Nutcracker Revisited

Holiday dance ranges from the splashy to the sublime.

This holiday season, Bay Area dance companies offer everything from magical Nutcrackers to snarky send-ups to hour-long introductions for young children. And affordable ticket pricing makes it easy to start or continue a family tradition. Here are some of the highlights:

The revamped Oakland Ballet debuts in a sparkling Nutcracker created by new artistic director Graham Lustig, who creates an Edwardian world inhabited by graceful snow maidens, dancing snowballs, and frolicking bonbons. Members of the Oakland East Bay Symphony will play Tchaikovsky’s score live. At the Paramount Theatre (2025 Broadway, Oakland) on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 24, 11 a.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 26, 2 p.m. $11.25-$50. 1-800-745-3000 or

At sixty minutes long, Contra Costa Ballet‘s Story of the Nutcracker is just right for the can’t-sit-still crowd. Narrator Marlene Swendsen takes young audience members along with Clara as she goes from a vibrant party to the dramatic mouse battle, and into the enchanting Land of Sweets. Guest artists like Diablo Ballet’s Tina Kay Bohnstedt and Company C Contemporary Ballet’s Taurean Green and Robert Dekkers perform with Contra Costa Ballet students. At the Lesher Center for the Arts (1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek) on Thursday, Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 3, 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Dec. 4, 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. $22-$32. 925-943-7469 or

Now in its 37th year, Berkeley City Ballet‘s classic full-length Nutcracker features period costumes, elaborate staging, and student dancers alongside Bay Area professionals. Be sure to stay afterward to meet the cast, who appear in the lobby to bedazzle young fans. At the Smith Center at Ohlone College (43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont) on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18-19, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., $15-$25. 510-841-8913 or

Mischief and merriment abound in Smuin Ballet‘s Christmas Ballet, a bubbly confection garnished with tap-dancing Christmas trees, classical ballet, sexy jazz numbers, and music from Elvis to klezmer. Updated annually, the show combines audience favorites as well as new pieces, and the 2010 edition features Amy Seiwert and Amy London contributing world premieres. At the Lesher Center for the Arts (1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek) on Friday, Nov. 26, 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 27, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. $15-$17. 925-943-7469 or

Feeling more naughty than nice? Then Dance Brigade‘s Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie is your holiday ticket. In this hit mash-up of ballet, trapeze, hip-hop, and attitude, Clara is as an undocumented worker for the McGreeds, whose pink-mohawked gay son gives her a freedom-fighting nutcracker doll. At the Brava Theater (2781 24th St., San Francisco) on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec.12, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. $15-$17. 415-826-4441 or

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