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Hip Hop to Hans Christian Andersen: Seven Alternatives to the Traditional "Nutcracker"

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.



The Christmas BalletSmuin Ballet

November 17-December 24

What do you do when your city already offers several Nutcrackers?

For Smuin Ballet, the answer was to create an entirely different Yuletide production—The Christmas Ballet. Debuted in 1995, the show features a variety of original choreography in ballet, tap, jazz and other styles performed to holiday music.

"With a classical first act and a pop second act, it has become a tradition for many families," says artistic director Celia Fushille. "The program changes every year, with new songs added and old favorites returning. Smuin now performs it in four cities across the Bay Area every holiday season."


Nigel Tau and Connie Flachs rehearse "A Christmas Carol" with Brian Enos. Photo Scott Rasmussen, Courtesy Grand Rapids Ballet.

A Christmas Carol—Grand Rapids Ballet

December 22-23

Just as soon as The Nutcracker wraps up at Grand Rapids Ballet, the company will debut a new, full-length story ballet based on Charles Dickens's classic tale A Christmas Carol.

Why back-to-back holiday ballets?

"The company's Nutcracker is a large production and they are looking for something that can be toured more easily and performed on smaller stages," explains Brian Enos, the production's choreographer and artistic director of The Big Muddy Dance Company.

Enos says his choreography will feature a blend of classical and contemporary dance and touch on some of the darker humor in the story. The production's score will feature music by Tchaikovsky—mostly from his string quartets—arranged by Brendan Hollins.


Dylan Santos and Ingrid Silva in "The Brooklyn Nutcracker." Photo by Julie Lemberger, Courtesy Brooklyn Ballet.

The Brooklyn NutcrackerBrooklyn Ballet

December 7-16

For a borough-inspired NYC Nutcracker, get a ticket to Brooklyn Ballet's The Brooklyn Nutcracker.

Artistic director Lynn Parkerson says she loves the many traditional versions of The Nutcracker but wanted to create a production that reflected the diversity of Brooklyn and the company dancers' varied training in different styles.

The Brooklyn Nutcracker, which debuted last year, blends ballet, hip hop, tap, modern and world dance with scenes that tap into the history of Brooklyn and costumes enhanced with motion-sensor LED lights.


Hip Hoppin' Rats, Rappin' Sugarplum Fairy and Philly Cheesesteak Nerd in "Philly Nutt-Crak Up." Photo by Bill Hebert, Courtesy ContempraDANCE Theatre.

Philly Nutt-Crak Up—ContempraDANCE Theatre

December 15-17

For another Nutcracker with local flavor—and a whole lot of zaniness—check out ContempraDance Theatre's Philly Nutt-Crak Up, which has been making audiences laugh for over 10 seasons.

"I created this show because there was nothing in the area other than the traditional Nutcracker," says artistic director Gail Vartanian. "I wanted to blend various genres of dance with a Philly flair and make it viewable for everyone."

The cast of characters includes the Rappin' Sugarplum Fairy, Hip Hoppin' Rats, City Hall Dolls, Captain Philadelphia, Liberty Belle-Anne and the Philly Cheesesteak Nerd.


Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy students rehearse "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Photo by Anne Metcalfe, Courtesy Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy.

'Twas the Night Before ChristmasMilwaukee Ballet School & Academy

November 19

Right before The Nutcracker gets underway at Milwaukee Ballet, the company's school will perform a new production of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

The ballet offers students the opportunity to learn lead roles, and its one-hour runtime provides a holiday ballet option for children who might be too young to sit through The Nutcracker.

"Our students are invited to audition for the company's Nutcracker, but there are only so many roles available and they are all in the ensemble," says Rolando Yanes, director of the Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy. "In 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, students learn to create characters and dance as principals or soloists. This process mirrors company rehearsals and prepares them for experiences further down the road."


The Little Match GirlArthur Pita, Sadler's Wells

December 13-24

Arthur Pita's reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen's tale of a doomed young match seller has been lighting up stages since 2013 with its blend of dance, theater, Italian text and songs.

This somber story of injustice and human cruelty is about as different from The Nutcracker as you could find in holiday show, but the production includes gorgeous visuals, moments of humor and, ultimately, a message of hope and love—which never fails to resonate at this time of year.

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