• Maria Gracia Santillana Linares

5 Nutcrackers, 1 Couch: A Guide to this Year’s Virtual Nutcrackers

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

Principal dancers perform as Clara and the Nutcracker in the Royal Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” for cinemas. Image courtesy of the Royal Ballet.

2020 has not been the year anyone expected. For artists, and dancers in particular, COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions have cancelled performances around the world. With the holiday season and end of year upon us, the beloved Nutcracker joined the ranks of 2020 cancelled shows.

It’s now become a Christmas classic –after fighting her brother over a nutcracker, Clara falls asleep and is taken to a magical land of snowflakes, flowers, different countries or different sweets. While multiple choreographers have interpreted Clara’s journey in various ways, audiences’ favorite characters –the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Nutcracker, Clara, and the Mouse King–are a key fixture in the start of the holiday season and can now be viewed online.

One of the big achievements of this shift online is the increased accessibility of ballet shows. Tickets that would usually cost upwards of $100 are now available for under $50, some even for free through streaming platforms like YouTube and Netflix. The Nutcracker, more than a holiday tradition, is also a key financial and marketing point for performers and dance companies alike. For smaller ballet companies that cannot afford to lose millions in ticket sales and funding, streaming past performances of the Nutcracker is the only way to keep their own audiences engaged, and even grow the people they reach.

We’ve listed five versions of the holiday classic that are available for streaming right now! From free options up to $25 tickets, adaptations to originals, there is something for everyone. Whether you choose to dress up or stay in your pjs, this is a great way to continue christmas traditions or create new ones.

The Boston Ballet

Free with email

In this hour-long adaptation of The Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker, we are taken through a speed ride of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s kingdom. Choreographed by the Ballet’s Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen, this year’s iteration of the holiday classic is narrated by NBC news hosts as Clara celebrates Christmas Eve before embarking on a journey of the Nutcracker Prince’s Kingdom.

The Boston Ballet’s rendition of the Nutcracker has been praised for both its beautiful and entertaining choreography. With a bear (now the unofficial mascot of the company), mice striking poses, and an elderly couple’s solo during the beginning party scene, the first act never fails to make the audience chuckle at least once.

The Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker Bear leaps across the stage. Photograph by Angela Sterling / Image courtesy of Boston Ballet.

In partnership with NBC, the Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker will also be available to local audiences through TV until December 25. The online stream is available online with a valid email address on the Company’s website until January.

Saint Louis Ballet

Available on YouTube for free

Choreographed by Gen Horiuchi, the Saint Louis Ballet’s 2020 rendition of their Nutcracker performance is both old and new. The first act is composed of last year’s recording, filled with the biggest 2020-no-no, maskless parties. The second act, however, is a special recording of new footage filmed with COVID-19 protections in mind. With limited cast, the emptier-than-usual stage is crowded by dancer’s leaps and turns.

With zoom recordings of the Saint Louis Ballet School students performing their favorite parts, this rendition of the Nutcracker feels both homey and professional.

Dancers of the Saint Louis Ballet perform this year’s Nutcracker for online stream. Photograph by Pratt Kreidich / Image courtesy of Saint Louis Ballet.

The performance is currently available for free on YouTube.

English National Ballet

Available for Free on Company website

As COVID-19 restrictions eased in England, ballet companies who had not performed in months saw an opportunity to hold live performances with limited audiences for the Holiday season. Yet, as cases started to rise and a new strain of the virus was identified within patients, the country’s capital once again entered lockdown. The English Ballet, which had planned a series of live performances, recorded a newly-adapted version of the almost 70-year-old tradition.

Dancers of the English National Ballet Rehearse this year’s Nutcracker Delights. Image courtesy of the English National Ballet YouTube

The special adaptation of “Nutcracker Delights” is available for free on the company’s website and YouTube until January 24.

The Royal Ballet

$4 per ticket, available until January 21

The Royal Ballet was also forced to cancel it’s live performance of this year’s “The Nutcracker Reworked” in light of London’s Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions. Originally scheduled to perform in front of a live audience with a live stream available online, the Ballet had to quickly move the performance to an all-virtual experience before eventually cancelling “The Nutcracker Reworked.”

Principal dancers perform as Clara and the Nutcracker in the Royal Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” for cinemas. Image courtesy of the Royal Ballet.

Ticket-holders to both the in-person performance and live streaming rights have been refunded and given options to view other ballets by the company.

The Royal Ballet’s “Nutcracker Reworked” is still available for streaming within the UK on Netflix. For foreign viewers, the Royal Ballet has instead offered the opportunity to buy streaming access to a previous recording of Christopher Wheeldon’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” for $4. The Ballet’s YouTube channel also currently has a recording of Don Quixote available for free until January 6.

New York City Ballet

$25 per ticket, available until January with Marquee TV

Usually performed on the stage of Lincoln Center, the New York City Ballet’s rendition of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” draws audiences from around the world. Perhaps the most famous ballet adaptation of E.T.A Hoffmans’ “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” Balanchine’s Nutcracker incorporates a greater number of child dancers, with both Marie (Clara in other productions) and the Nutcracker Prince being performed by children and students of the School of American Ballet.

From the hot chocolate dances, to the candy cane hula-hoops, this virtual performance of “The Nutcracker” is no less special than year’s past.

Dancers of the New York City Ballet perform George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Paul Kolnik / Image courtesy of the New York City Ballet.

New York City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” can be viewed through Marquee TV with either a subscription or by purchasing a $25 ticket. Streaming will be available until January with a subscription to Marquee TV.

While these are only some of the ballet options available, ballets across the country and the world are looking for streaming options to continue the holiday classic.

Other honorable mentions include:

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