Pacific Northwest Ballet in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

The Great 2018 "Nutcracker" Round Up

Thanksgiving is just days away, and while to some that means family and football, to bunheads it means one thing only: Nutcracker is coming. Looking for a Nut near you? We know that your next few weeks will be too busy with rehearsals to keep your eye on ballet news, so we've decided to help you out by rounding up 71 of our nation's Nutcrackers, state by state.

We're not perfect! If we missed a major Nutcracker production, we want to know. Email clansky@dancemedia.com for consideration.


Alabama

Alabama Ballet: December 14-23, Alabama Ballet presents George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Alabama Ballet is one of only eight companies in the world licensed by The Balanchine Trust to perform this classic version.

Mobile Ballet: December 15-16 Mobile audiences can see The Nutcracker with choreography by artistic director Katia Garza.

Montgomery Ballet: See the 43rd annual season of The Nutcracker in theaters in Tallassee, Greenville and Montgomery November 25-December 9.

Alaska

Eugene Ballet: Oregon-based Eugene Ballet brings their Nutcracker to Anchorage November 25-27.

Arizona

Ballet Arizona: Choreographed by artistic director Ib Andersen, Ballet Arizona's The Nutcracker runs December 13-24.

Arkansas

Ballet Arkansas: December 7-9 marks Ballet Arkansas' 40th anniversary of its Nutcracker.

California

American Ballet Theatre: ABT brings artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky's The Nutcracker to Costa Mesa's Segerstrom Center for the Arts December 14-23.

American Contemporary Ballet: Running December 1-24 in Los Angeles, ACB's immersive The Nutcracker Suite brings audiences into the action.

City Ballet of San Diego: Accompanied by The City Ballet Orchestra, City Ballet of San Diego's The Nutcracker is on the stage December 7-23.

Inland Pacific Ballet: Running December 1-23 at theaters in Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside and Claremont, Island Pacific Ballet presents one performance of The Nutty Nutcracker, a zany take on the classic, in each location.

Los Angeles Ballet: L.A. Ballet's Nutcracker, choreographed by Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary and set in 1912 Los Angeles, runs November 24-December 24.

Miami City Ballet: Catch MCB in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, featuring sets and costumes brand new last year, at The Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion November 30-December 2.

Sacramento Ballet: December 14-23 marks the world premiere of Sacramento Ballet's new Nutcracker, choreographed by recently appointed artistic director Amy Seiwert.

San Francisco Ballet: In 1944, America's first Nutcracker debuted on San Francisco Ballet's stage. Catch it this year December 12-29.

Smuin Ballet: The Christmas Ballet is not technically a Nut, but we figure it makes the cut anyways. Smuin Ballet's holiday extravaganza includes tap, jazz and swing alongside classical ballet. See it November 30-December 24.

Colorado

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet: ASFB's whimsical and humorous The Nutcracker! will be shown on Aspen stages December 8-9. Scroll down to New Mexico for the Santa Fe showings.

Colorado Ballet: Running November 24-December 24, this Nut is the largest in the state of Colorado.

Connecticut

Connecticut Ballet: New York City Ballet stars Lauren Lovette and Taylor Stanley join Connecticut Ballet December 15, and American Ballet Theatre's Devon Teuscher and Alexandre Hammoudi make their way to Stamford December 16.

Delaware

First State Ballet Theatre: Join Delaware's ballet company for The Nutcracker at Wilmington's Grand Opera House December 21-23.

Florida

Miami City Ballet: MCB presents George Balanchine's The Nutcracker December 7-30 in three theaters in the greater Miami area. This is the second year to see MCB's new costume and set design by Isabel and Ruben Toledo.

Orlando Ballet: Orlando Ballet's Nutcracker will bring a bit of holiday magic to the Walt Disney Theater December 7-16.

Georgia

Atlanta Ballet: Atlanta Ballet presents a brand new Nutcracker December 8-24 choreographed by Yuri Possokhov and including world-class set, costume and projection designs. This is the company's first new Nut in 20 years.

Savannah Ballet Theatre: Catch this Nutcracker, set in 1940s Savannah, on December 1.

Hawaii 

Ballet Hawaii: Set in the 1858 Kingdom of Hawaii and choreographed by Septime Webre, Ballet Hawaii's The Nutcracker features guest stars from New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Carolina Ballet. On stages December 14-16.

Idaho

Ballet Idaho: December 13-16 marks Boise audiences' last chance to see Ballet Idaho's The Nutcracker, choreographed by Peter Anastos. The company will unveil a new production as part of its 2019/20 season.

