The Search for America’s Favorite Nutcracker is On

San Francisco Ballet dancers bloom in Waltz of the Flowers. Photo by Erik Tomasson courtesy of KQED.

It’s that time of year: Halls are decked, cider is spiced, gifts—if you don’t shop last minute like I do—are wrapped and Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” is serenading audiences in theaters across the nation. We all have a soft spot for our favorite Nutcracker production. This year, Goldstar—the company that sells discounted tickets to entertainment events across the U.S.—is hosting its ninth annual National Nutcracker Award. The nominated productions range from Balanchine’s classic to urban adaptations and more, with 65 nominees in over 55 cities.

The winning show, chosen by Goldstar members (membership is free), will earn the title of America’s Best-Loved Nutcracker, a commemorative figurine called “The Nutty” and a $2,500 cash reward to be used towards the winning organization’s educational programs.

The winner will be announced on December 21. Can you spot your favorite Nutcracker in the list of nominees below? Happy Nutcracking!

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.


The Nutty in all its golden glory.



Ballet Arizona’s The Nutcracker at Phoenix Symphony Hall


  • Inland Empire

    • The Ballet Studio's The Nutcracker at Old Town Temecula Community Theater
    • Inland Pacific Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside

  • Los Angeles

    • Long Beach Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center
    • Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at the Wiltern
    • The Red Chair Children's Production Company’s The Nutcracker at the Alex Theatre in Glendale
    • Debbie Allen Dance Academy’s The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
    • Marat Daukayev Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker at Luckman Fine Arts Complex
    • Inland Pacific Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Arcadia Performing Arts Center and at Claremont’s Bridges Auditorium
    • Westside Ballet’s The Nutcracker at The Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center
    • South Bay Ballet’s The Nutcracker at El Camino College Center for the Arts in Torrance

  • Oakland

    • Alameda Civic Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Kofman Theatre in Alameda
    • Berkeley Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker at Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley
    • Contra Costa Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek

  • Orange County

    • Anaheim Ballet's The Nutcracker at City National Grove of Anaheim
    • Coast City Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Huntington Beach Historical Theater
    • Sunrise Ballet's The Nutcracker at Anaheim’s Servite Theatre
    • Festival Ballet's The Nutcracker at Irvine Barclay Theatre
    • Orange County Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens
    • Ballet Etudes' The Nutcracker at Huntington Beach High School Historic Auditorium
    • Golden State Dance Foundation and V&T Dance’s The Nutcracker at the Fullerton College Campus Theatre
    • Tustin Dance Center’s The Nutcracker at Alexandra Nechita Center for the Performing Arts in Orange

  • San Diego

    • Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at Jacobs Music Center
    • San Diego Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Jacobs Music Center
    • New West Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker at Poway Center for the Performing Arts
    • California Ballet Company’s The Nutcracker at San Diego Civic Theatre

  • San Francisco

    • San Francisco Youth Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker at Mercy High School Theatre
    • San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker at War Memorial Opera House
    • City Ballet School’s The Nutcracker at Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
    • Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at The Warfield

  • San Jose

    • Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino
    • Silicon Valley Ballet's The Nutcracker at San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
    • San Jose Youth Ballet's The Nutcracker at Mexican Heritage Plaza
    • Bay Pointe Ballet’s Nutcracker at San Mateo Performing Arts Center
    • Peninsula Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker at Fox Theatre in Redwood City


Colorado Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver

Belliston Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Gates Concert Hall at Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts


Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at The Fillmore Miami Beach

Miami City Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Adrienne Arsht Center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House


Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre

The Georgia Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Jennie T. Anderson Theatre at Cobb Civic Center in Marietta

Decadancetheatre’s The Hip Hop Nutcracker at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre

Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker at Milton Center Theater in Alpharett


Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre

Ballet Chicago’s The Nutcracker at Athenaeum Theatre

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at Chicago’s Rosemont Theatre

The House Theatre of Chicago's The Nutcracker at Chopin Theatre

Piccolo Theatre's Clara & the Nutcracker at Piccolo Theatre in Evanston

State Street Dance Studio's The Fox Valley Nutcracker at Batavia Fine Arts Centre

Chicago Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker at McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn

Ballet 5:8’s Beyond the Nutcracker at Stagg High School Performing Arts Center in Palos Hills


Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre


Tony Williams Dance Center’s Urban Nutcracker at Back Bay Events Center’s John Hancock Hall (Boston)

José Mateo Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker at Strand Theatre in Dorchester and at Cutler Majestic Theatre at Boston’s Emerson College

Dance Prism’s The Nutcracker at Jackson Arts Center in Fall River


Minnesota Dance Theatre’s Nutcracker Fantasy at State Theatre in Minneapolis

Metropolitan Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center in Minnetonka

Decadancetheatre’s The Hip Hop Nutcracker at Saint Paul's Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

James Sewell Ballet’s Nutcracker (not so) Suite at The Goodale Theater at The Cowles Center

New Jersey

New Jersey Ballet's The Nutcracker at Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown

Decadancetheatre’s The Hip Hop Nutcracker at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark

New York

Dances Patrelle’s The Yorkville Nutcracker at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in NYC

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre


Oregon Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker at Portland’s Keller Auditorium

Portland Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Lake Oswego High School Auditorium


Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at Tower Theater in Upper Darby


MBS Productions’ A Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker at Studio Theatre at the Addison Conference & Theatre Centre

Woodlands Ballet Ensemble’s The Nutcracker at The Woodlands College Park High School


Olympic Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker at Everett Performing Arts Center and at Edmonds Center for the Arts

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Seattle’s McCaw Hall

Washington, D.C.

