25th Anniversary of the Yorkville Nutcracker!
Savor the season and spend an enchanted evening in New York City circa 1895 with Dances Patrelle’s holiday classic, The Yorkville Nutcracker, on the occasion of its silver anniversary. The Yorkville Nutcracker has been charming audiences and captivating kids of all ages for 25 years and counting. This delightful production is the brainchild of Founder, Choreographer, and Artistic Director Francis Patrelle, and it is always a local favorite.
This Nutcracker transports the audience for a tour of 1895 New York City, dancing the ballet through landmarks like Gracie Mansion and Central Park. NYC families will love the setting of the production and especially love Mr. Patrelle’s mission: Any child training in ballet can be a part of my company.
Yorkville Nutcracker Production Coordinator Maureen Duke shared that, “As long as you are enrolled in ballet classes, no matter your size, shape, age, level, social class or color, he will find the perfect role for you in his Yorkville Nutcracker. I am very proud to be a part of Mr. Patrelle’s ballet family. It’s a joy to work for him, and help make his vision of community a reality.”
Young dancers from across NYC grace the stage alongside professional ballerinas thanks to the adored choreographer. It is wonderful to see the local students shine on stage and play a special part in this treasured ballet.
As the beloved Yorkville Nutcracker celebrates its 25th anniversary and this community comes together again, we got the inside scoop about this magical Nutcracker from Francis Patrelle himself.
Tell us about how you began your work with Dances Patrelle/The Yorkville Nutcracker. What sparked your vision and how did you bring your unique vision to life?
The director of the Danny Kaye, Joseph Loskiovo took me out to lunch and asked me, because I was doing dramatic work and had done full length ballets, would I consider creating a nutcracker for that theater. I immediately said no because across the park is the Balanchine nutcracker, one of the best in the world. How could anyone want to compete with that? So, he said think it over.
The next week or so the New York Times posted a wonderful photograph of skaters on the pond in Central Park with the brand new Dakota building in the upper left hand corner of the photo. A flash bulb went off in my brain. Ballet Academy East, the school where I was teaching ballet, sat in the middle of Yorkville, Manhattan.
I decided to set the ballet in Yorkville in 1895, where the Babcock Family owned what is now known as the Gracie Mansion, which was a farm and estate at that time. Two years later, I added the character of Theodore Roosevelt, the police commissioner of NYC at that time. And that is how the ballet was conceived and created.
Congratulations on 25 years of the Yorkville Nutcracker. What does this anniversary mean to you and the DP community?
Very few times in my choreographic career have I ever felt satisfied with my finished product but the creative process for the Yorkville Nutcracker, greatly helped by our ballet master Allen Highline, went very quickly. It was just a joy to be in rehearsals. So, that it has lived for 25 years and we are already making plans for the 26th, I feel glorious and humbled at the same time.
What will families enjoy most about watching The Yorkville Nutcracker together?
They will be seeing a very diverse cast representing the world, dancing together, and celebrating their individual cultures together. My hope is that the children can see themselves up on the stage, doing just that: celebrating themselves and each other through dance.
Over the course of 25 years, how has the Yorkville Nutcracker stayed the same and how has it changed?
In my first year at Juilliard, I was picked to dance in a new choreographer’s ballet. I was short and painfully thin at that time and because of that there was some choreography and partnering I could not do but it was not changed for me. I promised myself that I would never choreograph for a dancer steps they could not do. That is a personal rule that I have carried throughout my career.
So, though the outlines of the ballet stay the same, there are steps that are different for different dancers depending on the dancers that perform the roles. The first major change to the concept was the addition of Theodore Roosevelt. Also, depending on the number of dancers we have in a season, the diverts can change in the amount of dancers per section. Sometimes they are solos, duets, trios, etc.
What are your favorite things now and then about The Yorkville Nutcracker?
When we started the first year, my memory is that we had one ballet master. Over the years, it has grown to be seven or eight per season. When you add up the years, that becomes hundreds of ballet masters/mistresses. The hundreds of people that have come together year after year to put together what I consider “Pure Joy” on the stage is such a representation to the dance world.
What is the one thing everyone should know about The Yorkville Nutcracker as it celebrates 25 years?
I hope that on this very special occasion of our 25th anniversary we can all come together again with a tremendous amount of gratitude to the thousands of men and women who have made this all possible throughout the world.
Psst… Check out The Best Holiday Window Displays in NYC 2021!