The Nutcracker and other dance favorites herald the return of the holiday season in Philadelphia

With its unforgettable music, enchanting story and the vivid imagery, “The Nutcracker” has become synonymous with the holiday season. It is a classic tradition that has weathered the test of time, captivating audiences’ hearts and minds for generations. And hopefully with this tradition, there can also develop a bond with not only ballet but dance.

Philadelphia offers a whole host of Nutcracker productions – from dance school performances, to international touring companies, local companies and of course the highly acclaimed Pennsylvania Ballet.

But in addition to the myriad of Nutcracker offerings, Philadelphia’s dance community offers up a host of other productions that have also become holiday traditions. Such are Dance Del Bello’s Christmas Carol, Eleone Dance Theater’s Carol in Colors and Contempra Dance’s Philly-Nut-Crak-Up.

Below is our annual guide to this season’s best. Take a moment to unplug from the television, the internet and cell phones; gather up the kids and family, and start your own special tradition.


Pennsylvania Ballet – George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

December 4-31st
, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
The holidays in Philadelphia are not complete without Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™! An enduring tradition now in its 42nd year, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ boasts enchanting characters, lavish costumes and sets, world-class dancing, and a heart-warming Tschaikovsky score complemented by the Philadelphia Boys Choir. Follow the adventures of Marie and her Prince as they battle the evil Mouse King and travel to the magnificent Land of the Sweets where the graceful Sugraplum Fairy reigns. Full of freshness and draped in decadence, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ – powerful holiday season magic for the whole family, and a sure cure for any Grinches in your midst!

Philadelphia Dance Theatre – The Nutcracker
November 26-27th,
David Kurtz Center, William Penn Charter School, Philadelphia
Philadelphia Dance Theatre, a pre-professional ballet school and student performing company, will open the curtain on another holiday season with a charming production of The Nutcracker.  Featured are guest appearances by professional dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet.  Artistic Director, Joy Delaney-Capponi.

Renaissance Dance Academy – The Nutcracker
December 3-4th, CAT Pickering Theater, Phoenixville, PA
The Renaissance Academy Ballet Theater proudly presents The Nutcracker.  Come join Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy on a magical journey through the Land of the Sweets. Over 150 students from Renaissance Academy will perform in this magical holiday tradition.  The 2010 production brings new sets, new costumes and beautiful choreography.  Do not miss out on this annual holiday tradition. Renaissance Academy Ballet Theater welcomes children of all ages to attend this event.  Afterward get your picture taken with Clara, The Sugar Plum Fairy and the Dew Drop Fairy.

Delaware Valley Dance Academy – The Nutcracker
December 3-4th at Calvary Church, Souderton
Join us for this favorite holiday treat set to Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score and performed by over 100 of the area’s fines dancers. After dancing the night away at her family’s holiday party, Clara embarks on a thrilling adventure that takes her into battle with giant mice, through an enchanted forest and into the magical Land of Sweets. DVDA’s Nutcracker is a festive and magical way to ring in the holiday season and to introduce children to the power and beauty of ballet. Children from 3 to 93 will be mesmerized by the costumes, beautiful music and exceptional dancing in this lavish production.

The Rock School presents Nutcracker 1776
December 4th at The Merriam Theater, Philadelphia
December 11th & 12th at Centennial Hall, Haverford
The Rock School for Dance Education presents Nutcracker 1776, a dynamic ballet production designed for families with children of all ages. This live dance performance has a cast of more than 150 children and provides matinee performances and affordable seating. In a twist on the beloved holiday classic, this story-themed ballet tells the tale of two children entrusted with an enchanted key and Nutcracker that lead them far from their home in colonial Philadelphia. Audiences will delight as the young hero and heroine embark on the adventure of a lifetime, meeting Benjamin Franklin and George Washington along the way. The hour-long production blends the magic of theater with celebrated historical figures to provide engaging cultural entertainment while introducing children to the deep historical roots that lie in the City they know and love.

Schuylkill Valley Regional Dance Company presents The Nutcracker
December 4-5th  at The Hill Center for the Arts, Pottstown
Schuylkill Valley Regional Dance Company presents the favorite Holiday classic featuring the music of Tchaikovsky and the choreography of former Kirov principals Elena Martinson and Andrei Ustinov.

