"The Nutcracker" might be a family favorite today, but back in the 1890s, the uber-famous ballet was a critical flop.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky premiered his now internationally beloved ballet "The Nutcracker" in 1892. Choreographed by Marius Petipa and his assistant Lev Ivanov, audiences in St. Petersburg, Russia, were not particularly taken with the performance, which was loosely based on the dark E.T.A. Hoffmann story, "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King."
Critics enjoyed the composition, but found the ballet and costumery itself to be lackluster. In reviews, writers singled out the Sugar Plum Fairy, harshly describing the dancer Antonietta Dell'Era as "pudgy." All in all, it was not a success. And Tchaikovsky himself never saw the ballet gain in popularity.
Skip forward a century and a quarter, and "The Nutcracker" is by and large the most beloved ballet of the holiday season. It's performed around the world as a staple of Christmas ritual, thanks almost entirely to a 20th century choreographer by the name of George Balanchine. He first staged the ballet in 1954, two decades after its debut in the United States, and his adaptation became a hit in New York City.
"The first of his five full-length ballets, this was the Nutcracker that launched the hundreds of Nutcracker ballets that now dominate America’s Decembers," Laura Jacobs writes in Vanity Fair.
Henceforth, Clara and Herr Drosselmeyer, the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy -- they became just as important a part of the winter pantheon as Frosty, the Grinch and Rudolph. In celebration of Nutcracker season, we went through the photographic archives to showcase a collection of vintage ballet snapshots. Behold, a visual history of "The Nutcracker" in 100 photos:
A version of this post originally appeared on this site last year.