Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts' production of Beyond the Nutcracker is a new twist on the classic, historic ballet. The inspiration for Beyond the Nutcracker grew out of Ballet 5:8's larger mission to actively engage with the depth and beauty of the art form of dance. However, our hope is to always do that from a perspective that sees ballet as more than simply a form of enjoyment or as a means for passive entertainment. Since E.T.A. Hoffman's fairytale story didn't do this hope justice, it was time to embark on a search for an alternate storyline and a way to recreate The Nutcracker.
The storyline that Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Slager eventually settled on for Beyond the Nutcracker incorporates some of the characteristic elements found in the original story: The role of the typical Nutcracker heroine, Clara or Marie, is taken by Emma, and her brother Fritz by the character Peter. The somewhat mystical role of Drosselmeyer is played by Uncle Abrahms, and the characters still travel to a faraway land in Act II, even if it isn't "a land of sweets." These and other parallels serve as a nod to the original Nutcracker, paying a respectful tribute to the stories and choreographers in the art form who have gone before. The parallels also allow Slager's characters and storyline to benefit from their defined moments in Tchaikovsky's original score.
Even so, Beyond the Nutcracker is not merely a reconstruction of the original story with slightly different names and titles. Beyond the Nutcracker is not about a Nutcracker at all. The centerpiece of the ballet is a story that, during the Cooper's grand Christmas ball, Uncle Abrahms begins reading to the children but is not allowed to finish. It is the Christmas story, a story about a God who loved us so very much that he sent his one and only Son, Jesus, into the world as a baby for our sake. Emma and Peter think its a fairytale, but is it really? Beyond the Nutcracker wonders aloud if the story is true, or fairytale, and asks what difference it has made in our world and what difference, if any, it makes for us and our lives today.