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Nutcracker's Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy

Updated on March 8, 2014

The Nutcracker Ballet's Sugarplum Fairy by Tchaikovsky

The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy ~ such beauty, grace, elegance, and fluidity! What young lady hasn't dreamed of flowing across a sparkly stage in a pink tutu dancing with a handsome prince? Well, maybe not everyone, but this magical, mysterious piece of music is one of the most well known classical pieces of music in the world.

As the fourth in a music unit about the Nutcracker Ballet and Tchaikovsky, this lesson hopes to share appreciation for a remarkable musical creation and teach about the many musical elements of melody, harmony, tempo, dynamics, form, tone color, and expression.

Free recordings and sheet music are found below along with worksheet materials, resource links, and full lesson plans that will hopefully shorten lesson planning time for teachers trained in music or teachers who want to add music into their whole curriculum. See the main unit page for cross-curricular ideas throughout the unit.

Thanks for visiting ~ enjoy your study and leave a message below to let me know how my lessons may serve the education community better. Peace & Blessed Christmas Greetings!

Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy

Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker

Although I have listed resources for free online recordings and videos for this piece, you may want to consider purchasing a recording for yourself to listen to whenever you want!

 
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The Nutcracker ~ Lesson Materials

These materials were created for my children and students and are free for anyone to use simply because of my love of music education! All I ask is that you could leave me a message to know how you used the materials and / or what I could add or change to make them more helpful to others. If you would like to post a picture of your lapbook or notebook that you create, just contact me and I will happily do so to one of the pages of the unit. :D

The notebook and lapbook materials are stored at my blog, Joyful Songs. Two stars and the number of the suggested mini will be placed at each section in order to know which one to use. i.e. **3

Joyful Songs presents The Nutcracker Ballet Unit!

Update: March 2014 - Since I first entered these worksheets at my blog, the blog format has changed several times (beyond my control). Please message me if you would like a free copy.

1. Nutcracker Music Vocabulary Cards - print on tagboard.

2. Vocabulary Pocket

3. Vocabulary Notebook Page

4. Nutcracker Theme Music 'Lyrics", Celeste Mini Book

5. Instrument Family Book - Keyboards

6. Orchestral Score Pocket

7. Sugarplum & Marzipan Mini Books

Tchaikovsky's Use of the Celeste

Listen to a recording of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Ask student to listen for the special instrument called a celesta. Discussion topics to think about: What does the instrument sound like? What type of instrument do you think the celesta is (string, woodwind, brass, percussion, keyboard)? Why do you think Tchaikovsky choose this instrument for a fairy dancer? Which family of instruments is the celeste from? What other tone colors or instrument sounds can be heard in the piece?

Select (if any) mini books you would like students to write notes.

**1 Nutcracker Music Vocabulary Cards - print out on tagboard for extra durability.

**2 Vocabulary Pocket

**3 Vocabulary Notebook Page

**4 Celeste Mini Book

**5 Instrument Family Book - Keyboards

Research history with "What is a Celeste?" below, and listen to samples of the instrument.

Kids will enjoy reading and hearing about the celeste at New York Philharmonic Kids.

History & Samples of the Celeste

Famous Modern Piece for Celeste - Music by John Williams

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Main Musical Theme of the Sugarplum Fairy

Listen to the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy again. (By the way, when I was researching I found many references to both "sugar plum" and "sugarplum" - pick whichever you like.)

Teach students my silly lyrics to the 'A' Theme. I wrote these just as a simple way for students to remember main concepts and themes. I apologize for not being a poet! Listen to the piece again singing the "A" theme while tapping a steady beat on laps for the other sections.

**4 Nutcracker Theme Music "Lyrics"

"Nutcracker Dance of the Sugar Plum,

Sugar Plum, Sugar Plum, Sugar Plum Fairy.

Features instrument called celesta,

celesta, celesta, came form Paris, France.

Nutcracker Dance of the Sugar Plum,

Sugar Plum, Sugar Plum, Sugar Plum Fairy.

