'Tis the Season: Nutcrackers by Women

Samantha Riester as  Snowflake  in Victoria Morgan’s  The Nutcracker.  Courtesy of  Cincinnati Ballet  Photo by   Peter Mueller.

Samantha Riester as Snowflake in Victoria Morgan’s The Nutcracker. Courtesy of Cincinnati Ballet
Photo by Peter Mueller.

By Isabelle Vail

3 December 2018

What does it take for a woman to create a production of The Nutcracker?

The answer is simple: they require the same resources and support that male choreographers receive. Unfortunately, woman-choreographed versions are often regionally-staged, gaining less attention than their male-choreographed counterparts on the NYC/San Francisco stages.

That does not, however, mean these smaller productions are less masterful or noteworthy.


In 2010, Richmond Ballet was host to chief dance critic for the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay. To the delight of the company’s local audience and media, Macaulay praised choreographer and artistic director Stoner Winslett’s production, writing, “This is the 25th “Nutcracker” production I’ve seen this season, and of the 23 I’ve seen for the first time it strikes me as the most perfect. ”

Lauren Archer in Stoner Winslett’s  The Nutcracker . Courtesy of  Richmond Ballet . All Rights Reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.

Lauren Archer in Stoner Winslett’s The Nutcracker. Courtesy of Richmond Ballet. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.

More recently, we see very few regional companies mentioned in the New York Times arts section. A quick glance today, and all of the “Nutcrackers” mentioned are Balanchine’s renowned production for the New York City Ballet.

Ava Chatterson and Dylan Keane Desilva rehearsing Amy Seiwart’s  The Nutcracker . Courtesy of  Sacramento Ballet . Photo by David Desilva.

Ava Chatterson and Dylan Keane Desilva rehearsing Amy Seiwart’s The Nutcracker. Courtesy of Sacramento Ballet. Photo by David Desilva.

Another smaller-budget company, Cincinnati Ballet, was also praised for its woman-choreographed production. During its tour to the Kennedy Center, Victoria Morgan’s production received rave reviews. “The ballet teems with a sense of humor, love, and wonder that pulls the affair together in a harmonious, meaningful way,” writes Sarah Kaufman in a 2016 review for The Washington Post. It is “optimistic” and musical, with “one of the prettiest snow scenes in memory.” Clearly a regional production holds its weight on the big-city stages before big-city audiences.

Other regional productions conceived by woman choreographers include those of Dayton Ballet, choreographed by Karen Russo Burke; Ballet Memphis, choreographed in by Janet Parke, in conjunction with Steven McMahon and Joseph Jefferies; and Los Angeles Ballet, choreographed by Colleen Neary and her partner Thordal Christensen.

2018 welcomes a new production by a woman to the mix: Amy Seiwart’s The Nutcracker. Seiwart’s choreography took inspiration from Marius Petipa’s grand pas de deux and Frederic Franklin, who created the version that Seiwart danced as a young girl. Her twist? Marie (called Clara in many productions), is an independently-thinking girl who makes her own decisions.

As Seiwart and her fellow woman choreographers present their versions this season, DDP hopes to see praise like that of Macaulay and Kaufman’s in major publications, reminding our community that women can create full-length masterpieces, too.

You can purchase tickets to the above productions with the following links:

Sacramento Ballet

Los Angeles Ballet

Ballet Memphis

Dayton Ballet

Cincinnati Ballet

Richmond Ballet