Children's culture

The Nutcracker

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By Lone Nyhuus, journalist, former dancer og choreografer, 2006

A swirling, whirring nutcracker 

A ballerina whirls round on the sharp tips of her toes, while in contrast the break dancer spins around on his head. Other dancers on the stage are masters of the electric boogie; they jerk their arms and legs and glide over the floor with almost invisible steps, their bodies throbbing with “electricity”. The music brims over with strains from Tchaikovsky’s original score for the great Russian Nutcracker ballet, Safri Duo’s thumping rhythms and tuneful passages by Thomas Koppel. It blazes out over the audience and sucks us with it ... 
... into the story of Clara, who finds herself on the fine-drawn frontier with adult life, and who is going to have to endure so much pain before she meets her beloved prince. Before she can see and recognise her own sexual drive. Before she can become an adult woman.

Mouse King’s realm 

This fairytale has been told before. The original story was writtten by Germany’s E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1819. Seventy-three years later Russian composer Tchaikovsky wrote the ballet music to Hoffmann’s tale about Clara, who is given a magical nutcracker, which has the power to bring all her toys to life for one night. The nutcracker plunges little Clara into a world which is ruled by a wicked Mouse King, who by the way greatly resembles her own real life father. 

The whole world’s dance 

Until 2003 all performances of the Nutcracker were danced according to the strict choreography of classical ballet. Then came Danish hip-hop choreographer Steen Koerner’s version of the piece in which street dances from all over the world made their entry on the stage. Brazilian capoeira, American breakdance and brilliantly executed hip- hop fight for our attention. Along with Clemens’s idiomatic texts, the choreographies whirl and twirl us into a 21st century version of the Nutcracker. But you can still see that this is an updated version of a great Russian ballet. Because in the very midst of it all stands the magical ballerina - just like in the original work. And it is she who in the end saves everything. 

Steen Koerner's setup of the Nutcracker at Aveny-T in 2003 with among other things solo dancer Silja Schandorff, Osama Nasrallah and Rui Pereira. Photo: Erik Hansen-Hansen.
E.T.A. Hoffmann. Det Kongelige Bibliotek.
Children's Culture

Did you know?


As a teenager, Steen Koerner got interested in hip hop, which in the early 80s was something new. He later went under the name "Boogie Steen" when he performed professionally with the breakdance group "Out of Control". Before the great success with The Nutcracker, Steen Koerner choreographed Dracula at The Royal Theater.

The Committee's justification

By the Committee for Performing Arts, 2006

Danish children’s theatre is rich, varied and top quality. It’s hard to choose a single performance, but Steen Koerner’s hip-hop Nutcracker skilfully blends speech, rap, music and dance in a wide-ranging performance. It is a classic in modern form.
The Nutcracker ballet with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky premiered in St. Petersburg in 1892. The libretto was adapted from E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The Nutcracker has since become the number one Christmas ballet and is an obvious choice for an international ballet canon list. The Royal Danish Ballet has performed two versions of the Nutcracker, in 1971 (Flemming Flindt) and 2001 (Alexei Ratmansky and Mikael Melbye).

Koerner’s set-up is a reimagining rooted in tradition as regards the action and technical dance language. Koerner brings the hip-hop moves of the young to the stage, but retains classical ballet technique for the role of the beautiful ballerina who can tame the monster army that is robbing Klara, eating her heart and mutating her into a member of the brainwashed monster family. Koerner and co. turn the sweet, traditional Nutcracker into an unpretentious morality play about good versus evil. There are serious issues at stake in this performance, but it is served up with wonderful humour in the lyrics of the rapper, Clemens, the melodic beat music and the gravity-defying dance numbers, where the hip-hop elements are drawing in a younger audience principally aged 7-20. And adults are also watching it. The Nutcracker has already become a Christmas classic and was performed in both 2004 and 2005.

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