This week's shows include John Pennington's latest and a Shakespeare rock concert, plus three noteworthy Nutcrackers
5. Life after Lewitzky
Considered L.A.'s patron saint of dance, legendary choreographer and teacher Lester Horton launched dancers like Alvin Ailey and Bella Lewitzky, who went on to lead their own companies as choreographers and teachers. While Ailey decamped for New York, Lewitzky remained in L.A. The local dance landscape is populated with former Lewitzky dancers like John Pennington, who segued from Lewitzky star dancer to lead his own Pennington Dance Group. This program reflects Pennington's multifaceted fascinations under the banner Traversing Time/s. He takes aim at a variety of new media and do-it-yourself web therapy in his newest, Podcast, set to Tom Peters' original music. He looks back with Dances Before God, a reconstruction of German expressionist choreographer Harald Kreutzberg's 1927 triptych of solos set to the Horton award-winning score by Paul Des Marais. Created last year as a joint project with Yorke Dance Project, the high-energy Overlay has been pared down to five Pennington dancers while The Goodman Dances considers love's trials and tribulations as captured in Alexander Zemlinsky's 19th-century lieder. Pennington is a stellar representative of the Horton/Lewitzky dance legacy who also has established his own, distinctive choreographic credentials. At ARC Pasadena, 1158 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., Dec. 14-15, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 16, 3 p.m.; $22. (626) 204-0331, penningtondancegroup.org, arcpasadena.org.
4. Shakespeare rock festival
Shakespearean shenanigans of mortals and wood sprites are transported to a rock festival in A Little Midsummer Night's Dream thanks to director-choreographer Janet Roston and songwriters Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda of GrooveLily. At Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood; Fri., Dec. 14, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 16, 8 p.m. $10. brownpapertickets.com/event/290087.
3. Los Angeles Ballet's The Nutcracker at UCLA
The most polished and professional of this season's productions of the Nutcracker, the Los Angeles Ballet's version is offered at UCLA's Royce Hall. LAB's 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 Nutcracker in the 1950s that introduced America to the ballet and elevated the ballet into a seasonal must-see. At UCLA Royce Hall, 340 Royce Dr., Wstwd.; Dec. 15-16, 1 & 5 p.m., $21-$95, (310) 998-7782, www.losangelesballet.org.
2. A Nutcracker in San Gabriel
Choreographed by company director Cynthia Young, the Pasadena Dance Theatre's Nutcracker includes a Christmas Eve show that offers refreshments and a chance to meet Clara and the Sugarplum Fairy at a Nutcracker Party before the performance ($15 for the party). At the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, 320 S. Mission Drive, San Gabriel; Sat., Dec. 15 & 22, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 16 & 23, 2 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 24, 1 p.m. $20-$55. (626) 308-2865, missionplayhouse.org.
1. Special effects Nutcracker in Long Beach
In its 30 years, the Long Beach Ballet production of The Nutcracker 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 it includes a live orchestra and guest artists Melissa Sandvig (So You Think You Can Dance! finalist) and Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Seth Orza at the Terrace Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Sat., Dec. 15 & 22, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 16 & 23, 2 p.m. $28-$95, 20% discount for seniors & children under 12. (562) 436-3636, longbeachcc.com.