Atlanta Ballet celebrates special anniversary

Artists of Atlanta Ballet in John McFall’s NutcrackerWhen John McFall joined Atlanta Ballet as only its third artistic director in 1994, one of his first orders of business was to create a new Nutcracker production for the city of Atlanta. This December, Atlanta Ballet will celebrate the 20th anniversary of McFall’s production, which has not only become an Atlanta Ballet staple, but a centerpiece of the city’s holiday festivities.


For more than 35 years prior, Atlanta Ballet had been performing the famed George Balanchine version, making it one of the first in the country to ever present the holiday classic. But despite the long-standing tradition, McFall felt it was important to have a signature production that was reflective of the city’s culture and its people. What he created was a Nutcracker that, in his own words, was “traditional yet new, familiar yet different, classic yet contemporary and above all, magical.”


Every year since then he has added a special touch to the production in an effort to keep it vibrant and fresh, which over the years has included dancing pink pigs (in tribute to the Rich’s Pink Pig, another Atlanta holiday tradition), falling snow, pyro displays, and even actual magic by famed illusionist Drew Thomas, which remains in the production today.


Set in the elaborate Moorish décor of the historic Fox Theatre, this unique production of the beloved Nutcracker tale takes 20 pounds of snow, eight tons of scenery, lighting and props, and a 38-foot-tall Christmas tree to make the magic of Marya’s unbelievable story come to life.


Each year, Atlanta Ballet invites more than 200 Atlanta area school children to perform alongside 23 professional company members and four company apprentices in this holiday spectacular.


“For five decades now, Atlanta Ballet has been presenting Nutcracker, and we’ve become a holiday tradition for many families in Atlanta,” said McFall. “It’s an honor, but also a great responsibility. Each year we want to make sure we preserve the tradition, but also keep the magic and the mystery alive. We are thoughtful about each change we make and confidant that it will ultimately make for a more enchanting experience.”


Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker runs for 19 performances on December 11–27 at the Fox Theatre.


In commemoration of the 20th anniversary, the company will kick-off of the Nutcracker season with a celebratory red carpet opening night, the first in a series of special events to honor McFall and his contributions to the organization before he steps down at the end of the 2015-16 season.


Performance tickets start as low as $25 and are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 855-ATL-TIXX, in person at the Fox Theatre Box Office and the Atlanta Ballet Box Office, or online at


Photo: Artists of Atlanta Ballet in John McFall’s Nutcracker. Photo by Charlie McCullers.