Illinois

Joffrey Ballet: In 2016 the Joffrey debuted Christopher Wheeldon's The Nutcracker, setting the story at Chicago's 1893 World's Fair. This new classic runs December 1-30.

Indiana

Fort Wayne Ballet: The Nutcracker returns to Fort Wayne November 30-December 9. Select performances also feature the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

Indianapolis Ballet: Though the Indianapolis School of Ballet has been presenting its Nutcracker for the past 11 years, it's now enhanced by the addition of Indianapolis Ballet, the fledgling professional company that launched last winter. Catch it December 14-16.

Kentucky

Louisville Ballet: Val Caniparoli's Nutcracker graces Louisville stages December 8-23 with a sensory-friendly performance December 9.

Maine

Portland Ballet: The Victorian Nutcracker returns to Portland December 21-23.

Massachusetts

Boston Ballet: Artistic director Miko Nissinen's The Nutcracker, based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's original story, returns to Boston November 29-December 30.

José Mateo Ballet Theatre: José Mateo's Nutcracker comes to stages in Boston and Dorchester November 30-December 23.

Michigan

Grand Rapids Ballet: December 14-23, Grand Rapids Ballet presents its Nutcracker featuring choreography Val Caniparoli and designs by Chris Van Allsburg, known for his work on The Polar Express.

Missouri

Kansas City Ballet: Running November 30-December 23, Kansas City Ballet's Nutcracker also offers a sensory friendly performance on December 12.

Saint Louis Ballet: This year, in addition to the standard run December 14-23, Saint Louis Ballet is offering a special shortened and narrated "no-shushing" Nutcracker on December 19 for young children or teens and adults with shorter attention spans.

Nebraska

American Midwest Ballet: AMB brings three performances of The Nutcracker to Omaha audiences November 18, December 8-9.

Nevada

Nevada Ballet Theatre: December 8-24, NBT will delight Las Vegas balletomanes with The Nutcracker, choreographed by James Canfield.

New Jersey

American Repertory Ballet: Two performances on November 23 will star New York City Ballet's Joseph Gordon and Unity Phelan (an alumna of Princeton Ballet School). ARB's Nut continues its run through December 23.

New Mexico

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet: Santa Fe audiences can catch ASFB's The Nutcracker December 15-16.

New York

Brooklyn Ballet: The Brooklyn Nutcracker comes to Flatbush December 14. Celebrating Brooklyn's unique culture, this production fuses ballet with hip-hop and other forms, taking audiences through a history of the borough.

Dances Patrelle: Francis Patrelle's The Yorkville Nutcracker, set in 1895, takes audiences through some of New York City's most loved landmarks, including Gracie Mansion and the New York Botanical Garden. This year's performances, December 6-9, include New York City Ballet guest stars Abi Stafford and Ask La Cour.

Mark Morris' The Hard Nut: Co-presented by the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Academy of Music December 14-23, The Hard Nut is a retro-modern, gender-bending retelling of Hoffmann's famous story.

New York City Ballet: NYCB presents George Balanchine's original, beloved The Nutcracker November 23-December 30.

New York Theatre Ballet: This Art Nouveau-style ballet, choreographed by Keith Michael, runs December 14-16.

North Carolina

Carolina Ballet: Carolina Ballet brings the magic of the Nutcracker to Raleigh audiences December 1-30.

Charlotte Ballet: Charlotte Ballet's Nutcracker, choreographed by Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, got a sprucing up in 2016 with all new sets and costumes. See it December 7-23.

Ohio

BalletMet: Co-created by Gerard Charles and Robert Post, BalletMet's The Nutcracker hits Columbus stages December 7-23.

Cincinnati Ballet: December 13-24 marks Cincinnati Ballet's The Nutcracker, this year featuring a special addition: Cincinnati's own celebrity hippo, Fiona.

Cleveland Ballet: Following a sold out run in 2017, Cleveland Ballet's Nutcracker returns December 13-16.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City Ballet: Robert Mills' staging of The Nutcracker can be seen December 14-23.

Tulsa Ballet: Marcello Angelini set Tulsa Ballet's The Nutcracker in the birthplace of classical ballet, 1920s Paris. Check it out December 8-23.

Oregon

Ballet Fantastique: December 14-16 marks the world premiere of Ballet Fantastique's new holiday ballet, the lost holiday fairytale Babes in Toyland.

Eugene Ballet: Join Eugene Ballet for its Nutcracker, December 21-23 followed by a tour to cities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

Oregon Ballet Theatre: Oregon's largest ballet company presents George Balanchine's The Nutcracker December 8-26 in Portland.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Ballet: See Pennsylvania Ballet in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, billed as "Philadelphia's greatest holiday tradition," December 7-31.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre: PBT's The Nutcracker, choreographed by artistic director Terrence Orr, is set in turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh. Running November 30-December 27, including a sensory-friendly performance on December 27.

