The Tradition of the Nutcracker

As COVID-19 restrictions lessen, a beloved holiday tradition returns


Photo courtesy M. Colbath

Clara and her uncle dance after Clara receives her nutcracker.

Caroline Colbath, Viking Voices Co-Editor

Every year during the Christmas season, Ballet Spartanburg performs The Nutcracker in Twitchell Auditorium. Around 3,600 people attend the show every year, and it has become a tradition for many. Due to COVID-19, Ballet Spartanburg has limited viewing numbers from 1,489 guests to 1,000. Despite this, the seats are still filled up quickly as people are eager to resume their holiday tradition to watch the beloved classic. 

Each year, about 70 kids participate in the performance, as well as volunteers from the community and Ballet Spartanburg’s professional company. The students of Ballet Spartanburg audition to be a part of the show. The most common parts are Snowflakes, Mice, Toy Soldiers and Party Girls, in addition to the prized role – Clara. Professional dancers audition for the parts of Party Guests, Adult Snowflakes and Members of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s Court. 

Elizabeth Skinner (12) has been in The Nutcracker for nine years and has previously played the role of Clara.  

The Nutcracker is such a special holiday tradition to me. One of my favorite performances we do is for the School for the Deaf and the Blind, because it is such a warm and welcoming environment. I think The Nutcracker has turned into a fun family tradition after the many decades it has been performed in Spartanburg,” Skinner said 

While some of the viewers go to see their friends and family perform, most of the audience goes to simply enjoy the holiday tradition. 

 Lillian Delaney (10) has gone to The Nutcracker multiple times and loves going to the show with her family.  

“My favorite part of the Nutcracker was being able to go with my mom and sister,” Delaney said. “I love spending time with them during the holidays.” 

This is the 30th anniversary of Spartanburg Ballet performing The Nutcracker. In a new addition, the Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra will be performing with the ballet as well, replacing recorded music and enhancing the ballet to give the guests the best performance possible. Spartanburg High School’s orchestra teachers Helen Tipton and Theresa Jenkins-Russ will be among the musicians playing the soundtrack, which is just over two hours long. 

Eleanor Coleman (10) loves performing in the show and talks about how the show brings joy to her and others.  

The Nutcracker in general brings such happiness to me and everyone else at Ballet Spartanburg. The show buzz, the costumes and even just listening to the music makes me so happy! Although there will not be as many people in the audience this year, I am sure there are many who will still enjoy it. Many families make it a tradition to see The Nutcracker each year, including my family and my friends’ families,” Coleman said. 

Families gather from all over Spartanburg County to see the dazzling costumes and hear the melodious tunes of The Nutcracker. The lights and backgrounds of the beloved ballet help kick off the holiday season. After over a year of quarantining, many families will enjoy being able to resume the long-time tradition of The Nutcracker.