The Fairfax Ballet’s The Nutcracker at W.T. Woodson High School

Olney Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker at Olney Theatre Center

Virginia Ballet Company's The Nutcracker at Ernst Cultural Center in Annandale, VA

Rockville Civic Ballet's The Nutcracker at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville, MD

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at George Mason University's Center for the Arts

The Washington Ballet's The Nutcracker at Warner Theatre

Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s The Nutcracker at Bowie Center for the Performing Arts

Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker at The Kennedy Center Opera House


May the best Nutcracker win! Photo courtesy of the Santa Barbara Independent.


Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.' Photo by Rich Sofranko

Catching a performance of The Nutcracker has long been a holiday tradition for many families. And now, more and more companies are adding sensory-friendly elements to specific shows in an effort to make the classic ballet inclusive to children and adults with special needs.

While the accommodations vary depending on the company, many are presenting shorter versions of the ballet with more relaxed theater rules. Additionally, lower sound and stage light levels during the performance, as well as trained staff on hand, make The Nutcracker more accessible for those on the autism spectrum and others with special needs.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's performance will take place on Tuesday, December 26th, and they are one of the pioneer companies in presenting sensory-friendly performances of The Nutcracker (their first production was in 2013). PBT also offers sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast throughout the year.

See our list of sensory-friendly performances, and check out each site for all of the details regarding their offerings.

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Your Best Body
Pilates hundred intermediate set-up, modeled by Jordan Miller. Photo by Emily Giacalone.

The Pilates hundred is a popular exercise used by many dancers for conditioning and warming up, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. Pumping your arms for 100 counts sounds simple enough, but it requires coordinated breathwork, a leg position that suits your abilities and proper alignment. Marimba Gold-Watts, who works with New York City Ballet dancers at her Pilates studio, Articulating Body, breaks down this surprisingly hard exercise. When done correctly, the benefits are threefold: "If you're doing it before class," she says, "the hundred is a great way to get your blood flowing and work on breath control and abdominal support all at once."

To Start

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Nod your chin toward the front of your throat, and reach your fingertips long.

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Pointe Stars

At just 16 years old, the Bolshoi Ballet's Maria Alexandrova already had the makings of a great artist. In this variation from Coppélia, she portrays the carefree Swanilda with blithe, youthful ease.

When she bounds on stage in her perky pink tutu, you immediately notice her legs–they just go on forever. In the first sequence of steps she keeps her jetés and développés low, but then the phrase repeats and she lets her gorgeous extensions fly. She sails through Italian fouettés and whirls around in piqués en manège that get faster and faster. While she nails all the virtuosic movement, Alexandrova also pays beautiful attention to detail throughout the variation. Even the simplest steps become something exciting, like her precise pas de bourrées beginning at 1:03 that sing with musicality.

Swanilda has been one of Alexandrova's signature roles throughout her career. For a fun side by side, watch her perform the same variation almost 20 years later in this video. Although Alexandrova formally retired from the Bolshoi in February, she still performs frequently in Moscow and internationally as a guest artist. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Pointe Stars
Ingrid Silva and her dog, Frida Kahlo. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

You're probably already following your favorite dancers on Instagram, but did you know that you can follow many of their dogs, too? We rounded up some of our favorite dog-centered accounts and hashtags to keep you pawsitively entertained (sorry, we can't help ourselves).

Cora and Maya (American Ballet Theatre's Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda)

Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda's pups Cora and Maya update their profile pretty frequently. Often accompanying Lane to the ABT studios, they can also be seen using tutus or piles of pink tights as dog beds.

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Vladislav Lantritov and Ekaterina Krysanova in "Taming of the Shrew." Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet.

If you haven't checked your local movie listings yet for this weekend, hop to it. The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema series and Fathom Events is broadcasting a performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew to theaters nationwide on Sunday, November 19. (To see if it's playing near you and to purchase tickets, click here.) While the rest of the Bolshoi's cinema season features 19th- and 20th-century classics, The Taming of the Shrew gives audiences a chance to see the revered Moscow company in a thoroughly modern, 21st-century take on Shakespeare's famous play.

Aside from a limited run in New York City this July, American audiences have had little exposure to Maillot's 2014 production. To learn more, check out these two exclusive, behind-the-scenes webisodes below. Principal dancer Ekaterina Krysanova, who stars as the hotheaded Katharina, gives an intimate play-by-play of two major scenes in Act I. The first is her fiery rejection of three potential suitors (who all would prefer to marry Katharina's younger sister Bianca).

The second scene breaks down Katharina's first encounter with Petruchio (danced by the larger-than-life Vladislav Lantritov), the only man who seems to be able to challenge her. Here, too, we see the shrew's heart start to soften. (Don't miss her time-stopping attitude turn at 4:27.)

The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series continues through June; for more details on upcoming screenings, click here.

Smuin Ballet dancers Erica Felsch, Rex Wheeler, Mengjun Chen and Tessa Barbour in "White Christmas," choreographed by dancers Ben Needham-Wood and Michael Smuin. Photo by Keith Sutter, Courtesy Smuin Ballet.

Nutcracker-ed out? Or just can't get enough holiday ballets? These unique Nutcracker interpretations and non-Nutcracker productions will make your season bright.

The Hip Hop Nutcracker

Through December 30

Tchaikovsky's masterful Nutcracker score isn't just for classical ballet…

Hip Hop + a live DJ + an electric violinist unite in The Hip Hop Nutcracker, currently touring the U.S.

Familiar characters such Drosselmeyer, the Nutcracker, Mouse King and Marie (here called Maria-Clara) dance through an updated New York City storyline with choreography by Jennifer Weber, artistic director of the Brooklyn-based theatrical hip hop company Decadancetheatre.

Premiered in 2014, The Hip Hop Nutcracker is produced by New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

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