By Tchaikovsky, by Tchaikovsky,

by Tchaikovsky, the end!"

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Reading an Orchestral Score

Music Theory

Look at sheet music for "Sugar Plum". I used the score below for these questions. If you have a different arrangement there will be slight differences. Simply adjust as needed.

Orchestral Score of The Sugar Plum Fairy

Scroll down to Tchaikovsky; there is a score for the whole orchestra, and separate instrument parts to see.

I did not create a lapbook mini for this section; instead, I had the children use copies of the first two pages of the score to circle concepts we talked about and take notes. The pages can be folded to put in a lapbook pocket.

**1-2-3 Vocabulary

**6 Orchestra Score Pocket

Music Theory Concepts to Learn & Discuss ~ Lessons and materials to teach these concepts are found in previous lessons of the Nutcracker Unit.

Nutcracker Ballet Unit

Overture of the Nutcracker Lesson Plan

March of the Nutcracker Lesson Plan

~ What is the meter or time signature of the Sugarplum Fairy? (2/4)

~ What does that mean? (There are 2 beats per measure, and every quarter note gets one beat.)

~ Where is the key signature located? (At the beginning of each line.)

~ How many sharps # does the Bass Clarinet part have? (3)

~ How many sharps # do the string and celesta parts have? (1) - Strings, keyboards, and some brass and woodwinds play in what is called concert pitch and are considered C instruments. A key signature with one # is called concert G major. Other instruments play in different keys due to their sizes and shapes; therefore you will see various key signatures in the score. Although the key signatures look different, they are pitched the same. The bass clarinet part (BC) is in A major but sounds in concert G major. The French horn part (Hn) has no flats or sharps in C major, but it also sounds in G major. The 'A' clarinet part (cl) is marked in Bb major with two flats, but sounds in concert G major. Most clarinets are considered Bb clarinets, but some are pitched differently. My daughter recently performed Nutcracker in a youth orchestra switching from her Bb clarinet to an A clarinet as the score called for. The fingerings are the same, but the size variation causes the change in pitch. ~~ Confusing, huh? I hope this makes sense!

~ Find where it has a quarter note or q = 64 on the top left of the first page. This tells the conductor and performers the tempo or speed of the piece. Sometimes it will have M.M. q = 64 standing for metronome marking set for a quarter note at 64. If the number were 60, it would mean there should be 60 beats per minute, or one beat per second. 120 would mean 120 beats per minute, or two beats per second.

~ Find "pizz." in the string parts on the first page. Pizz. stands for pizzicato - it tells the string players to pluck their strings instead of using their bows; it creates a short, detached sound instead of the usual smooth sound.

~ Look at the celeste part on the first stanza. Find the dot (.) on top of the notes. This is called staccato. The performer will play the notes separated or detached - more of a bouncy feel!

~ Pick out any other concept you would like your children or students to know.

~ Students may write down any unknown vocabulary words down on their vocabulary flashcards or notebook page for reference.

The Sugar Plum Fairy Cook Book - Old English Recipes & High Tea
The Sugar Plum Fairy Cook Book - Old English Recipes & High Tea

Delightful recipes to create enjoyable treats to eat while you listen to the Nutcracker or during festive get togethers!

 
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Analyzing, Arranging, & Composing Music

Listen to several other arrangements to compare and contrast what you hear such as tempo (speed), dynamics (loudness), tone color (instrumentation), and other musical qualities such as melody, harmony, rhythm, and form.

You will find many versions on YouTube - some incredibly awesome, and others ... well ... not. I think music students may learn from both good and bad interpretations of the piece, and so I encourage listening to many.

Questions to think about: What makes one version better than another? Will some people prefer one version while other people prefer another? Why? What is most appealing to you about your favorites? If you were performing this piece, which qualitites would you like to imitate and why?

Creative assignment: Consider creating your own version of the Sugarplum Fairy. It could be as simple as humming the main theme while tapping on a percussion instrument to very elaborate adaptations.

Play around with many musical qualities! There are no right or wrong answers, so try something new!

