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The Nutcracker pas de deux

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The Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince Coqueluche at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg about 1900

The Nutcracker pas de deux is a dance for the Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince Coqueluche in the ballet The Nutcracker. The ballet was first presented on 18 December 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. The music was written by Tchaikovsky and the dance was designed by Lev Ivanov. The Sugar Plum Fairy was first danced by Antonietta Dell'Era and the Prince by Pavel Gerdt.[1] The pas is sometimes danced outside the ballet and is sometimes danced in ballet competitions.

The pas de deux is structured in four sections (or movements): first, an Andante maestoso; second, a Tarantella for the male dancer; third a dance for the ballerina called the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy"; and fourth and finally a quick, energetic movement for both dancers.[1]

Marius Petipa, Ballet Master at the Mariinsky Theatre, wanted music "colossal in effect" for the opening Andante maestoso movement. The music is made up of descending (falling) scales for cellos. A second, contrasting section is written for oboe and bass clarinet. The music ends with a great climax for trombones. The musical theme of the Andante maestoso is similar to Tchaikovsky's death themes in the Fifth and Sixth symphonies.[1]

The Andante maestoso movement used a device on the stage called a reika. This was a small platform or wagon set in a track. It was operated under the stage. In The Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy stepped upon a scarf that Prince Coqueluche had placed on the reika. The Prince pulled the scarf and, as the reika was moved from one side of the stage to the other, it seemed that the Sugar Plum Fairy was lighter than air.[2] A photograph shows second cast Varvara Nikitina standing on a scarf on the reika as Pavel Gerdt pulls the scarf.[3]


Reading list

  • Warrack, John (1979), Tchaikovsky Ballet Music, BBC Music Guides, Seattle: University of Washington Press, ISBN 0-295-95697-6
  • Wiley, Roland John (1985), Tchaikovsky's Ballets, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-816249-9
[[Category:Compositions by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky