Ballet is an art form born out of the expressionism and creativity of the Renaissance period (Kraus 63). From the first ballet performed in 1580 to the present, women have been portrayed as fragile and dependent on men. One such ballet is The Nutcracker in which the girl-heroine Clara relies on the Nutcracker to save her from the evil Mouse King.
The first production of The Nutcracker was performed for critics, public figures, and members of high society and received lack luster reviews on December 17, 1892 (Anderson 40-52). The story opens in the parlor of a middle-class German family, the Stahlbaums, during a party on Christmas Eve. Excitement fills the air in anticipation of the night's festivities. The Stahlbaum children, shy Clara and her brother Fritz, are caught in the enchantment of the evening. Guests arrive and presents are exchanged; all this is a typical Christmas scene, until the magic begins. Drosselmeyer, Clara's godfather, arrives late with his nephew, a boy near Clara's age, and a nutcracker for Clara. Clara very much likes Drosselmeyer's charming and courteous nephew and is also fond of her strange new toy. With the last dance, the party is brought to an end.
Clara, unable to sleep, creeps downstairs for one last look at her nutcracker. She falls asleep on the sofa holding the nutcracker in her arms. Clara is awakened to the peculiar sounds of scurrying and rustling. The Christmas tree lights have turned on again, as it grows bigger and bigger. All of the toys, including Clara's nutcracker, have come to life. Suddenly mice invade the room with intentions to rob and plunder. Under the leadership of the fearsome Mouse King, the mice begin to attack the dolls. The dolls retaliate under the leadership of the Nutcracker, but are unable to fight off their enemy. The Nutcracker, left unharmed, engages in a duel with the Mouse King. He appears to be losing when Clara throws her slipper at the Mouse King. This distracts the Mouse King enabling the Nutcracker to deal a final blow to the Mouse King. The mice scatter, and the toys are saved. The Nutcracker thanks Clara and is transformed into Drosselmeyer's nephew. He takes Clara to the palace in the Land of Sweets ruled by the Sugarplum Fairy. Young Drosselmeyer impresses the Sugarplum Fairy with his tale of the night's adventure. As a reward, she promises the children great entertainment. Performing for them are dancers representing tea, coffer, hot chocolate, and candy canes. A flower garden also waltzes for the children, and the most impressive dance is that for the Sugarplum fairy and her Prince. When the party comes to an end, Clara is whisked back home (Anderson 9-13).
There are various ways in which The Nutcracker displays what is believed to be a woman's place in society. Through the children's actions, one is able to see a clear distinction between male and female gender rolls. Clara is a sweet and innocent girl, and...