The Nutcracker is arguably the most American of all classical ballets. True, its roots are European -- based on a story by German author E.T.A. Hoffman that was adapted by French author Alexander Dumas pere and then transposed to ballet by another Frenchman, choreographer Marius Petipa, at helm of the Russian Tsar's ballet company. But it was in America, especially the Balanchine version televised in the mid-1950's that elevated the tale of a young girl's Christmas dream from just another ballet in the regular repertoire to a special Christmas season event.
Every year SoCal boasts a bumper crop of Nutcracker performances and this year is no exception. The best are to be found in the professional productions from Los Angeles Ballet, Inland Pacific Ballet, State Street Ballet and Moscow Ballet and from training companies like Festival Ballet, Pasadena Dance Theatre and Long Beach Ballet, which often augment their casts of pre-professionals with guest artists from professional companies.
And don't overlook several new twists to this classic including L.A. Contemporary Dance Company's witty Urban Nut, the acrobatic spin of the Dalian Acrobatic Troupe's Terracotta Nutcracker and Debbie Allen's Hot Chocolate Nutcracker. With 20 productions throughout December, there's a Nutcracker for everyone.
Sarma Lapenieks Rosenberg, artistic director of Anaheim Ballet, provided the choreography danced by students from the affiliated ballet school. Symphony Irvine contributes live music for this 27th-anniversary production. At City National Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim; Sat., Dec. 21, 2 & 7 p.m., $18-$38, 714-712-2700, www.citynationalgroveofanaheim.com.
California Dance Academy
Students from Chatsworth's California Dance Academy perform at Madrid Theatre, 21622 Sherman Way, Canoga Park; Sat., Dec. 7 & 14, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 8 & 15, 2 p.m. $22, $18 12 & younger, 818-341-0525 or 818-298-4386. www.culturela.org/madridtheatre.
Conejo Civic Ballet Company
Based in Westlake Village, Ballet Arts' training company, Conejo Civic Ballet Company, offers a version choreographed by Maia Tihomirova and Enton Hoxha, both from the Bolshoi Academy. Information at www.balletarts.org. At Fred Kavli Theater, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks; Sun., Dec. 15, 2:30 p.m., $19-$35, 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com www.civicartsplaza.com.
Dalian Acrobatic Troupe
It's acrobatics in pointe shoes and in-line skates as the Dalian Acrobatic Troupe offers Terracotta Nutcracker. The ensemble has worked with choreographer Dennis Nahat, former director of the San Jose Ballet, on other projects, and Nahat is presenting this version. Catch a video preview at www.terracottanutcracker.com. At Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena; Fri., Dec. 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 14, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 15, 2 p.m., $30-$180. 626-449-7360, www.thepasadenacivic.com
Debbie Allen's Hot Chocolate Nutcracker
Fans of Debbie Allen have a chance to see her perform in her version of the holiday classic. Carlos Imperato and Dion Watson also star, backed by dancers from the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. Composing credits go to Mariah Carey, Arturo Sandoval, Chau-Giang Thi Nguyen, James Ingram and Thump, some of whom are scheduled to perform at a special all-star gala performance on Thursday. Info at www.debbieallendanceacademy.com. At UCLA Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive, Wstwd.; Thu., Dec. 12, 8 p.m., $100-$150; Sat., Dec. 14, 1 & 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 15, 2 & 6 p.m., $40-$80, 310-825-4401, www.ticketmaster.com
Festival Ballet Theatre
More than 100 students from Southland Ballet Academy perform in its training company, Festival Ballet Theatre, with guest stars appearing as the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier. Fabrice Calmels from the Joffrey Ballet and Beckanne Sisk from Ballet West open the first weekend; Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky from American Ballet Theatre appear the second week; and ABT's Stella Abrera and Sascha Radetsky lead the final shows. At Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine; Starting Fri. Dec. 13, 7 p.m., Wednesdays-Fridays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6 p.m.; Tues., Dec. 24, 11 a.m. Continues through Dec. 24, $40, $37 seniors, $35 students. 949-854-4646, www.thebarclay.org.
Inland Pacific Ballet
Choreographer Laurence Blake and artistic director Victoria Koenig created Inland Pacific Ballet's version. The company's professional dancers are joined by students from IPB's respected ballet academy for performances at two venues. The opening night in Claremont includes a gala and that weekend's performances have live music from the Pomona College Orchestra. At Bridges Auditorium, 450 N. College Way, Claremont; Starting Dec. 7, Saturdays, 1 & 7 p.m.; Sundays, 1 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15, $19-$117. Also at Lewis Family Playhouse, 12505 Cultural Center Drive, Rancho Cucamonga; Sat., Dec. 21, 1 & 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 22, 1 p.m., $44-$52, $42 senior, $22 youth, www.ipballet.org. , 877-858-8422, www.lewisfamilyplayhouse.com. 909-621-8032
Jayneoni Moore Ballet
Audiences attending performances by Jayneoni Moore Ballet are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy to be donated to children in need. The evening show is preceded by a black-tie reception at 6 p.m. At El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., Dec. 14, 2 & 7 p.m., $25. 818-508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com.
L.A. Contemporary Dance Company Urban Nut is a contemporary riff on the classic Nutcracker that follows a recruited audience member who falls asleep at a performance of The Nutcracker, only to be drawn into a dream. The traditional story takes on modern-day elements, including a colorful cast of L.A. characters and an au courant soundtrack. (Only audience members who submit their name on arrival will be recruited, so the shy need not worry.) At Brockus Project Space at The Brewery, 618B Moulton Ave., dwntwn.; Through Dec. 6, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 7, 8 & 10:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 8, 7 p.m., $15, www.urbannut.brownpapertickets.com. 323-227-0307.