Melody & Rhythm - perhaps keep the same notes but alter the rhythm, or keep the rhythm and change the notes slightly.

Harmony - try an ostinato (repeated pattern of notes or rhythms) with one note, chord, or sequence.

Form (how the sections of the piece are put together) - change the order or amount of sections in the music.

Experiment with numerous tempos (speed) or dynamics (volume) to see what you like the best.

Tone Color (sounds) - try different instruments or sounds in the music.

A Mad Russian's Christmas - Music by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Enjoy this very modern version of a classic piece!

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Cool mix of classical and rock styles!

Candy Cane
Candy Cane

What exactly is a Sugarplum or Marzipan?

We've heard of them, but what are they?

Research and write your findings in the mini books.

**7 Sugarplum & Marzipan Mini Books

Visions of Sugarplums has a brief history and recipies.

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"Sugarplum" Poetry to Enjoy

Favorite Poems about Sugarplums


The Sugar-Plum Tree by Eugene Field (1850-1895)


Twas the Night Before Christmas ... "while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads".

Does Sugarplum taste good? - (I've never had it before.)

Have you ever tried sugarplum candy?

No, I've never had it.

No, I've never had it.

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    • anonymous 4 years ago

      sugarplum... hmm never did i, i guess.. :\

    • ChemKnitsBlog2 6 years ago

      I'd never thought about it being a real candy before!

    • BuckHawkcenter 6 years ago

      I wish I could yes, but I've never tried it.

    • Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Wish I had!

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      I've always wondered!

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      No,I don't know where to find sugarplum candy .

    • JoyfulPamela2 7 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      BlessedMom ~ your cranberry bread is coming, have patience!

    • blessedmomto7 7 years ago

      No, but maybe someone will make me some for Christmas... (along w/ that Cranberry bread, hint hint)

    • JoyfulPamela2 7 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I'm curious ~ is it more fruity or sugary? Anyone know?

    Yes, it tasted like ...

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      • Bethany 4 months ago

        I am interested in your materials for the Nutcracker lessons. How do I get in touch with you about them?

      • Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

        I have a recipe for a sugarplum candy, and yes it's good. It contains fruit and tastes wonderful.

      Wishing you "Sugary Dreams" this season!

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        • myraggededge profile image

          myraggededge 7 years ago

          Lovely! My teacher used to play this to the class during needlework lessons. It's always been one of my favourites. Gorgeous lens.

        • profile image

          anonymous 7 years ago

          What a "sweet" website!

        • ZenandChic profile image

          Patricia 7 years ago

          Lovely!

        • Heather426 profile image

          Heather Burns 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

          great lens! angel blessed!

        • WindyWintersHubs profile image

          WindyWintersHubs 7 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

          Magical. I love the Nutcracker Ballet. Congrats on your 50th Lens, Pamela!

        • poptastic profile image

          Cynthia Arre 7 years ago from Quezon City

          What a fantastic lens! I studied piano when I was young so I always love your music lessons Pamela - this one in particular takes me back to my childhood as I remember watching a staging of the Nutcracker by a local ballet company. (:

        • joanhall profile image

          Joan Hall 7 years ago from Los Angeles

          Congratulations on your 50th lens! It's terrific!

        • RhondaAlbom profile image

          Rhonda Albom 7 years ago from New Zealand

          Congratulations on reaching 50. This is another fantastic lens! I was surprised I missed 2 on your quiz, but I did learn a lot here. Blessed by a Squidoo Angel (if you want, you can add your link at Angel Blessings from Pukeko)

        • blessedmomto7 profile image

          blessedmomto7 7 years ago

          Great Lens Pamela! Can you believe I have never seen the Nutcracker live? Of course I have seen the Barbie version and another DVD version from the dollar store. Maybe someday I will see it live!

        • rubyandmahoney profile image

          rubyandmahoney 7 years ago

          I love the Nutcracker ballet! My mom and I used to go every year.

