The Nutcracker has become a treasured holiday classic, but that was not always the case. After the collaboration between Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa which resulted in the creation of The Sleeping Beauty in 1890, the director of Russia's Imperial Theatres commissioned Tchaikovsky to make an evening's entertainment that would include both an opera—which would become Iolanta—and a ballet. Tchaikovsky once more turned to Petipa, who was a dancer, pedagogue, and a choreographer, and who is now considered one of the most influential choreographers in the history of ballet.
Petipa chose for the ballet's source material an adaptation of a story by E.T.A. Hoffman, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The adaptation, written by Alexandre Dumas, was titled The Tale of the Nutcracker. The plot had to be streamlined for the ballet—for example, a lengthy flashback that included a tale-within-a-tale of how the Prince was transformed into the Nutcracker, called The Tale of the Hard Nut, was edited out.
The original production was not a success. Tchaikovsky created a 20-minute suite from the ballet that became very popular, but the ballet did not become the holiday tradition we know until the late 1960s. You can see The Nutcracker onstage at Friends University from December 9th to December 17th; onstage at the McPherson Opera House on December 10th and 11th and at Century II on December 16th and 17th, produced by Ballet Wichita; and The Hip-Hop Nutcracker on December 20th at the Orpheum Theatre.