International Ballet Classique- Nutcracker Ballet
December 10-12th at Meagher Theatre at Neuman College, Aston
‘Tis the season for magic, family, and fun as the beauty and joy of the Nutcracker Ballet comes alive with International Ballet Classique’s (IBC) full-length productions of this holiday favorite in the best traditions of the Bolshoi. It’s snowing – it’s glowing! Join Clara as her magical Nutcracker Doll comes alive to battle the Mouse King; travel through the Land of Snow and journey into the ” Land of Sweets ” where the toys come alive to entertain Clara and her Prince. A special treat for all ages! Production is under the artistic direction of Principal Dancers, Denis Gronostayskiy and Anastasia Babayeva, graduates of the renowned Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow.

Pages to Pirouettes – The Nutcracker
December 12th at 12:00 Noon at Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia
December 19th at 2:00pm at The Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia
The Nutcracker as told by Pages to Pirouettes. Beautiful costumes, interactive program. To be enjoyed by all ages!

En Pointe Productions – The Nutcracker
December 18th at Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia
Enjoy this classic holiday tradition with En Pointe Productions. Follow Clara and her nutcracker prince as they journey to the land of the sweets. En Pointe Presents the 5th Annual Production of The Nutcracker. Our narrated version of this holiday classic is a great for the whole family.

Dance Theatre of Pennsylvania Presents The Nutcracker Ballet
December 18-19th at Central Bucks HS South, Warrington
Under the artistic direction of Marilyn Budzynski, Dance Theatre has been staging the holiday classic for 32 years, longer than any other ballet company in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Performing with the company’s 30 pre-professional members will be some of the top names in ballet from the region. James Ihde, a soloist with the Pennsylvania Ballet, will dance with Chris Jones, a former member of the Pennsylvania Ballet, in the Snow pas de deux.  Featured as the Sugar Plum Fairy is Maria Phegan, formerly of the Houston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem.

The Nutcracker with the Donetsk Ballet of Ukraine
December 18-19th at William Penn Charter School, Philadelphia
The world renowned Donetsk Ballet of Ukraine returns to the Philadelphia area with 18 professional dancers.  They will share the stage with 45 area ballet students in this beautifully staged holiday classic.  The Donetsk Ballet’s principal dancers hail from some of the best ballet schools in the world including the Kirov School in St. Petersburg Russia, and the Kiev Academy.  Their dancers have competed and won medals in international competition.  The performances are sponsored by International Ballet Exchange.

Brandywine Ballet’s The Nutcracker
December 10-December 19 at Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, West Chester
Special guest Jae Hoon Lim of Koresh Dance Company returns for Brandywine Ballet’s 2010 performances of The Nutcracker. Set in the magnificent splendor of the Victorian Era during Act I, Brandywine Ballet’s The Nutcracker transports audiences to the enchanted Land of Sweets in Act II. The characters’ journey from a realistic setting to a magical realm was a pioneering plot motif that literary scholars agree paved the way for other beloved fantasy works such as Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. Join Clara and her dream-weaving Uncle Drosselmeyer on their adventure full of imagination, in which Toy Soldiers and Mice ballet fiercely, the Sugar Plum Fairy reigns, and an all ages cast of over 80 dancers and actors create pure balletic magic. Comical high jinx, lavishly genteel romance, antique decors, and picturesquely animated action make Brandywine Ballet’s The Nutcracker a roller coaster of intensity and emotions for the whole family. The Nutcracker, a long-running holiday tradition for ballet companies across the country, is sure to delight. Greater Philadelphia audiences are invited to experience the unique charm of Brandywine Ballet’s production.

Cabaret Red Light’s Nutcracker
December 16-19th at Painted Bride Art Center, Philadelphia
(Not be suitable for children)
Drawing on the original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Cabaret Red Light’s ballet-and-burlesque Nutcracker uses a variety of media, including shadow puppets, kinetic sculptures, live music and narrative dance, to tell the classic tale of a child’s troubled visions on Christmas Eve. Features original orchestral score by Rolf Lakaemper and Peter Gaffney, costumes by Anna Frangiosa and choreography by Christine Fisler. For mature audiences. Cabaret Red Light is a 20+ member troupe of Philadelphia’s most talented vaudeville performers, mixing original live music, dark comedy, puppet theatre and burlesque in the spirit of the decadent 1920s.


