Nutcracker Performances at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle

Gorgeous new scenery and costumes by celebrated author and illustrator Ian Falconer (Olivia the Pig), Tchaikovsky’s cherished score played live by the PNB Orchestra, the brilliant dancing of PNB, and Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall all dressed up for the holidays.


The Story of Clara and the Nutcracker by Peter Boal

Act I

In a time long ago, when your grandmother’s great-grandmother was just a little girl, another little girl named Clara Stahlbaum waits anxiously for her parents to let her catch a glimpse of their magnificent Christmas tree with a golden angel placed on top. Made to sit in the foyer with her pesky little brother Fritz, Clara waits for so long, she falls asleep. It is Christmas Eve.

The Stahlbaums are hosting a celebration for family and friends in their grand New England country home. The house is beautiful, brimming with antique furniture brought to America from Germany. Elegant silhouettes adorn the walls and a grand portrait of Clara hangs over the mantle. Fritz’s collection of tiny soldiers and cannons is on proud display in the tall cabinet. The fire in the hearth is warm, the moon bright, and the snow outside as thick as a wool blanket. The towering Christmas tree is absolutely magical.

claraDr. Stahlbaum leads the Fathers’ Dance, while Mrs. Stahlbaum offers delicious Spanish chocolates and marzipan candies to the children and champagne to the grown-ups. Soon Clara’s grandparents arrive with her cousins and at the stroke of eight, her dear godfather Drosselmeier makes a dramatic entrance. With him is his handsome nephew Nathaniel, whom Clara has never met. Drosselmeier brings life-like dancing dolls, a charming hobby horse, beguiling magic tricks and, best of all, a gallant wooden Nutcracker, which Clara loves instantly. Nathaniel presents Clara with a precious toy bed for her new Nutcracker.

As night falls, Clara must bid farewell to her friends and wonders if she will ever see Nathaniel again. Unable to sleep, she returns to the parlor to collect her beloved Nutcracker. Curling up on the chaise, she finally drifts off to sleep.mice-2

Suddenly Clara sits up. She hears something. Did she see something? Is Drosselmeier still there? Is she dreaming? Just then, a chubby mouse twice Clara’s size trundles across the parlor floor and then another and another with baby mice, too. What should Clara do?
Everything in the parlor begins to grow. The clock looms, the chaise is enormous, and the window is as big as the house. The tree is so tall, Clara can no longer see the golden angel on top. Even her Nutcracker on his bed is now life-size. Soon Fritz’s legion of toy soldiers comes to life led by a sentry, a trumpeter, and a bunny with a drum.

A raging battle ensues between the mice and the soldiers until a seven-headed Mouse King takes center stage. Suddenly Clara’s Nutcracker arrives to defend her. Clara hurls her slipper at the seven-headed mouse. Breathless, she faints, collapsing on the little bed. In the end, her brave Nutcracker defeats the Mouse King, chopping off one of his seven crowns.
The triumphant Nutcracker leads Clara through a magical forest where snowflakes swirl and dance around them. An ancient spell is broken and before our eyes, the Nutcracker becomes a handsome Prince, who looks just like young Nathaniel. After he places the golden crown on Clara’s head, they follow a brilliant Christmas star to a faraway land.

Act II

Clara and the Prince sail into the Land of Sweets on a boat made from the shell of a walnut. The Sugar Plum Fairy welcomes them, surrounded by a dozen golden angels. She asks the Prince to tell the story of his heroic battle with the Mouse King. The Sugar Plum Fairy and all her court are impressed by the Prince’s bravery.

The Sugar Plum Fairy introduces Clara and the Prince to dancers from distant lands. Each represents something delicious! There are Spanish chocolates just like Clara’s mother serves, exotic coffee from Arabia, tea from China, candy canes from Russia, and German marzipan in an array of vibrant colors. Charming Mother Ginger and her eight tiny polichinelles are from France. Clara and the Prince are entertained by each treat while they sample scrumptious sweets and tasty puddings. After a brilliant Waltz of the Flowers led by a pristine Dewdrop, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier perform a grand pas de deux.
Now the time has come for Clara to return home to her new Nutcracker. As the Sugar Plum Fairy and all her court wave goodbye, Clara and the Prince take flight in an enchanted sleigh pulled by reindeer. Clara will never forget her most magical dream.