        • lasertek lm profile image

          lasertek lm 7 years ago

          I have watched the Nutcracker dance several times but this year is a special one because my daughter is part of the school play. Great lens! Rated 5*

          Happy Holidays! Hope you could visit my lenses and be a fan of my fb page. Thanks

        • poptastic profile image

          Cynthia Arre 7 years ago from Quezon City

          I'm back to give this wonderful lens a little boost because I strongly feel that it needs to be seen by more people! *blessed by an angel*

        • LizMac60 profile image

          Liz Mackay 7 years ago from United Kingdom

          Great lens. Thanks for visiting mine and your good comments. 5*

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          Very sweetly done!

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          Ballet .. Nutcracker's Dance is so charming. Love here .. Give you 5 stars :)

        • jptanabe profile image

          Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

          Love Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker! Lensrolling to my Best "Nutcracker" Movie lens.

        • BuckHawkcenter profile image

          BuckHawkcenter 6 years ago

          What a wonderful lesson. Great for adults, too.

        • DesignedbyLisa LM profile image

          DesignedbyLisa LM 6 years ago

          This is a great lens. Wow! Lensrolled to my: Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker Suite lens.

        • ChemKnitsBlog2 profile image

          ChemKnitsBlog2 6 years ago

          Getting snow last night got me thinking about Christmas real early.... thanks for bringing me the spirit!

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          Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

          What a wonderful lens. While you were enjoying your sugary dreams, the sugar angel came to bless your lens.

        • Nancy Hardin profile image

          Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

          The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy is one of my favorite recordings, and I play it often, especially nearing Christmas. Thanks for an interesting lens which taught me something new...the celeste. Blessed.

        • JoyfulPamela2 profile image
          Author

          JoyfulPamela2 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

          @Nancy Hardin: Thank you so much, Nancy! :)

        • sushilkin lm profile image

          sushilkin lm 5 years ago

          Thanks for Sharing informative lens !!

        • favored profile image

          Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

          Thanks for explaining things. It makes it more enjoyable.

        • squidshe profile image

          squidshe 5 years ago

          Love the sugar plum fairy!

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          I love it when I come back to a lens I blessed before and its worn-off, and I get to bless it again. I'm going to add this to my Nutcracker lens too. Tis' the season for the Nutcracker!

        • WriterJanis2 profile image

          WriterJanis2 5 years ago

          I remember as a child doing a dance to this at a dance recital. Thank you for bringing back such fond memories.

        • Mauhro profile image

          Mauhro 5 years ago

          Great music, great ballet, great lens :)

        • Lauriej1 profile image

          Lauriej1 5 years ago

          Great lens! My daughter was in "The Nutcracker" for 9 years straight. We loved every minute of it! Great lens!

        • Herman IV profile image

          Herman IV 5 years ago

          My kids love the Nutcracker. It is a family tradition to try to see the ballet each Christmas. Wonderful lens!

        • kaseyrivenburgh profile image

          kaseyrivenburgh 3 years ago

          Love the music, dance and ballet.

        • JoyfulPamela2 profile image
          Author

          JoyfulPamela2 3 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

          @kaseyrivenburgh: Me, too!

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          cyndi holcombe 18 months ago

          i am taking our girl scout daisys to see the nutcracker. would love to use the mini books if you are able to send them - 1 Nutcracker Music Vocabulary Cards 2. Vocabulary Pocket 3 Vocabulary Notebook Page 4 Celeste Mini Book 5 Instrument Family Book - Keyboards

          thanks so much!! cyndiholcombe1@aol.com

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          Marilyne 18 months ago

          Hello !

          Your study of the Nutcracker really ROCKS ! I need some help bout it : my 9-yo daughter is a great ballet fan and I need to build a lesson plan for her. Would you mind emailing me your printables? If there's anything I could do to help you with what you're working on now, please let me know, I'd be happy to help!

          marijulien@free.fr

          (I'm French, that's why my email address seems odd! )

          Congrats on this really good job!

          Marilyne

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          Bethany 4 months ago

          Hi! I am also looking for copies of your printables. Would you email me some as well?

          missguilbault@gmail.com

          These lessons are so creative and fun. :)

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