Rhode Island

Festival Ballet Providence: This classic Nutcracker comes to Providence December 21-23.

Island Moving Co: ICM's Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff is a bit different than the typical theater-going experience. Audiences follow the action through Rosecliff Mansion, from room to room. Running November 21-30.

South Carolina

Columbia City Ballet: See CCB's Nutcracker December 8-16 in Columbia.

Tennessee

Ballet Memphis: Ballet Memphis' Nutcracker features an after performance opportunity to pose for photos with your favorite characters. Running December 7-9.

Nashville Ballet: Set in the city of Nashville with choreography by Paul Vasterling, Nashville's Nutcracker is up December 1-23.

Texas

Ballet Austin: Ballet Austin's The Nutcracker features a rotating list of local celebrities in the role of Mother Ginger; this year's roundup includes football star Vince Young and Austin's police chief. Running December 7-23.

Houston Ballet: After a tumultuous year in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Houston Ballet is finally back in their home theater for this year's holiday season. Catch the company at the Wortham Theater November 23-December 29.

Texas Ballet Theater: See artistic director Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker on Dallas stages November 23-December 2 and in Fort Worth December 7-24. If that's not enough, you can catch TBT's Nutty Nutcracker December 14, a one-night-only satirical take on pop culture and current events.

Utah

Ballet West: Last year, Ballet West added new sets, costumes and special effects to its Nutcracker, featuring Willam Christensen's historical choreography. See it again this year, December 14-29.

Virginia

Richmond Ballet: Richmond Ballet presents The Nutcracker in Norfolk December 7-9 and in Richmond December 14-23. Best of all, December 15 and 20 mark the company's annual Pupcracker in partnership with the Richmond SPCA.

Washington

Pacific Northwest Ballet: Seattle-based? Check out PNB's George Balanchine's The Nutcracker November 23-December 28.

Washington, D.C.

Ballet West at The Kennedy Center: Each year, The Kennedy Center brings one U.S. company to share their Nutcracker with the nation's capitol. See Ballet West December 5-9.

The Washington Ballet: TWB celebrates 15 years of Septime Webre's The Nutcracker November 24-December 28, split between two different theaters. Set in historic 1882 Georgetown, this production features historical figures like George Washington and King George III.

Wisconsin

Milwaukee Ballet: Milwaukee Ballet's The Nutcracker hits the stage December 8-26, with a sensory friendly performance on December 20.

Puerto Rico 

Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico's only full-length Nutcracker didn't go on last year due to the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. This year Ballet Concierto is back for its 37th season. El Cascanueces runs November 29-December 2.

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From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

Lydia Abarca Mitchell, Arthur Mitchell's First Ballerina, Builds On Her Mentor's Legacy in Atlanta

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.


For more than 25 years, coaching at Ballethnic has been a lifeline back to Abarca Mitchell's days with DTH. She had a stellar career, both with the company and beyond, but left the stage at age 30 after an injury sustained performing in Dancin' on Broadway. Her husband's job transferred them to Atlanta, where she transitioned to a full-time job as a medical transcriptionist while raising a family. Now retired from her second career, Abarca Mitchell continues to forward Arthur Mitchell's legacy, not only through coaching but also by building community among DTH alumni and writing her memoirs—a fairy-tale story of a child who came from the Harlem public-housing projects and became a trailblazing Black ballerina.

Abarca Mitchell grew up during the 1950s and '60s, the oldest of seven in a tight-knit family. She always danced, taking cues from Hollywood figures until a fourth-grade teacher saw her talent and encouraged her to seek formal training. The family couldn't afford ballet lessons, but Abarca Mitchell earned a scholarship to attend The Juilliard School's Saturday youth program, and later the Harkness Ballet's professional training program. But for all of those ballet classes, Abarca Mitchell never had the opportunity to see or perform in a ballet production. She didn't understand the purpose behind ballet's tedious class exercises.

When the fast-growing Harkness Ballet moved its scholarship students to the June Taylor Studio on Broadway, Abarca Mitchell remembers hearing live drumming, clapping and laughter coming from the studio across the hall. It was a jazz class taught by Jaime Rogers, who'd played Loco in the West Side Story movie. Abarca Mitchell started sneaking into Rogers' classes.

When Harkness informed her that her scholarship was exclusively for ballet, Abarca Mitchell left the program. She saw no future for herself in the white-dominated ballet world, and focused on academics during her last two years of high school.

