Rumours have been spreading on social media and online newspapers that the Staatsballett Berlin had suddenly decided to cancel their Christmas Nutcracker show and remove it from their repertoire due to racist elements in the choreography.
The management has now released a statement on the theatre’s official website to respond to these allegations.
Written in the form of an interview, the blog post explains that the decision to replace the Nutcracker with Victor Ullate’s version of Don Quixote was not a sudden decision at all, as it was planned in advance and already included in the season preview released last July.
Management acknowledges that the current version of the Nutcracker, a reconstruction of the original from 1892, does indeed include negative stereotypes (even though they gloss over the case of blackface, only mentioned indirectly) and that these issues were already brought to their attention back in 2015.
It was in fact to address these issues that the Nutcracker performance was put on hiatus, to create an updated version of the choreography that would not simply censor the questionable parts of the story, but reinvent them in a more inclusive way. The Nutcracker, they promise, will be returning onto the stage in one of the upcoming seasons.
This is only the latest of a series of initiatives that have recently been adopted in the ballet world in a quest to tell this traditional Christmas story through a more conscious and modern lens (exemplary are the cases of the Scottish Ballet and the Royal Ballet companies).