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The Nutcracker - Arabian Dance
The Nutcracker Ballet, with a musical score written by Tchaikovsky, has grown in popularity over the years. From an army of fighting mice to sugar plum fairies, this ballet has something in it for everyone. The Arabian Dance 'Danse Arabe’ is especially appealing for its score, its story and infinite number of interpretations.
Ballet resonates so deeply for me that even the sight of ballet slippers or the sound of classical music can inspire me to pause and dream. Watching a ballet performance makes me want to float away in the beauty of the human form in its most chiseled and yet inspirational presentation. Although my ballet career ended at the age of 9 when it came time to advance to wearing toe shoes, which was an added expense my family could not afford, my love for the art remains true.
Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker Trailer
As an adult, every year, when the crisp fall air turns frigid and winter approaches, I begin anticipating what has become a family tradition for me and my children; seeing The Nutcracker. This ballet was written and first debuted in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892, with a musical score composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Though at the time it was met with mixed reviews, it has since become popular the world over and especially in the U.S., with December performances coinciding with the Christmas Holiday.
The ballet begins as the curtains open to reveal a Christmas party in the house of a family living in Western Europe. Not long after, a girl named Clara receives a toy nutcracker for a gift. She is upset when her brother grabs it and breaks it. Although the nutcracker is soon repaired, Clara still feels disappointed and later falls asleep feeling sad. Once Clara has drifted to sleep the ballet comes to life in Clara’s dreams.
In the dream, the Nutcracker becomes a human size soldier. He then joins in a battle along with other soldiers against an army of mice; this is my son’s favorite scene. Upon winning the battle the human size Nutcracker is crowned prince. The tone soon changes when the dancers enter the stage dressed in airy white tulle. This is the dance of the Snow Queen and when flakes of snow begin falling you are viewing what is arguably the most enchanted vision that has graced a stage.
Later, when Clara enters the Land of Sweets, she and the prince are entertained by a selection of dances, each meant to represent a different county. Each dance embodies the theme of a delicacy that originates from that country; these include Hot Chocolate from Spain, Coffee from Arabia, Tea from China, Candy Canes from Russia, and Marzipan from Denmark.
I seem to find myself most enraptured when the music of the Arabian Dance begins to play and as a result, changes the energy of the ballet, for in the midst of a traditional ballet, this dance momentarily transports me to a mystical place. This feeling may in part be due to the fact that the musical accompaniment for the Arabian Dance was derived from a Georgian Lullaby. These lullabies, although intended to be used in a traditional way, were in fact used to heal sick children. Perhaps because of this history the music for the Arabian Dance has a unique earthy aura about it.
Each time I see the Nutcracker there are different costumes and interpretations of the ballet. The Arabian dance, (originally written as ‘Danse Arabe’), is no different. Sometimes the choreography of this dance sticks to traditional ballet style while other times it becomes more acrobatic or takes on a middle eastern influence which many people would know as belly dancing. At other times, the dance is done as a Pas de Deux (dance for two) with its own set of variations.
Take a look for yourself at the videos below showing the varied interpretations of this powerful dance. Be sure to view the Pacific Dance Academy video as this stands out as both the most sensual and smooth of all of the interpretations.