Where to See ‘The Nutcracker’ This Holiday Season

A scene from "The Nutcracker" by the Hampton Ballet Theatre School
A scene from "The Nutcracker" by the Hampton Ballet Theatre School

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a performance of The Nutcracker, and the East End has an abundance of shows to grace your winter calendar. Character names and select details change with the different productions, but the basic plotline tells the same, beloved tale.

With a score by famed Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker is the story of young heroine Clara, who receives a nutcracker from her godfather, Drosselmeyer, on Christmas Eve. Much to Clara’s dismay, her brother Fritz breaks the toy before the two go to bed. Later in the night, a heartbroken Clara sneaks back into the living room to check on her toy. As the clock strikes midnight, Clara looks up to see Drosselmeyer sitting above the clock. The living room is transformed into a battleground, as it fills with mice. The nutcracker grows to life-size, leading an army of gingerbread soldiers against the Mouse King and his army. With the nutcracker still wounded, Clara throws her slipper at the Mouse King, giving the nutcracker enough time to stab him. The battle won, the nutcracker transforms into a prince and leads Clara through a snowflake-filled pine forest into the Land of Sweets, which is ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy. Various candies, representing countries from across the globe, dance for Clara and the Nutcracker Prince in thanks. As the ballet ends, audience members are left to question whether Clara’s experience was a dream or reality.

Megan Callahan, owner of Danse Arts in Bridgehampton, describes the experience of teaching her dancers the importance of The Nutcracker. The program lives on despite the societal gap between a show that debuted in 1892 and today. “I want the kids to experience The Nutcracker” as dancers from past generations have experienced. The 11-year-olds who play Clara, for example, are not as excited to receive a nutcracker as Clara would have been at the show’s debut. “I tell them to pretend it’s an iPad,” she says. “Then, they’re excited.” Then, they understand.

Her ballet incorporates dancers 3 years old to seniors in high school, with parents playing the parts of adult dancers in the party scene. “It’s a very family-oriented show,” says Callahan.

Check out these Nutcrackers:

Danse Arts
See Danse Arts’ production of The Nutcracker at Southampton High School December 6–8. The production is dedicated to owner Megan Callahan’s brother Kevin J. Cancellieri. Partial proceeds will benefit a Danse Arts scholarship in his name. dansearts.com

Ovations Dance Repertory Company
Ovations presents the only full-length Nutcracker Suite performance on Long Island with a 25-piece orchestra, the Atlantic Wind Symphony. Performances are Saturday, December 7, at 1 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 8, at 1 and 6 p.m. Call 631-207-1313.  patchoguetheatre.com

Hampton Ballet Theatre School
The fifth annual production of the Hampton Ballet Theatre School’s (HBTS) production of The Nutcracker will run at Guild Hall December 13–15.

Peconic Ballet Theatre
The Peconic Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker “Sweet” is the culmination of a 12-week residency program at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. The show runs December 14 and 15. whbpac.org peconicballettheatre.org

“Mixed Nuts” Dance Show
It’s Nutcracker meets The Great Gatsby, with a variety of dance styles—think tap, jazz, lyrical and hip hop—at Bay Street Theatre on December 13, 14 and 15. dancestudio3.com

Seiskaya Ballet
One of Long Island’s most lavish productions of Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet returns to the Staller Center at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook from December 20–23. Choreographed by Valia Seiskaya, this spectacular show has been crafted by acclaimed artists and dancers from all over the world. nutcrackerballet.com

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