Things to Do

Five Nutcracker Shows Around DC

Illustrations by Phong Nguyen

Who would have thought that a ballet spun from a German Romantic fable about a mouse and a kitchen tool would become a centuries-long success? Certainly not the critics. After The Nutcracker’s 1892 premiere in St. Petersburg, one wrote that “for the artistic fate of our ballet—it is yet one more step downwards.”

These days, a Nutcracker run forms the financial backbone of many dance companies. As such, there’s no shortage of variations, set to the musical style and locale of your choice. Here are a few coming this month.

1. The Classic

Name: Fairfax Symphony Orchestra: The Nutcracker

What it is: The FSO and Fairfax Ballet’s collaboration draws on local choreographers’ work.

Setting: Victorian-era Europe.

Music: The original Tchaikovsky performed by a 55-piece orchestra.

Best addition: Not much—it’s a pretty by-the-book adaptation.

When: December 9.

Where: GMU Center for the Arts.

Tickets: $39 to $65.

2. Swing and Step

Name: A “Swingin’ Nutcracker” à la Ellington

What it is: A world premiere inspired by the African-American experience, featuring the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and DC’s Step Afrika!

Setting: 1930s “anywhere America.”

Music: A rhythmic, percussive take on Duke Ellington’s jazzy “Nutcracker Suite.”

Best addition: The character of Clara is replaced by a young Ellington.

When: December 8.

Where: Strathmore.

Tickets: $12.50 to $60.

3. For History Lovers

Name: The Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker

What it is: Recently retired artistic director Septime Weber developed this annual mainstay with a local flavor.

Setting: Revolutionary War–era Georgetown.

Music: The original score, on recording.

Best addition: The Nutcracker depicted as George Washington, the Rat King as King George.

When: December 1 through 24.

Where: Warner Theatre.

Tickets: $33 to $133.

4. The Contemporary Take

Name: The Hip Hop Nutcracker

What it is: Ballerinas in tutus are replaced by breakdancers in high-tops for this modern version.

Setting: Present-day New York City.

Music: An electric violin and an onstage deejay.

Best addition: Just a tiny bit of time travel, because why not?

When: December 16.

Where: Strathmore.

Tickets: $32 to $58.

5. Puppets? Puppets!

Name: The Puppet Co.’s Nutcracker

What it is: This three-decade-old kids’ version is replete with hand puppets, marionettes, and masked actors.

Setting: Victorian-era Europe.

Music: An abridged recording by the now-defunct Arlington Symphony.

Best addition: Puppet sword-fighting.

When: November 25 through December 30.

Where: Glen Echo Park.

Tickets: $12.

This article appears in the December 2016 issue of Washingtonian.