This week's dance highlights include a quintet of L.A. dance companies coming to the Music Center on Christmas Eve.
5. Dance and Free Parking
While emigre snow bunnies may bemoan the absence of a white Christmas, Laura Karlin's Invertigo Dance celebrates SoCal's invariably warm sunny winter with Christmas light-bedecked dancers, one of five L.A. dance companies in the spotlight at this year's Music Center Holiday Celebration. Adriana Gainey's Pacifico Dance Company contributes Mexican folkloric dance from the Mexican region of La Costa Chica, while Viji Prakash and her Shakti Dance Company bring bharata natyam, the percussive classical dance from Southern India, and Shin Yue Wang's Shin Dance Company offers a Korean drum dance from the border area between China and North Korea. Taking time from their five weeks of performances, dancers from Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary's Los Angeles Ballet provide a sample of the full length Nutcracker with the Waltz of the Flowers. The dance troupes are joined in the three-hour show by top-notch L.A.-based music and choral groups. Admission and parking are free. No tickets or reservations needed. Can't get downtown? Listen on KPFK-FM, watch the live broadcast on KCET-TV (repeated at 8 p.m. and again Dec. 25 at noon), or streaming on kcet.org. This broadcast used to be about the only time local arts groups appeared on KCET, but the station deserves kudos since its break with PBS for stepping up its coverage of local arts, especially dance. For a complete line up go to HolidayCelebration.org. For the real thing, go to the Music Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Mon., Dec. 24, 3 p.m.; free. (213) 972-3099 ormusiccenter.org.
4. Snow Queens Reunite
For 15 years, Aerin Holt and her California Contemporary Ballet have offered The Snow Queen as a seasonal event. Based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, the show is filled with classical and contemporary ballet, aerial arts and gymnastics. This anniversary performance is also something of a reunion with dancers from the prior 15 years returning to celebrate with this year's cast at Glendale Community College, 1500 N. Verdugo, Glendale; Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 22-23, 2 p.m. $30, $25 students, brownpapertickets.com/event/208440. (818) 240-1000, glendale.edu.
3. Tchaikovsky Meets Duke Wellington
Artistic director Robyn Gardenhire sets the City Ballet of L.A. Nutcracker in World War II L.A. not far from this Hancock Park venue and draws on both the familiar Tchaikovsky score and Duke Ellington's jazz version. On Friday, the top ticket price includes a pre-performance cocktail reception. Fri., Dec. 21, 8 p.m.; Sat. Dec. 22, 1 p.m. $25-$50, $100 Friday only; $10 age 3 and under. Wilshire Ebell, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd., (323) 292-1932, cityballetofla.org or email cblatickets@CityBalletofLA.org.
2. Los Angeles Ballet's Nutrcracker Meets Valley Girl
The most polished and professional of this season's productions of the Nutcracker, the Los Angeles Ballet offers its Nutcracker at the fourth of five venues throughout metropolitan L.A. The sell-out success of last spring's Swan Lake at new venues in Northridge and Long Beach led those theaters to join the existing venues in West L.A., Glendale and Redondo Beach for a total of five LAB home theaters, an expansion that continues the commitment of LAB artistic directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary to bring great ballet to greater Los Angeles. Choreographed by Christensen and Neary, this full length Nutcracker is set in 1912 Los Angeles and was the calling card when LAB made its debut seven years ago. Over the intervening years, the production has been polished to a bright patina and the dancing talent deepened as LAB continues to prove itself to be the top-drawer professional resident ballet company which has eluded this city. In full disclosure, your scribe continues to volunteer to observe the ballet from a chimney onstage. The Nutcracker also opens LAB's 2012-2013 season, which includes a festival of choreography by George Balanchine next spring and early summer. Very appropriate, since it was the televised production of Balanchine's version in the 1950s that introduced America to the ballet and elevated the Nutcracker ballet into a seasonal must-see. Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge; Sat., Dec. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 2 p.m., $21-$95, (310) 998-7782, www.losangelesballet.org or (310) 998-7782.
1. 'Tis Nutcracker Season!
Los Angeles Ballet may well be the first choice of the season's Nutcrackers. Still, here are some other worthy productions of the Nutcracker that may be geographically closer. In Orange County, Festival Ballet's Nutcracker has more than 100 students from Southland Ballet Academy performing with professional guest stars from American Ballet Theater at Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine; Fri., 7 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 24, 11 a.m. $40, $37 seniors, $35 students., 949-854-4646, thebarclay.org. Out in Claremont, Inland Pacific Ballet's Nutcracker also has students joined by professional dancers at Bridges Auditorium, 450 N. College Way, Claremont; Sat., Dec. 22, 1 & 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 1 p.m. $36-$50, $32-$38, seniors, $18-21 children., 909-621-8032. In Long Beach, Long Beach Ballet celebrates the 30th anniversary of David Wilcox' Nutcracker known for its special effects, live orchestra and guest artists Melissa Sandvig (finalist in So You Think You Can Dance! and Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Seth Orza at Terrace Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd.; Saturdays, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. thru Dec. 23, $28-$95, 20% discount for seniors & children under 12. longbeachcc.com. In San Gabriel Valley the Pasadena Dance Theatre's Christmas eve show offers refreshments and a chance to meet Clara and the Sugarplum Fairy at a Nutcracker Party before the performance ($15 for the party). San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, 320 Mission, San Gabriel ; Sat. Dec. 22, Sun., Dec. 23, 2 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 24, 1 p.m. $20-$55, pasadenadance.secure.force.com. 626-308-2865, missionplayhouse.org.