Kùlú Mèlé African Dance and Drum Ensemble
Mali Sadjo: Legend of the Hippopotamus
With Special Guest, Master Drummer M’Bemba Bangoura
Saturday, November 27, 2010, 7:00 PM at The Painted Bride
Travel to the land of Guinea, West Africa as Kùlú Mèlé recreates the touching story ballet, Mali Sadjo: Legend of the Hippopotamus. A treat for the whole family, Mali Sadjo, depicts a tale of jealousy and redemption in the relationship between a sacred hippopotamus and a community seeking divine intervention. With new choreography and music, Mali Sadjo is the must-see performance for the holidays.

Dance Del Bello presents A Christmas Carol
December 3-5th at New Freedom Theatre
Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” – traditionally a stage play – is being performed locally by Dance Del Bello on December 3, 4 and 5 in a unique, innovative and must-see way: as a ballet. Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future chase away the bah-humbugs with a ballet adaptation of this holiday favorite. “It’s familiar, yet new,” Delphine Del Bello Spencer says. “It’s simply a beautiful and splendid adaptation of a classic story.” “While its themes may be seasonal, its lessons are timeless,” said Ms. Spencer, who is the artistic director of Dance Del Bello, based in Huntingdon Valley, PA. Ms. Spencer is a former member of the Pennsylvania Ballet and other professional companies and is the owner of Pennsylvania Dance Institute. The ballet was conceived and choreographed by David Kloss of Philadelphia, a principal dancer with the Pennsylvania Ballet for 15 years. He turned the story into a full-length ballet after obtaining the rights to it from the Dickens family. It premiered in Philadelphia in 1981. Cedric Dickens, great-grandson of Charles said, “It’s a brilliant interpretation” and “… a very happy occasion.”

Spirit In Motion Ballet Theater presents The Snowman
Saturday, December 4th at 3pm at Grace Point Church, Newtown
Bucks County Spirit in Motion Ballet Theater of Newtown, Pa. presents its traditional holiday performance of the modern classic production “The Snowman.” Based on the book, “The Snowman” The Snowman is a tale of a young boy whose snowman comes to life during his Holiday dream, a dream that sends the pair on a journey into each other’s world. The production is a gentle fable of friendship and the power of imagination set upon a rich tapestry of dance, music and color. This show is perfect for the whole family & boys and girls of all ages  3 -up!

December 10-11th at Mandell Theater, Drexel University, Philadelphia
The Rappin SugarPlum Fairy is back in Philly with her battling Hip Hoppin Rats, City Hall Dolls, Captain Philadelphia and Liberty Belle-Anne for another season of the hilarious holiday dance spoof, “Philly-Nutt-Crak-Up”. This crazy holiday take-off of the Nutcracker is based on an original rap song written by the SugarPlum Fairy herself. A story filled with superheroes, kung-fu fighting, and making friends at the Kingdom of Prussia, the “Philly-Nutt-Crak-Up” combine’s comedy, hip-hop, jazz, modern and ballet dance to create a memorable event for our audience. The story is filled with references to local Philadelphia places, personalities, foods and skylines. The Philly Nutt has been featured in Philadelphia Magazine, Dance Magazine, the City Paper, a feature segment on 6 ABC’s Prime Time Weekly show, Dec. 2007 and NBC’s 10 show, Dec. 2009. Appropriate for all audiences. You can’t miss this one!

Mummenschanz presented by Dance Affiliates and Annenberg Center
December 16-18, 2010 at Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia
Mummenschanz has been enchanting audiences of all ages around the world for 35 years with its clever, comic and bizarre world filled with strange creatures, amusing situations, astounding colors and imaginative shapes. It’s newest holiday show 3 X 11 (a 33-year retrospective on Mummenschanz) uses ordinary materials such as toilet paper, collapsible boxes, white sheets, polyester, foam and recycled junk that morph into giant balloons, huge slinkies, gargantuan potato heads and accordion-pleated tubes to tell stories without words.

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