A Visual History Of 'The Nutcracker' In 100 Photos

'Tis the season.
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"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.

1892 ballet "The Nutcracker" (Wikipedia)

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:

1900s
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A photo of the National Ballet production of "The Nutcracker" in the early 1900s.
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A photo of the National Ballet production of "The Nutcracker" in the early 1900s.
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A photo of the National Ballet production of "The Nutcracker" in the early 1900s.
1930s
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Marcia Haydee and Egon Madsen in the "The Nutcracker" in 1937.
1940s
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Dancers Sonia Woicikowska and Arnold Picon in an ad for "The Nutcracker" at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1943.
1950s
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British ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn in Milan for a production of "The Nutcracker" at La Scala in 1957.
1960s
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Twelve-year-old "Nutcracker" performer Suzanne Cullingford keeps one hand on her ballet slippers during a nap at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 1961.
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Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev dances with Rosella Hightower during a dress rehearsal at the B.B.C. television studios in London in 1962.
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Heater Moore goes through a dance routine as Clara in "The Nutcracker" in 1962.
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Pictures of costume designs for the opening of "The Nutcracker" at the O'Keefe Centre in Toronto in 1964.
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Charlie Putman and Jiji Jahrig appear as the Snow King and Snow Queen in "The Nutcracker Ballet" in 1966.
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A real-life Nutcracker Prince (Jeremy Blanton) and his Snow Queen (Veronica Tennant) give the Christmas season a fairytale flourishas they sign autographs for youngsters in the opening day audience at O'Keefe Centre after National Ballet's annual Christmas presentation of "The Nutcracker" in 1967.
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Dancers Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell of the Royal Ballet perform in "The Nutcracker" in 1968.
1970s
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Dancer Richard Denny displays the "up-up-and-away" style needed to dance the lead role of the Snow Prince in the Colorado Concert Ballet's "The Nutcracker" in 1970.
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Ekaterina Maximova, Vladimir Levashov and Vladimir Vasiliev (Bolshoi Theatre Artistic Director in 1990s) in the Bolshoi Ballet production of "The Nutcracker" in 1970.
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A ballerina dressed as doll in a "Nutcracker" production in 1971.
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Hockey player Jacques Plantemade made a guest appearance as a stretcher bearer in the National Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" in 1971.
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Nadia Potts, dancer in "The Nutcracker" at the O'Keefe Centre, with sugar plums, in 1972.
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Dancers in the National Ballet's cast for the traditional Christmas performances of "The Nutcracker" at the O'Keefe Centre in 1973.
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The National Ballet of Canada's "The Nutcracker" in 1975.
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"The Nutcracker" performed by Canada's National Ballet.
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Russian-born American dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov (as the Nutcracker Prince) fights the Mouse King during a performance of the American Ballet Theatre's production of Baryshnikov's version of "The Nutcracker" in 1977.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov is seen in the title role in the ballet "The Nutcracker," during dress rehearsals in New York in 1977.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov, right, and Marianna Tcherkassky are shown during dress rehearsal for the American Ballet Theatre's "The Nutcracker," in New York, May 17, 1977.
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Rudolf Nureyev, right, dances with Rhodesian born prima ballerina, Merle Park, during a dress rehearsal at West Berlin's Opera in 1979.
1980s
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Russian-born French dancer Rudolf Nureyev and American ballerina Eva Evdokimova perform in Nureyev's version of "The Nutcracker" with the Berlin Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, New York, New York, in 1980.
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The National Ballet performs "The Nutcracker" in 1980.
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Russian-born French dancer Rudolf Nureyev and American ballerina Eva Evdokimova rehearse Nureyev's version of "The Nutcracker" in 1980.
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National Ballet company dancers in their Nutcracker Suite costumes in 1981.
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In 1981, stagehand Ray McLaughlin swept artificial snow from the stage of Boston's Metropolitan Center for the Performing Arts during dress rehearsal for "The Nutcracker." Elaine Bauer, who danced the role of the Snow Queen, watched while Donn Edwards, who had the role of the Snow King, conversed with Violette Verdy, co-artistic director of the ballet.
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Sugar Plum Fairy dances in "The Nutcracker" in Toronto in 1981.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Young ballerinas show a marked contrast in concern over their auditions at the Boston Ballet School in 1982.
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Russian-born French dancer Rudolf Nureyev dances with unidentified cast members in Frank Ohman's New York Dance Theatre production of "The Nutcracker" in New York, New York, in 1982.
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Russian-born French dancer Rudolf Nureyev dances with an unidentified cast members in Frank Ohman's New York Dance Theatre production of "The Nutcracker" in New York, New York, in 1982.
