Dance Preview: Dance Theatre of Tennessee brings its unapologetically traditional ‘Nutcracker’ to a city near you

dtt-sp“We don’t have the resources to put on a lavish production of The Nutcracker,” says Dance Theatre of Tennessee artistic director Christopher Mohnani. “Opulence cannot be our main focus.”

Mohnani was making no attempt to tamp down expectations for his company’s popular touring production of The Nutcracker, which begins its fourth annual march across Middle Tennessee on Friday, Nov. 22. He knows his production is eye-popping in its own way.

“Our Nutcracker focuses on the beauty of the dance,” he says. “We put our time, energy and resources on the choreography. That’s what ballet is all about.”

In recent years, the prevailing national trend in producing The Nutcracker has been to localize it. Directors have taken Tchaikovsky’s and Petipa’s 1892 Russian ballet and set it in various turn-of-the-20th-century American cities. There have been versions of the ballet set in such locations as Manhattan and San Francisco. Nashville Ballet’s production is set in 1897 Nashville and uses the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition as a backdrop.

Mohnani ignores this popular trend and sets his Nutcracker in its traditional locale of 19th-century St. Petersburg. Nevertheless, Dance Theatre of Tennessee’s Nutcracker does include one major alternation: the production makes use of a narrator.

“The mission of Dance Theatre of Tennessee is to bring ballet to as many people as possible,” says Mohnani. “Having a narrator tell the story in a straightforward way helps make ballet more accessible to people who have perhaps never gone to a dance production before.”

Although Dance Theatre of Tennessee’s Nutcracker prizes the beauty of classical dance above all else, it does include its fair share of visual splendor. There’s a Christmas tree that sprouts like a bean stalk and a mirror that boasts some amazing magical properties.

“Kids will be spellbound by our Nutcracker,” Mohnani says.

This season, Dance Theatre of Tennessee is bringing its Nutcracker to five cities in four Middle Tennessee counties. Young dancers from these communities are getting the chance to perform in the production, and local celebrities will be making guest appearances as Mother Ginger. Dance Theatre of Tennessee is also partnering with local canine agencies to present an adoptable dog onstage during the ballet’s opening act, making this production seem all the more adorable.

Here’s the full touring schedule:


November 22, Friday, 7:00pm, November 23, Saturday, 7:00pm

Springhouse Theater 14119 Old Nashville Hwy. Smyrna, TN 37167


November 29, Friday, 7:00pm, November 30, Saturday, 2:00pm and 7:00pm,

Ensworth HS Auditorium, 7401 Hwy 100, Nashville, TN 37221


December 7, Saturday, 2:00pm, December 7, Saturday, 7:00pm

Clement Auditorium – Austin Peay University, 601 College Street, Clarksville, TN 37044


December 14, Saturday, 7:00pm, December 15, Sunday, 2:00pm

Tucker Theater – MTSU Campus, Murfreesboro TN 37130


December 21, Saturday, 2:00pm

Smithville Performing Arts Center, 712 S. Congress Blvd., Smithville, TN 37166


Dance Theatre of Tennessee presents the Nutcracker at various venues during the holiday season. Tickets are $25 adults and $20 children and are available by clicking here. For more information, call (615) 391-5500.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.