National Dances of The Nutcracker: A Study of Cultural, Racial, and National Depictions in a Classical Ballet

Meredith Hunter-Mason Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Larry Attaway Butler University
Character development is a large component of ballet performance that is integrated into each rehearsal process leading up to the show. In this year’s production of The Nutcracker, I danced the role of Chinese Soloist. As I began my character development, I asked myself, “How does a Chinese girl dance?” When the question is asked about other roles, it is easy to respond; however, when the character is tied to a specific nationality it becomes much more difficult. Generalization and cultural misrepresentation become possible risks. Alastair Macaulay explains in his article Stereotypes in Toeshoes¸ “The ranks of ballet companies contain dancers of varied backgrounds; race-blind casting and interracial partnerships have been widespread for decades. Yet cliched and sometimes offensive views of race remain alive and well across the art form. Several of the old ballets and a few of the new ones give us national and racial stereotypes that would be un-showable in a play or movie. And yet they draw audiences” (New York Times 2012). I have researched the cultural dances included in classical ballets, focusing on The Nutcracker, and investigated why it continues to draw audiences. My research and investigation has helped me to answer the questions: Where did the inclusion of national dances in The Nutcracker originate? Do the national dances authentically represent the cultures of each nationality? Are cultural misrepresentations an accepted aspect of classical ballets?
Anthropology
Oral Presentation

When & Where

01:45 PM
Jordan Hall 242