Long Beach Ballet
Over the years, artistic director David Wilcox's version has acquired an array of special effects from three Disney designers, Flying by Foy, pyrotechnician John Bordeaux, magician Franz Harari and even a white Arabian horse. This year's production includes a live orchestra and guest artists Melissa Sandvig (finalist in So You Think You Can Dance!) and Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Seth Orza, who are joined by students from the affiliated ballet school. At Terrace Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; starting Dec. 14, Saturdays, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22, $28-$95, 20% discount for seniors & children under 12, www.ticketmaster.com. 562-436-3636, www.longbeachcc.com.
Los Angeles Ballet
The most polished and professional Nutcracker rightfully belongs to L.A.'s own Los Angeles Ballet. Set in 1912 Los Angeles, this production is an L.A. original, choreographed by company co-artistic directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, with set design by L.A. artist Catherine Kanner. Now in its eighth season, L.A.'s own continues to demonstrate how well it understands this city. With four home theaters throughout metro L.A., LAB brings ballet to the audience rather than expecting folks to overcome hours of gridlocked traffic. The company dancers are a home team to root for, splendid performers who make the challenging choreography look effortless. Plus, since the company performs here throughout the year, the ticket income will be spent onstage here, not taken back to some other city, as occurs with touring productions. (In full disclosure, your scribe continues to volunteer to observe the ballet from an onstage chimney.) After opening this weekend in Glendale, the show moves to Northridge, then UCLA and concludes in Redondo Beach. At Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 8, 2 p.m., $30-$95, $24-$76 seniors, students & children 12 & under, 310-998-7782, www.losangelesballet.org. www.alextheatre.org. Also at Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge; Sat., Dec. 14, 1 & 5 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 15, 1 p.m., $30-$95, $24-$76 seniors, students & children 12 & under, 310-998-7782. Also at UCLA Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive, Westwood; Dec. 21-22, 1 & 5 p.m., $30-$95, $24-$76 seniors, students & children 12 & under, 310-998-7782. Also at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach; Sat., Dec. 28, 1 & 5 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 29, 2 p.m., $30-$95, $24-$76 seniors, students & children 12 & under, 310-998-7782, www.rbpac.com.
Students of Malibu Ballet offer their annual production. At Pepperdine University, Smothers Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; Fri., Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 14, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 15, 2 p.m., $25-$35, $20 17 & younger. 310-506-4522, www.arts.pepperdine.edu/tickets.
Marat Daukayev Ballet Theatre and School
A star of Russia's Kirov Ballet and artistic director of Washington, D.C.'s, Kirov Academy of Ballet, Marat Daukayev choreographed, directs and stars as the mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer in this production danced by students from his ballet academy. At Luckman Fine Arts Complex, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles; Information at www.maratdaukayev.com. Sat., Dec. 7, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 8, 11:30 a.m., $34. 323-343-6600, www.luckmanarts.org.
Moorpark Civic Ballet
Professional dancers and ballet students comprise the 85-member cast in this version. At Janet & Ray Scherr Forum Theatre, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks; Sat., Dec. 21, 1:30 & 6:30 p.m., $25-$30, www.ticketmaster.com. 805-449-2700, www.toaks.org.
For two decades, this Russian company has toured its elaborate Great Russian Nutcracker to approximately 50 cities during November and December. It stops off here for two shows with a cast of 40, including international ballet competition winners. At The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., mid-Wilshire;Sun., Dec. 15, 3 & 7 p.m., $46.35-$276. 213-388-1400, www.livenation.com/venues/14361/the-wiltern.
Pacific Festival Ballet Company
The students of Pacific Festival Ballet Company, the resident ballet company of the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, are joined by New York City Ballet principal dancers Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. This 20th-anniversary production boasts a cast of 200. Among the guest artists, look for the high-flying Kalinin Russian Dance Troupe. Information at www.pacificfestivalballetcompany.com. At Fred Kavli Theater, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks; Dec. 21-22, 2 & 7 p.m., $28-$44, www.Ticketmaster.com. 805-449-2787, www.civicartsplaza.com.
Pasadena Dance Theatre
Company director Cynthia Young choreographed this version for the students of her well-regarded ballet academy. The Christmas Eve show offers refreshments and a chance to meet the heroine, Clara, at a "Nutcracker Party" before the performance ($20 for the party). At San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, 320 Mission Drive, San Gabriel; Sat., Dec. 14 & 21, 2 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 21, 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 15 & 22, 2 p.m., $20-$55,. 626-308-2865, www.missionplayhouse.org.
Red Chair Children's Production
Youngsters from 5 to 18 populate this version. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., Dec. 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 8, 12 & 5 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 14, 2 & 8 p.m., $20-$30. 818-508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com.
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South Bay Ballet
Choreographed by Charles Maple, this version features the talented students from artistic director Diane Lauridsen's ballet academy. Information at www.SouthBayBallet.org. At El Camino College Campus Theater, 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance; Fri., Dec. 20, 7 p.m.; Dec. 21-22, 2 p.m., $30-$50, $20 children 12 & younger. 800-832-2787, www.centerforthearts.org.
State Street Ballet
The company's professional dancers are joined by students from the affiliated ballet school in this version from artistic director Rodney Gustafson. The Opera San Luis Obispo Orchestra provides live music. At the Granada, 1216 State St., Santa Barbara;Sat., Dec. 21, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 22, 2 p.m., $21-$51. 805-899-2222, www.granadasb.org.