December 2nd Matinee

Nutcracker Suites

SKIP THE LOBBY LINES and treat yourself to an enchanted intermission in the Nutcracker Suite! 

A delight for all ages awaits you with George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® inspired activities, snacks, confections and beverages.

Learn More

Critics Rave

“Hauntingly Lovely!”
The Seattle Times
“A great success”
Seattle Weekly

Run Times

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® is approximately 2 hours including one intermission. The lobby opens 2 hours before each performance.

Chihuly’s Winter Star

winterstar_thumbThe prominent Christmas star that appears at the end of Act I is presented by renowned artist Dale Chihuly. Winter Star, part of Chihuly’s popular Chandelier series, makes a stunning addition to the snow scene leading Nutcracker and Clara through the magical forest to a faraway land.

Learn more about Winter Star

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Program Notes

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® 

based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816)

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®

Music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker, Op. 71, 1891-1892, with an excerpt from The Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66, 1889)
Choreography: George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Staging: Judith Fugate with Peter Boal and Garielle Whittle
Scenic and Costume Design: Ian Falconer
Lighting Design: James F. Ingalls
Original Production Premiere: December 6, 1892; Imperial Ballet, St. Petersburg, choreography by Lev Ivanov
Balanchine Production Premiere: February 2, 1954; New York City Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet Premiere: November 27, 2015

Principal sponsorship support for the 2015 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® with original scenic and costume design by Ian Falconer, was made possible through the generosity of Dan & Pam Baty. Additional major support was provided by Patty Edwards, Carl & Renee Behnke, and Peter & Peggy Horvitz.

The works of George Balanchine performed by Pacific Northwest Ballet are made possible in part by The Louise Nadeau Endowed Fund.

“The Nutcracker at our theater is for children young and old. That is, for children and for adults who are children at heart. Because, if an adult is a good person, in his heart he is still a child. In every person the best, the most important part is that which remains from his childhood.” —George Balanchine

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®

When George Balanchine staged The Nutcracker for New York City Ballet in 1954, it was the six-year-old company’s most ambitious project to date. The choreographer spent more than half of the production’s $40,000 budget on the Christmas tree, infuriating Morton Baum, chair of New York City Center’s finance committee, which had put up the money. Baum asked, “George, can’t you do it without the tree?” to which Balanchine replied, “The ballet is the tree.”

Balanchine had danced in the Maryinsky Theater’s production in St. Petersburg as a child. His roles included soldier, mouse king, little prince, and the lead in the hoop dance, which had been choreographed by its original interpreter, Alexander Shiryaev, for the 1892 premiere. Balanchine remembered the luxurious days before the Russian revolution and held them as an ideal. When Baum asked him to stage The Nutcracker, banking on the popularity of The Nutcracker Suite in the United States, Balanchine said, “If I do anything, it will be full-length and expensive.”

Those first performances of The Nutcracker in 1892 St. Petersburg received mixed reviews. Critics complained the music was “too symphonic” and the ballerina (the Sugar Plum Fairy) wasn’t given enough to do. The scenario had been put together by Ivan Vsevolozhsky, director of the Imperial Theaters and a great Francophile. He used as his source not the E.T.A. Hoffman German original of 1816, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, but Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 French adaptation of Hoffman’s story, Histoire d’un casse-noisette (The Tale of the Nutcracker). Marius Petipa, the esteemed and prolific maître d’ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theater, prepared instructions for Tchaikovsky and mapped out the sequence of dances, yet withdrew due to illness before rehearsals began. The task of choreographing The Nutcracker was left to Petipa’s assistant, Lev Ivanov, whose work was deemed uneven, from brilliant (the kaleidoscopic Waltz of the Snowflakes) to chaotic (the battle between the gingerbread soldiers and the mice).