At 17, Abarca Mitchell met Arthur Mitchell. He had made history as the first Black principal dancer with New York City Ballet, which he had joined in 1955, and had just begun to shape what would become Dance Theatre of Harlem when he hired Abarca Mitchell in 1968. Within a month, she was back on pointe. Within two months, she was performing in Arthur Mitchell's Tones. "I didn't even know what ballet was until I was onstage," Abarca Mitchell says. "All of a sudden, it was my heart and soul."

Arthur Mitchell made sure his dancers saw NYCB perform, and subsequently brought Balanchine's Agon, Concerto Barocco and other NYCB works into the DTH repertoire. "Physically and emotionally, I felt the connection of jazz in Balanchine's choreography," Abarca Mitchell says. "His neoclassical style was just funky to me. I could totally relate."

For the first time, Abarca Mitchell danced with people who looked like her and shared the same aspirations, she says, with a leader who "saw us through his eyes of love and achievement."

In Abarca Mitchell's 30s, after a performing career that took her from DTH to the film version of The Wiz to Bob Fosse's Dancin' and beyond, her husband's job took their family to Atlanta. She soon connected with Gilreath and Waverly Lucas. The couple, also DTH alumni, were influenced by Arthur Mitchell's model when they founded Ballethnic, seeking to create access for dancers of all backgrounds to develop as classical dancers and perform a repertoire that represents the company's culturally diverse home city. Over time, Abarca Mitchell became a trusted advisor.

Abarca Mitchell goes in at least twice a year to coach Ballethnic's productions—such as Urban Nutcracker, set in Atlanta's historically Black Sweet Auburn neighborhood, and The Leopard Tale, which features the company's signature blend of classical pointe work with polyrhythmic dance forms of the African diaspora. These final rehearsals give Abarca Mitchell a way to fast-track the transfer of her mentor's values.

Two dancers in blue and black practice clothes and face masks, the woman in pointe shoes, pose together in a first arabesque tendu. Abarca Mitchell steps out of a mirrored pose as she adjusts the fingertips of the male dancer.

Lydia Abarca Mitchell works with Ballethnic's Calvin Gentry and Karla Tyson.

Courtesy Ballethnic Dance Company

She recalls that Arthur Mitchell taught his dancers to present themselves at their finest—to enter a room with their heads held high and shoulders back—and to dress, speak and walk with dignity and self-respect. He reminded them that they were pioneers and ambassadors for Blacks in ballet. As the company gained international stature—Abarca Mitchell was the first Black female ballerina to appear on the cover of Dance Magazine, in 1975—he insisted the dancers remain humble and in service to the greater mission. But he was also a taskmaster. "No nonsense, no excuses," Abarca Mitchell says. "There was no slack. If he was rehearsing something that you're not in, you'd better be on the side learning it."

"He didn't throw compliments around at all. You had to really kill yourself to get a smile from him." After a run-through, she says, "you didn't want to be singled out."

Abarca Mitchell takes a slightly different approach, though she doesn't compromise on the values her mentor instilled. When coaching large casts of all ages and different levels for Ballethnic, she has found ways to inspire people without tearing them down. She calls it a "tough love" approach.

"I've got to make them want to do it. I don't want to beat them into doing it," Abarca Mitchell says. "I tell them, 'You're here because you want to be, and because you auditioned and were accepted. Now, show me why I should keep you here.'"

"I tell them, 'I'm here to make sure you'll look good—you know: 'That looks fake. Let's make it look real. Think about what you're doing, so that it's not just a gesture.'"

Arthur Mitchell instilled this level of emotional honesty in his dancers, and it was key to the company's quick success. "We were bringing a thought forward," says Abarca Mitchell. "We were bringing a feeling forward, so that the audience could connect with us."

In addition to her position as rehearsal director for Ballethnic, Abarca Mitchell is today part of 152nd Street Black Ballet Legacy, a group of DTH alumni who seek to give voice to people responsible for the company's success in its early years. "It's incredible," she says, "how many people took something from DTH and applied it to their lives."

As Ballethnic prepares to co-host the International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference and Festival in January 2022, Abarca Mitchell hopes to help strengthen the network of dance companies associated with Ballethnic, such as Memphis' Collage Dance Collective. "The dream is for all of us to collaborate with each other," she says, "so that it becomes more normal to see a Black ballerina, so it's not just a token appearance."

Today's young dancers face different challenges from what Abarca Mitchell faced. She finds that they're more easily distracted, and sometimes act entitled, because they don't know or appreciate how hard earlier Black ballerinas like herself worked to clear a path for them. But what she's passing on will benefit them, whether they choose to pursue dance careers or become doctors, lawyers, professors or something else entirely. "The principles are the same," she says. "Work for what you want, and you will achieve it."

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