Scottish Ballet to make 'important' changes to The Nutcracker after anti-racism review

Scotland’s national dance company is to make key changes to its coming festive show in the wake of an anti-racism and diversity review of its work.

Scottish Ballet will be launching its new production of The Nutcracker next month. Picture: Nicola Selby

Scottish Ballet will be removing “elements of caricature” from Arabian and Chinese sequences in The Nutcracker as part of an overhaul of a production first staged 1972.

Scenes in The Land of the Sweets will be overhauled after it cited The Nutcracker as an example of a ballet with “proliferating racial stereotypes”.

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Scottish Ballet also admitted that, after an examination of its archives, its 50-year history “includes outdated and racist artistic content”.

The Nutracker is one of Scottish Ballet's most popular productions. Picture: Andy Ross

Changes to characters, costumes and choreography will be made to "remove elements of caricature" from key scenes in The Land of the Sweets in The Nutcracker, which will feature a cast of 40 children drawn from across Scotland.

The key character of Drosselmeyer, the magician and toymaker in the 19th-century ballet, will also be played by both male and female performers for the first time in the company's history.

The changes to the show, which will be touring Scotland, England and Northern Ireland, have been announced after Scottish Ballet previously committed to “drive anti-racism in ballet” in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The company, which has set up an equality and diversity steering group, has previously pledged to ensure better representation of the Gypsy, Romany and Traveller communities in The Snow Queen after reviewing previous depictions.

A previous Scottish Ballet production of The Nutcracker. Picture: Andy Ross

It has surveyed all of its staff, dancers and board members on anti-racism issues and also held anti-racism workshops.

An article published on Scottish Ballet's website last year stated: “Through scrutinising our own history, understanding and accepting the ways in which Scottish Ballet has been part of and benefited from institutional and systemic racism, we hope to encourage others to do the same.”

An official announcement about The Nutcracker, which opens in Edinburgh on December 1, states: “The Nutcracker is a timeless festive story that has delighted audiences around the world for over a century.

“To ensure it remains relevant today and for the future, we continue to make subtle, but important changes to some of the characters, costumes and choreography.

"The enigmatic Drosselmeyer will, in this tour, be played by both male and female dancers.

“And, following ongoing consultancy, the Chinese and Arabian-inspired divertissements in The Land of Sweets will have updated costumes and choreography to remove elements of caricature and better represent the culture and traditions which have inspired them.”

Artistic director Christopher Hampson said: “We have had the opportunity to redress some of the choreography in The Nutcracker.

“It was created at a time [in 1972] when it was acceptable to imitate cultures and represent them though imitation rather than deep knowledge.

"It’s really about representation, knowing we have done our due diligence and that if we’re representing a culture, then we’re doing it authentically. I think the changes will make the production richer.

“Audiences are perhaps more likely to notice a difference in the production on the nights when Drosselmeyer is played by a woman.

"That change has come about after I started to look at who our heroes are in ballets. There was nothing in the role that made me think it only a man could deliver it. I thought it could just as well be a woman.”

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