Yet, the ballet endured and the suite of musical numbers subsequently drawn from Tchaikovsky’s complete score for performance in the concert hall was immediately popular. The composer was particularly delighted by his use of the celesta, the “heavenly” keyboard instrument newly invented in Paris, for the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®As he did with his other stagings of 19th-century ballets from the Russian repertory (Coppélia, Harlequinade), Balanchine followed the ballet’s story closely while adding his own contributions. With The Nutcracker, he referred back to the original Hoffman tale, adding Herr Drosselmeier’s nephew, the keyhole scene, in which Clara and Fritz eagerly anticipate seeing the family Christmas tree, and Clara’s wandering bed. He added some music as well, explaining, “When I did The Nutcracker in New York, I needed an entr’acte. And suddenly I recalled that the violin solo from Sleeping Beauty was the theme that is used when the Christmas tree grows in The Nutcracker. It’s a wonderful melody, with a magnificent upward swelling of sound that leaves you breathless. Tchaikovsky had decided that since no one played the violin solo from Sleeping Beauty he might as well use it here, instead of letting it go to waste!” The production was a huge effort, taxing the company’s resources. When, on opening night, the costumes were far from finished, Balanchine visited Karinska’s workshop with Jerome Robbins and, without saying a word, sat down among the seamstresses, picked up a needle and thread, and got to work. Robbins, who also choreographed the Nutcracker battle scene (an uncredited contribution), joined him.

Balanchine regularly made changes to his Nutcracker, including, perhaps surprisingly, the addition of elements from the St. Petersburg original. In 1968, he added a special effect to the pas de deux of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, in which the ballerina steps onto a sliding track on the stage and, supported by her partner, appears to glide across its surface. He also added wands with snowballs for the Snowflakes at the end of the first act, recalling the elaborate costumes of the Maryinsky’s dancers.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®

Although Balanchine’s Nutcracker established the ballet as a perennial holiday favorite and became the model for many subsequent productions, the ballet had been danced in the United States since 1940, when Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo performed Alexandra Fedorova’s staging of a one-act Nutcracker in New York City. The production subsequently toured the country throughout the ‘40s and ‘50s, giving many Americans their first experience of The Nutcracker. The first full-length Nutcracker in the U.S. was choreographed for San Francisco Ballet by Willam Christensen in 1944, only to be replaced in 1954 with a production by Willam’s brother, Lew Christensen.

When New York City Ballet moved to the newly built New York State Theater in 1964, the Nutcracker scenery was completely redesigned to take advantage of the larger space. (The technical superiority of the new theater allowed an even more magnificent tree.) That same year, a young Judith Fugate, newly enrolled in the School of American Ballet, danced the role of Clara for the first time. She would continue in the role for four seasons before moving on to other parts, eventually joining New York City Ballet and adding the leading roles of Dewdrop and the Sugar Plum Fairy to her repertory. Fugate takes on the role of répétiteur, joining with Peter Boal and Garielle Whittle to stage Balanchine’s Nutcracker for Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Peter Boal was accepted into the School of American Ballet in 1975. He first performed in Balanchine’s Nutcracker as a Party Boy. Fugate was his first stage mother and held his hand tightly as she pulled the nervous ten-year-old onstage. He moved on to the role of the Little Prince, and then Bed Boy, another uncredited part, this for a confident teenager who steers Clara’s magic bed. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®Boal joined New York City Ballet and continued to move through the range of Nutcracker roles, eventually performing as Cavalier to Fugate’s Sugar Plum Fairy. In 2014, Boal returned to New York City Ballet as a guest artist to reprise the role of Herr Drosselmeier for the School of American Ballet’s annual Nutcracker benefit.


Pacific Northwest Ballet has its own Nutcracker history, which now intersects with Balanchine’s. In 1975, Pacific Northwest Dance Ballet Company, as PNB was then called, acquired Lew Christensen’s Nutcracker, performing the work for eight seasons. In 1983, under Artistic Directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, the Company presented a new production with choreography by Stowell and scenic and costume designs by famed children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. The Stowell and Sendak Nutcracker contributed significantly to the Company’s identity, holding the stage for 32 seasons. In 2015, PNB acquired George Balanchine’s iconic production, blending Peter’s Boal’s personal history—his New England childhood and his 30-year involvement with the Balanchine Nutcracker as both a student and professional dancer—with the future of the Company. New designs by another renowned children’s author and illustrator, Ian Falconer, carry the Balanchine staging forward into the 21st century, while the staging by Fugate, Boal, and Whittle affirms the heritage of a tradition reaching back to 1892 and the grandeur of the Imperial era.

