Sultry Spanish dancers are followed by exotic Arabian dancers, one who emerges from inside a giant golden lamp. The Chinese dancers are outfitted in firecracker red and move in a coordinated unison reminiscent of a Chinese dragon. The French dancers emerge twirling thin candy-like ribbons and are outfitted in costumes that are suggestive of sweets. The Russian dancers burst out of giant egg-shaped ornaments and liven the stage with their fiery moves. Meanwhile, the waltzing flower dancers twirl in flowing petal tutus and glittery headdresses made of leaves, moving in a flowing unison that evokes the opening and closing of flower petals and is simply spellbinding. The Nutcracker is showing through December 29th and you can get tickets here.

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Waltzing flowers.
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Spanish dance.
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French dance.
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Nutcracker prince.
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Clara and the Nutcracker Prince.
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War Memorial Opera House decked out in holiday decor. Photos courtesy of the San Francisco Ballet.

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