According to certain parts of the more conservative UK media, the Royal Ballet has “gone woke” after deciding to change the ‘harem scene’ in its Christmas production of The Nutcracker to 'make an inclusive environment for performers and audiences'.
According to the Daily Mail – whose headline was ‘Royal Ballet goes woke’ – the scene was re-imagined as a duet, instead of the usual three females and one male, over fears it was 'offensive' amid an overhaul of a production first staged in 1984.
The paper added: ”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”.
A Royal Ballet spokesman said: “The Royal Ballet regularly looks at the classic repertory to ensure these works remain fresh and as inclusive as possible to a broad audience.
"The Nutcracker is one of the most well-known ballets and is the perfect introduction for new audiences into this artform. Kevin O'Hare, director of The Royal Ballet, is keen to ensure that the production elements are appropriate within the context of classical ballet.
“In an ongoing process of discussion with company members and visiting guests, The Royal Ballet strives each season to make an inclusive environment for its performers and audiences,” it added.
This comes after the announcement in November that the Scottish Ballet announced changes to characters, costumes and choreography would be made to scenes in 'The Land of Sweets' in The Nutcracker. The company’s official announcement said: ”Following ongoing consultancy, the Chinese and Arabian-inspired divertissements in 'The Land of Sweets' will have updated costumes and choreography to remove elements of caricature and better represent the culture and traditions which have inspired them.”
On Scottish Ballet’s website, Artistic Director Christopher Hampson said: 'We have had the opportunity to redress some of the choreography in The Nutcracker. It was created at a time [in 1972] when it was acceptable to imitate cultures and represent them though imitation rather than deep knowledge.
“It's really about representation, knowing we have done our due diligence and that if we're representing a culture, then we're doing it authentically. I think the changes will make the production richer.”