In the world of ballet, The Nutcracker is sort of a gateway drug. Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon danced his first Nutcracker when he was 11, with London’s Royal Ballet. After he moved to the U.S., he danced the Balanchine production with the New York City Ballet.
“If I’m going to approach a classic like The Nutcracker, how can I put my stamp on it?” Wheeldon asked. “You know, why is it worthwhile to look at this?”
The key for him was setting the new production in Chicago — specifically at the famous World’s Fair of 1893, a period that’s actually contemporaneous with the original ballet. Doing research, Wheeldon came across a photograph of a worker’s shack, surrounded by towering buildings under construction.