For most of us, shopping this Christmas will be the only time we hear the twinkling celesta from the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. But for lovers of ballet, Tchaikovsky’s enchanting music is just one aspect of The Nutcrackerthat is celebrated on an annual basis.

The Nutcrackerhas become a perennial favourite with ballet audiences; a tradition respected and honoured year after year. But how did a ballet from the 19th century, initially...

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