Ballet bosses decide to drop Arabian and Chinese elements in The Nutcracker, as the much-loved Christmas favorite ‘proliferates racist stereotypes’

  • Scottish Ballet will remove ‘elements of caricature’ from The Nutcracker
  • The Land of the Sweets will see some changes to the characters and costumes
  • Character Drosselmeyer will be performed by both males and women for the first-time. He is the magician and toymaker of the 19th century ballet.

After an anti-racism audit, Scottish Ballet bosses have made changes to The Nutcracker. Some scenes were found to have ‘proliferated racist stereotypes’.

The company will take out ‘elements de caricature’ from the Arabian and Chinese sequences of The Nutcracker in an overhaul of a 1972 production.

Scenes in The Land of the Sweets will see changes to characters, costumes, and choreography. The Nutcracker will feature 40 children.

Act 2 of the ballet depicts different nationalities through the “dances of sweets”, including Spanish Chocolate”, Arabian Coffee” and Chinese ’Tea’. 

For the first time, both male and female performers will play Drosselmeyer, an enigmatic toymaker/magician character from the 19th-century ballet.

The Nutcracker opens in Edinburgh, England on December 1, and will tour Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland.

The dance company will remove 'elements of caricature' from Arabian and Chinese sequences in The Nutcracker as part of an overhaul of a production first staged 1972. Pictured: Two dancers perform Coffee, the Arabian dance, under the eyes of two ballerinas wearing white tutus sitting behind them. Italy, 2013

The Nutcracker’s Chinese and Arabian sequences will be removed by the dance company as part of a revamp of a 1972 production. Pictured: Coffee, an Arabian dance performed by two dancers, with two ballerinas behind them in white tutus. Italy, 2013.

Changes to characters, costumes and choreography will be made to scenes in The Land of the Sweets in The Nutcracker. Pictured: Kit Holden and Nathanael Skelton with Laetitia Lo Sardo in the Chinese Dance section of Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of Peter Wright, Lev Ivanov and Vincent Redmon's 'The Nutcracker' at The Birmingham Hippodrome

Scenes in The Land of the Sweets will see changes to the characters, costumes, and choreography. Pictured: Nathanael Skelton and Kit Holden with Laetitia lo Sardo in the Chinese Dance section at Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production Peter Wright, Lev Ivanov, and Vincent Redmon’s “The Nutcracker” at The Birmingham Hippodrome

Official announcement stated that “The Nutcracker” is a timeless holiday story that has delighted audiences all over the world for more than a century.

“To ensure that it remains relevant today as well as in the future, we continue making subtle, but significant, changes to some characters, costumes, and choreography.


Act 2 of The Nutcracker Ballet depicts different nationalities through the “dances of sweets”.

Foreign delicacies were rare, and people didn’t travel nearly as often when the ballet was created.

The sweets are delicacies considered special enough to feature in Clara’s fantasy world.

The costumes of dancers represent sweets that they brought from overseas.

Spanish ‘Chocolate,’ featuring castanets and trumpets, and Arabian Coffee’ where women dance in veils, are two examples of special dances. Chinese ‘Tea,’ which features an exotic Asian flute chorus, is another example.

The ‘Candy Canes Dance’ features Russian dolls following the Mandarin tea dances with a Russin Trepak.

‘The mysterious Drosselmeyer will be played in this tour by both male as well as female dancers.

“And, following ongoing consultation, the Chinese- and Arabian-inspired divertissements at The Land of Sweets have updated their costumes and choreography in order to remove elements of caricature, and better reflect the culture and traditions that inspired them.

Last year, Scottish Ballet admitted that its 50 years of history “includes outdated content and racist artistic content”.

Last year, a Scottish Ballet article stated that classical ballet and elite training have included racism. (The Nutcracker is just one example).

“Through examining our own history and understanding and accepting the ways that Scottish Ballet has been a part of and benefited institutional and systemic racism, I hope to inspire others to do the exact same.

Christopher Hampson, artistic director of The Nutcracker, said that they had the opportunity “to redress some choreography.”

“It was created at one time.” [in 1972]When it was acceptable to imitate cultures, and represent them through imitation rather than deep understanding.

“It’s about representation, knowing that we have done our research and that if representing a culture, it’s authentically done.

“I think the changes in the production will make it richer.

“Audiences may notice a difference in production on nights when Drosselmeyer’s role is played by a woman.

“That change happened after I began to look at the ballet’s heroes.

“There was nothing about the role that made it seem like only a man could perform it.

“I thought it could just about as well be a lady.”

After the firestorm last year, the company had previously promised to increase representation of the Traveller, Romany and Gypsy communities in The Snow Queen.

It has conducted antiracism workshops, conducted surveys of all dancers and staff members.