Time to brush off your sugarplums and get into the holiday spirit with the annual rush of “Nutcracker” productions, coming soon to a dance hall near you. Based on the original story by E.T.A. Hoffman, Tchaikovsky’s classic score offers endless opportunities for celebratory dancing and elaborate dreamscapes. No wonder it’s in such heavy rotation on stages across North America. Here in the Twin Cities area, audiences enjoy a healthy mix of “Nutcracker” options. Whether you’re more inclined toward hip-hop or ballet, kid-friendly or risqué, there’s bound to be a show for you.

Continental Ballet Company’s Nutcracker

By: Continental Ballet.

What it’s like: A kinder, friendlier “Nutcracker,” without the battle scene. Instead, the mice from the traditional story engage in a playful encounter.

Who’s it for: Fans of a more traditional version, especially families and folks who feel there’s enough violence in the world.

When: Dec. 3-11, Bloomington Center for the Arts, Bloomington.

Tickets: $13-$25, continentalballet.com.

Tchaikovsky’s Classic Nutcracker with Kenwood Symphony Orchestra

By: Metropolitan Ballet.

What’s it like: Russian ballerina Anastasia Fedorova, who graduated from the Moscow Ballet Academy and danced with the Kremlin Ballet, joins the Metropolitan Ballet for this traditional take on the classic.

Who’s it for: People who hate canned music. Expect a full, lush sound courtesy of the Kenwood Symphony Orchestra.

When: Dec. 17-18, Lindbergh Center Auditorium (next to Hopkins High School).

Tickets: $29-$59; metroballet.org.

A Minnesota Nutcracker

By: Twin Cities Ballet.

What’s it like: The tale gets a Twin Cities spin, with Clara’s story featuring local landmarks including Rice Park, Summit Avenue and the banks of the Mississippi River.

Who’s it for: Ballet lovers who like a homegrown quality.

When: Dec. 9-11, Ames Center, Burnsville.

Tickets: $18-$36; twincitiesballet.org.

Clara’s Dream from The Nutcracker

By: St. Paul Ballet.

What’s it like: The St. Paul Ballet moves its version from Macalester College to the O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University this year. Choreographed by artistic director Zoé Emilie Henrot, this whimsical version is sure to shine on the bigger stage.

Who’s it for: Younger audiences, with its shorter length and focus on Clara’s journey from adolescence to adulthood.

When: Dec. 2-4, the O’Shaughnessy, St. Paul.

Tickets: $19-$32; oshag.stkate.edu.

Nutcracker (not so) Suite

By: James Sewell Ballet.

What’s it like: Celebrated choreographer Myron Johnson teams up with James Sewell Ballet for an irreverent mashup of hip-hop, R&B and Christmas carols, plus a life-size Barbie doll.

Who’s it for: Audiences that like a little sass and glitter with their ballet.

When: Dec. 2-18 (racier versions Dec. 9, 10, 15 and 17), Cowles Center, Mpls.

Tickets: $25-$50; thecowlescenter.org.

Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy

By: Minnesota Dance Theatre.

What’s it like: With more than 150 dancers, artists and production professionals, including a 44-piece orchestra led by Philip Brunelle, “Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy” continues its reign as the “Nutcracker” gold standard, beloved by Minnesota audiences since the 1960s.

Who’s it for: Those who want the whole shebang — elaborate costumes and sets, fantastic dancers and wonderful music performed live.

When: Dec. 16-23, State Theatre, Mpls.

Tickets: $20-$75; mndance.org.

Ballet Minnesota’s The Classic Nutcracker

By: Ballet Minnesota.

What’s it like: A mix of students and professionals offers a high-energy spectacle at the O’Shaughnessy.

Who’s it for: Anyone who loves seeing cute children dance.

When: Dec. 16-18, the O’Shaughnessy, St. Paul.

Tickets: $18-$44; oshag.stkate.edu.

Visions of Sugarplums: A Burlesque Nutcracker

By: Lily Verlaine and Nadine DuBois.

What’s it like: Local burlesque favorites offer a spicy alternative to the family-friendly classic.

Who’s it for: Adults seeking a sexy, fun night out.

When: Dec. 22-Jan. 1, the Lab Theater, Mpls.

Tickets: $35-$50; thelabtheater.org.


By: Minnesota Dance Collaborative.

What’s it like: Storytellers Shelli Manzoline and Darrin Shaughnessy share the story of Marie, a young dancer who must find new holiday traditions as old ones drop away.

Who’s it for: If jazz, tap and hip-hop are more your thing, this is the “Nutcracker” for you.

When: Dec. 15-18, Southern Theater, Mpls.

Tickets: $15-$35; southerntheater.org.

Russian Nutcracker

By: Academy of Russian Ballet.

What’s it like: Get the full Russian experience with this version, adapted from the original choreography by Marius Petipa. The show is performed by the students of Svetlana Gavrilova and Kirill Bak, both trained in Russia.

Who’s it for: If you’re looking for an “authentic” experience, this production fits the bill. With an ensemble of dancers trained in the Russian style of ballet, it’s easy to imagine what audiences saw when “The Nutcracker” premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in December 1892.

When: Dec. 16-18, Eden Prairie High School Performing Arts Center.

Tickets: $20-$32; academyofrussianballet.com. 

Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis arts writer.