Notes by Doug Fullington.

Artist Bios

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchine is regarded as the foremost contemporary ballet choreographer in the world. He came to the United States in 1933 at the invitation of American arts patron Lincoln Kirstein (1907-96). The School of American Ballet was founded in 1934, the first product of the Balanchine-Kirstein collaboration, and several ballet companies directed by the two were created and dissolved in the years that followed. On October 11, 1948, New York City Ballet was born, and Mr. Balanchine served as its ballet master and principal choreographer until his death. His more than 400 dance works include Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941), Le Palais de Cristal, later renamed Symphony in C (1947), The Nutcracker (1954), Agon (1957), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), and Vienna Waltzes (1977). He also choreographed for films, operas, revues, and musicals. Among his best-known dances for the stage is Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, originally created for Broadway’s On Your Toes (1936).

A major artistic figure of the twentieth century, Mr. Balanchine revolutionized the look of classical ballet. He quickened, expanded, streamlined, and inverted the fundamentals of the 400-year-old language of academic dance. Although at first his style seemed particularly suited to the energy and speed of American dancers, especially those he trained, his ballets are now performed by every major classical ballet company in the world.

Ian Falconer is an American illustrator, children’s book author, and costume and set designer for the theater. Born in Ridgefield, Connecticut, Mr. Falconer graduated from The Cambridge School of Weston, and went on to study painting at the Parsons School of Design and Otis Art Institute. He has created 30 covers for The New Yorker as well as other publications, and is widely known for the iconic Olivia children’s book series, which features a young pig and her many adventures. In the world of theater design, Mr. Falconer teamed up with artist David Hockney, collaborating on the costume designs for the Los Angeles Opera production of Tristan and Isolde (1987). He served as co-designer for sets and costumes with Mr. Hockney on the Lyric Opera’s production of Turandot (1992), and designed the costumes for The Royal Opera’s production of Die Frau Ohne Schatten at Covent Garden. In 1996, Mr. Falconer designed the sets for The Atlantic Theater’s Off-Broadway production of The Santaland Diaries, written by David Sedaris. In 1999, he designed scenery and costumes for the Boston Ballet’s production of Firebird, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. For the New York City Ballet, Mr. Falconer designed scenery and costumes for Scènes de Ballet (1999), and Variations Sérieuses (2001), which were both also choreographed by Mr. Wheeldon. In 2003, he designed sets and costumes for Stravinsky’s Jeu de Cartes, choreographed by Peter Martins. In 2008, Mr. Falconer completed the set design and oversaw the installation for the operetta Veronique at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. The sets were widely hailed for their use of classic stage sets married with complex moving film images, impressing audiences with innovative theatrical optical illusions.
Judith Fugate is a former principal ballerina with the New York City Ballet and danced roles in virtually every ballet in the NYCB repertoire, counting among her partners Peter Martins, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Helgi Tomasson. During her career she toured extensively with groups led by renowned artists such as Mr. Baryshnikov, Cynthia Gregory, and Mr. Martins. Ms. Fugate appeared on “Live from Lincoln Center” with Ray Charles in Peter Martins’ A Fool for You. In the Metropolitan Opera’s production of La Traviata, conducted by Placido Domingo, she was partnered by Fernando Bujones and Peter Boal.

She left the company in 1997 and currently works as repetiteur for the George Balanchine Trust and the Jerome Robbins Rights Trust, staging these renowned choreographers’ works worldwide.

