The Royal Ballet has changed the ‘harem scene’ in The Nutcracker for the Christmas show to ‘make an inclusive environment for performers and audiences’. 

The scene was re-imagined as a duet, instead of the usual three females and one male, over fears it was ‘offensive’ amid Redesign of a 1972 original production.  

The change comes after Scottish Ballet bosses decided earlier this month to remove ‘elements of caricature’ from Arabian and Chinese sequences after a review found the scenes some scenes ‘proliferated racial stereotypes’.

Changes to the Sir Peter Wright’s Royal Ballet production were written by senior ballet master and principal character artist Gary Avis, The Telegraph reported.

Tuesday night’s performance of The Nutcracker, the production’s first, saw only Melissa Hamilton and Lukas B Brændsrød perform the Arabian Dance. 

The Royal Ballet has changed the 'harem scene' in The Nutcracker (pictured) for this year's Christmas show to 'make an inclusive environment for performers and audiences'

The Royal Ballet modified the “harem scene” in The Nutcracker to create an inclusive space for audiences and performers for this Christmas.

Tuesday night's performance of The Nutcracker, the production's first, saw only two dancers perform the Arabian Dance after it was changed over fears it was 'offensive'

Tuesday night’s performance of The Nutcracker, the production’s first, saw only two dancers perform the Arabian Dance after it was changed over fears it was ‘offensive’

According to the Royal Ballet spokesperson, “The Royal Ballet constantly examines the classical repertory in order to make sure these works are as fresh and inclusive to as possible for a wide audience.”

The Nutcracker, one of ballet’s most famous pieces, is an excellent introduction for those new to the art form.

Director of The Royal Ballet Kevin O’Hare is determined to make sure that production elements fit within classical ballet’s context. 

The Royal Ballet is committed to creating an inclusive environment that supports performers and viewers through a constant dialogue with its members as well as visiting guests.

In November earlier, the company’s dance troupe announced that it would be making changes The Land of the Sweets, which features a cast of 40 kids, will have costumes and choreography that would allow for characters to be created. 

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 men and women will play Drosselmeyer the mysterious toymaker/magician character from the 19th century ballet.

A public announcement was made earlier in the month that stated: “The Nutcracker” is an timeless holiday story that delights audiences all over the globe for more than a century.

“To make sure it is relevant for today and the future, we keep making subtle but significant changes to certain characters, costumes, and choreography.

“The mysterious Drosselmeyer will be performed by male and female dancers on this tour.

“And, after ongoing consulting, The Land of Sweets’ Chinese and Arabian-inspired diverstissements will have updated choreography and costumes in order to remove caricature elements and better portray the culture, traditions, and cultures that have inspired them.

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 scenes will be removed by the dance company as part of their overhaul. The production was first presented in 1972. Pictured: Coffee is an Arabian dance that two performers perform under the watchful eyes of two ballerinas in white tutus. Italy, 2013


The Nutcracker Ballet’s Act 2 depicts different nationalities through the “dances with the sweets”.

It was rare to find foreign delicacies, and the people who traveled were not as ardent when the ballet was first created.

Clara is a fantasy character who dances with sweets.

The costumes of dancers depict the sweets that they brought from abroad.

Spanish Chocolate, with its lively trumpets, castanets, and Spanish Chocolate, is one of the special dances. Arabian Coffee, in which women wear veils, and Chinese Tea, features an exotic Asian flute chorus.

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

Scottish Ballet last year admitted that 50 years of its history included ‘old and racist artistic material’.

A Scottish Ballet article last year said: “Classical ballet has included racism and access to elite instruction. Proliferating racist stereotypes. (The Nutcracker, Petrushka are two examples).

We hope that others will do the same by looking at our past and learning to accept the many ways that Scottish Ballet has been a beneficiary of systemic and institutional racism.

Christopher Hampson is the artistic director. He stated that they have been able “to redress some aspects of choreography in The Nutcracker.”

It was made at a particular time [in 1972]When it was okay to copy cultures and present them through imitation, rather than deep understanding.

“It’s about representation. We must do our homework and ensure that we represent a culture.

“I believe the changes will make production richer.

“Audiences may notice a greater difference in productions when Drosselmeyer’s role is performed by a woman.

This change happened after I began to examine who the ballet’s greatest heroes were. It was not the part that I thought could be done by only men. The role could be performed by a woman.

Following last year’s fire, the company had pledged that it would ensure better representation of The Snow Queen’s Gypsy and Romany communities.

It conducted a survey of all dancers, board members and staff on anti-racism and hosted anti-racism workshops.