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Russian-born French dancer Rudolf Nureyev dances with an unidentified cast member in Frank Ohman's New York Dance Theatre production of "The Nutcracker" in New York, New York, 1982.
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An unidentified male dancer performs in Frank Ohman's New York Dance Theatre production of "The Nutcracker" in New York, New York, in 1982.
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After his final performance with the New York City Ballet, Danish dancer Peter Martins (right) is greeted by American choreographer Jerome Robbins (1918 - 1998). Martins had just performed the role of the Prince in "The Nutcracker" in 1983.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
New York's mayor Ed Koch, second from right, joins the case of "The Nutcracker" backstage in New York on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 1983. Performers from left are: Jerome Robbins, Suzanne Farrell, and Peter Martins. Choreographer Jerome Robbins, left, is playing the part of Drosselmeyer in "The Nutcracker."
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In 1985, Boston Ballet performs the Nutcracker at the Wang Center. Photo was taken with 180 mm telephoto lens straight down the ceiling. The black area in middle is the "Snowmaker'" which hangs above the dancers.
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The Maryland Ballet performance of "The Nutcracker" with Sylvestor Campbell and Camille Izard dancing in Baltimore, Maryland, 1986.
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American dancer Mary Barton (as Clara) and New Zealander Alexander Grant (as Dr Drosselmeyer) perform during Act I of the Joffrey Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" at City Center, New York, New York, December 30, 1987.
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New Zealand-born dancer Alexander Grant performs in the Joffrey Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" in 1987.
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Members of the Joffrey Ballet perform in the company's production of "The Nutcracker" in 1987.
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Karen Kain makes a welcome return in the role of Snow Queen or Sugar Plum Fairy in the National Ballet of Canada's production of "The Nutcracker" in 1989.
1990s
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Igor Vassin and Inessa Pakri perform at the Brown Palace in "The Nutcracker" in 1992.
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Chelsea Clinton, center, takes part in a dress rehearsal of the Washington Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" at the Warner Theatre in Washington, Dec. 8, 1993. Chelsea portrays the Favorite Aunt in the production which starts on December 10.
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A man and woman performing "The Nutcracker" at the Baltimore School for the Arts, Baltimore, Maryland, November 22, 1994.
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The Boston Ballet's "Nutcracker" performs at the Wang Center. In a scene from Act 1, Scene 3, The Snow Queen and King as performed by Adriana Suarez and Paul Thrussell in 1995.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dancers of the Boston Ballet wait for the curtain to go up as they sit in an artificial fog bank moments before the second act of a dress rehearsal of the company's production of "The Nutcracker" at the Wang Center in Boston Friday, Nov. 29, 1996.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Chelsea Clinton, front, performs Thursday, December 5, 1996 during the dress rehearsal of the Washington Ballet's version of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" at George Mason University's Center for the Arts in Fairfax, VA.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Boston Ballet dancers, including Kimberly Ulmer, 12, center, of Cohasset, Mass., and Melisa Medeiros, 16, of Wrentham, Mass., prepair backstage at the Wang Center in Boston for their roles as reindeer moments before a dress rehearsal Friday, Nov. 28, 1997, in the production of "The Nutcracker."
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At right, kneeling with red coat is the Nutcracker played by, Preston W. Dugger III, age 17, from Suitland High School, and to his left is Clara, played by Megan Minich, age 13, from Our Lady of Mercy School, in 1997.
2000s
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Tony Collins, aka Mother Ginger, in the Boston Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker'' in 2000.
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Francis Patrelle's ''The Yorkville Nutcracker'' on Friday, December 13, 2002 at Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.
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Francis Patrelle's ''The Yorkville Nutcracker'' on Friday, December 13, 2002 at Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.
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Francis Patrelle's ''The Yorkville Nutcracker'' on Friday, December 13, 2002 at Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.
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Nutcraker Prince (Joshua Starr) and Clara (Mariana Olaizola) during final dress rehearsal of the Washington Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" at the Warner theatre in 2004.
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During a dress rehearsal of the Boston Ballet's "The Nutcracker" on Wednesday night at the Colonial Theater, dancer Jared Redick in the role of Harlequin makes a jump-split in 2004.
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The Australian Ballet performance of "The Nutcracker" at the Broken Hill Entertainment Centre in 2004.
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Students from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of American Ballet Theatre perform "The Land of Snow" from "The Nutcracker" in 2005.
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Dancers from the Royal Ballet perform a dress rehearsal of "The Nutcracker" in 2005.
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The English National Ballet perform "The Nutcracker" at the London Coliseum in 2005.
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Members of the Corps de Ballet of the Royal Ballet dance as snowflakes in "The Land of the Snow" scene in 2005.