In addition, along with her husband Medhi Bahiri, she directs Ballet NY, a small contemporary ballet company based in New York City. Founded in 1997, it is a company of accomplished dancers that has performed not only in New York City, but also toured the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Visit

Peter Boal was raised in Bedford, New York. At the age of nine, he began studying ballet at the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet. Mr. Boal became a member of New York City Ballet’s corps de ballet in 1983 and became a principal dancer in 1989. In 2005, he retired from New York City Ballet after a 22-year career with the company. Mr. Boal was also a full-time faculty member at the School of American Ballet from 1997 to 2005. In 2003, he founded Peter Boal and Company, a critically acclaimed chamber ensemble.

Among the many ballets in which Mr. Boal was featured at New York City Ballet are George Balanchine’s Agon, Apollo, A Midsummer Night’s Dream(Oberon), and Prodigal Son; Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering and Opus 19/The Dreamer; Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels; and works by William Forsythe, Peter Martins, Twyla Tharp, and Christopher Wheeldon.

In addition to touring with New York City Ballet, Mr. Boal performed as a principal dancer with Ballet Arizona, Ballet du Nord, the Maryinsky Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, the Royal Birmingham Ballet, and Suzanne Farrell Ballet. In 1996, Mr. Boal received the Dance Magazine Award, and in 2000, he received a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for his performance in Molissa Fenley’s State of Darkness.

In 2005, upon his retirement from New York City Ballet, Mr. Boal became Artistic Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) and Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Founded in 1972, PNB presents more than 100 performances annually of full-length and mixed repertory ballets at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall and on tour. The Company has toured to Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, and throughout the United States. Under the direction of Mr. Boal, PNB has diversified its repertory to include new works by Trisha Brown, Ulysses Dove, Marco Goecke, Jiri Kylian, Jessica Lang, Jean-Christophe Maillot, Susan Marshall, Mark Morris, Victor Quijada, Alexei Ratmansky, Twyla Tharp, and Christopher Wheeldon, as well as additional works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. Mr. Boal has staged the works of George Balanchine (ApolloDivertimento from “La Baiser de la Fée”, Duo Concertant, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, Prodigal Son, Square Dance, La Sonnambula, andTchaikovsky Pas de Deux), Ulysses Dove (Red Angels), and Peter Martins (Valse Triste) for the Company and elsewhere.

Garielle Whittle danced with New York City Ballet under Balanchine’s direction for 14 years. In 1983, she retired from dancing and joined the faculty of the School of American Ballet (SAB), where she taught nine levels of students for 30 years. In 1997, she was awarded the Mae L. Wien Faculty Award for Distinguished Service. From 1983 to 2012, Ms. Whittle also was Children’s Ballet Mistress for New York City Ballet, staging and rehearsing SAB students in roles from Balanchine, Robbins, Wheeldon, and Martins ballets. She also staged children’s roles from the Balanchine and Robbins repertory for San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, and Dresden Semperoper Ballet, among others. Ms. Whittle currently is on the faculty of Manhattan Youth Ballet and teaches private and master classes. She also coaches professionals and advanced students in and around New York City.
James F. Ingalls has designed lighting for opera, theater, and dance. His work for ballet companies includes The Nutcracker, Sylvia, and the New Works Festival for San Francisco Ballet; Onegin for National Ballet of Canada; Don Quixote, Giselle, and Coppélia for Dutch National Ballet; and Waiting at the Station for Pacific Northwest Ballet. He has designed many works for Mark Morris Dance Company, including L’Allegro il Penseroso ed il Moderato; The Hard Nut; Pacific; Romeo and Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare; and Mozart Dances. Mr. Ingalls’ other designs for dance include Brief Encounters for Paul Taylor Dance Company, Split Sides and Fluid Canvas for Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and Bitter Suite by Jorma Elo for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Recent projects include Iolanta/Persephone, directed by Peter Sellars for the Teatro Real, Madrid; Penelope at Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago; and The Cherry Orchard at Classic Stage Company, New York. He collaborates frequently with the Wooden Floor Dancers in Santa Ana, California. Mr. Ingalls is the recipient of several Drama-Logue Awards, the Obie for sustained excellence in lighting design, and a National Theater Artist Residency Grant.


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The works of George Balanchine performed by Pacific Northwest Ballet are made possible in part by The Louise Nadeau Fund.