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Clara, played by Iohna Loots, and Hans-Peter, portraied by Ricardo Cervera, and members of the Corps de Ballet of the Royal Ballet who dance as snowflakes, perform during a final dress rehearsal of "The Land of the Snow" in 2005.
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Glenn and Janet Davis are the principle dancers in "he Nutcracker" ballet in 2006.
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Dancers from St. Petersburg's Children Ballet perform during a press rehearsal at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan in 2006.
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Peformance photos of Universal Ballet of Korea in "The Nutcracker" at Shrine Auditorium in 2006.
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Members of the New York Ballet and School of American Ballet perform an excerpt from "The Nutcracker" in 2006.
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Paloma Herrera performing with the Los Angeles Ballet in "The Nutcracker" at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills in 2006.
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Moscow Classic Ballet dancers perform during a rehearsal of "The Nutcracker Suite" in Madrid in 2006.
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Pictured from left to right, Kyra Gordon, Tori-Simone Wilds, Asia Nicholson, Kaylah Simmons and Kylah Simmons during the clown dance in dress rehearsal for Septime Webre's "The Nutcracker" in Washington, D.C., in 2007.
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Dress rehearsal of "The Nutcracker" by the Madrid Theater in 2007.
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Boston Ballet soloist Heather Myers, top, dances in the role of "Dew Drop" during a rehearsal of the second act of the company's production of "The Nutcracker" in 2007.
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Alexandra Ansanelli, who plays the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Valeri Hristov of Bulgaria perform during a dress rehearsal for "The Nutcracker" in 2007.
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Kerry Biggin (who plays Clara) with the Nutcracker doll during a performance of Matthew Bourne's "Nutcracker" in London in 2007.
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Iohna Loots and Ricardo Cervera perform during a dress rehearsal for "The Nutcracker" ballet at the Royal Opera House in London in 2007.
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New York born ballerina Alexandra Ansanelli performs as The Sugar Plum Fairy in "The Nutcracker" during a preview at The Royal Opera House in 2007.
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The Ballet at The Opera In Paris performs "The Nutcracker" in 2008.
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The David Taylor Dance Theatre performs "The Nutcracker" at the Lakewood Cultural Center in 2008 in Denver, Colorado.
2010s
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James Whiteside in the role of "The Nutcracker" during the Boston Ballet's production at the Boston Opera House in 2010.
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Snow King Jonathan Jordan and Snow Queen Maki Onuki perform during "The Snow Scene" with the Washington Ballet in 2010.
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Snowflakes and crystals dance in the snow scene during a production of "The Nutcracker" by the Colorado Ballet in 2010.
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Asuka Sasaki prepares for her role as Clara before a production of "The Nutcracker" by the Colorado Ballet in 2010.
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Snowflake Sonya Davenport waits off stage during a production of "The Nutcracker" by the Colorado Ballet in 2010.
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Dancers rehearse their moves in "The Waltz of the Snowflakes" at Merrill Auditorium in 2011.
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Dancers of the English National Ballet perform "The Nutcracker" at the Coliseum in 2011.
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Dancers of the English National Ballet wait in the wings during a performance of "The Nutcracker" at the Coliseum in 2011.
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"The Nutcracker" performed by the Los Angeles Ballet at The Alex Theatre in Glendale in 2011.
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Liudmila Konovalova and Vladimir Shishov perform during the dress rehearsal of "The Nutcracker" at the Wiener Staatsoper in 2012 in Vienna.
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The Boston Ballet's opening night performance of the world premiere of Mikko Nissinen's "The Nutcracker" at Boston Opera House in 2012.
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Liudmila Konovalova, Vladimir Shishov and members of the ensemble perform during the dress rehearsal of "The Nutcracker" at the Wiener Staatsoper state opera in Vienna in 2012.
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Young dancers of the Vienna State Opera's ballet company perform during the dress rehearsal of "The Nutcracker" in 2012.
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The Boston Ballet's opening night performance of the world premiere of Mikko Nissinen's "The Nutcracker" in 2012.
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Nevada Ballet Theater actors perform the premiere of "The Nutcracker" at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas in 2012.
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Members of the Moscow Ballet perform "The Waltz of the Snowflakes" on stage during the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City in 2013.
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Paulo Arrais performs as the Nutcracker Prince during Boston Ballet's dress rehearsal for "The Nutcracker" in 2014.
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Hungarian National Ballet dancers perform "The Nutcracker" at the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest in 2015.
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Hungarian National Ballet dancers perform "The Nutcracker" at the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest in 2015.
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Ballet dancers as snow maidens warm up between acts during a performance of "The Nutcracker" by Northern Ballet at the Grand Theatre in Leeds, England, in 2015.

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