THE “NUTCRACKER” MARCHES ON; LOCAL PRODUCTIONS FIND MANY WAYS TO INTERPRET AND REINVENT THE EVERGREEN CHRISTMAS CLASSIC

Come winter, dance performances become a gathering of families. The 19th-century tale of “The Nutcracker,” by Prussian law officer and writer E.T.A. Hoffman, is as much a holiday standard as snowflakes and Santa Claus – even more so in the temperate Bay Area.

Several companies do oblige in providing supplements to a steady diet of “Nutcracker.” Co-artistic director KT Nelson of ODC/SF once again shapes “The Velveteen Rabbit” (Friday-Dec. 9, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts).

The “Nutcracker,” however, soldiers on in numerous versions this season.

Here’s what’s on tap to get you into the holiday spirit:

“The Christmas Ballet, 2001 Edition,” Smuin Ballets/SF, Nov. 24-25,, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, $25-$33, 650-903-6000. Dec. 12-30, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 415-978-ARTS (2787), www.smuinballets.com.

Is it a stunning duality or the easy way out? After all, the ballet company gets away with doing both a classical and a Broadway approach. Tony and Emmy award-winner and founder Michael Smuin once again shows his sure-handedness (and sure-footedness) with the two-parter approach, “The Classic Christmas” and “The Cool Christmas.”

“Casse Noisette,” Lamorinda Ballet Center, Nov. 30-Dec. 1, Lesher Theater, Dean Lesher Center for the Arts, Civic Drive at Locust Street, Walnut Creek, $22/$24, 925-943-SHOW, www.dlrca.org.

Ah, don’t let the French fool you. It is indeed the Gallic translation of the beloved “Nutcracker,” and this full-length performance introduces students on-stage and off to the splendor of the production.

“Winter Ballet Gala 2001.” Danville Ballet, Dec. 6-8, Del Valle Theatre, 1963 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek, $16/$20, 925-943-SHOW, www.dlrca.org, www.danvilleballet.org.

Students don’t just content themselves with excerpts from the “Nutcracker.” The millennium celebration, “2000 Pointes of Light,” makes a return visit, as does other seasonal favorites.

n “Nutcracker,” Berkeley Ballet Theater, Dec. 7-9, 14-16, Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave., Berkeley, $16, 510-843-4687, www.berkeleyballet.org.

The Berkeley Ballet Theater’s rendition has siblings Fritz and Clara as orphans, shivering outside the home of toymaker Herr Drosselmeyer. Shivering orphans aside, it’s still a heartwarming version that weaves dreams and “real” happy endings.

“The Hard Nut: The Nutcracker with a Twist,” Mark Morris Dance Group and Berkeley Symphony Orchestra members, Dec. 7-9, 13-16, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Bancroft and Telegraph avenues, Berkeley, $28/$38/$52, 510-642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu.

Pity not the child who has been weaned on choreographer Mark Morris’ enchanting lunatic version of the “Nutcracker.” With all the makeovers the original story has had, throwing in a confusion of go-go boots, Barbie dolls and gender-swapping roles has simply made it a ballet of our times – and the roaring crowds who return every year attest to its touching, comic endurance.

“Nutcracker,” State Street Ballet Company of Santa Barbara, Dec. 7-9, Amador Theater, Amador Valley High School, 1155 Santa Rita Road, Pleasanton, $13-$20, 925-931-3455, www.hacienda.org.

With Santa Barbara but a stone’s throw from Los Angeles (if you first drive the stone for a couple of hours), the 1930s Hollywood take is understandable. Artistic director Rodney Gustafson, formerly a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater under Mikhail Baryshnikov, places young Clara at Stahlbaum Film Studio, where she dreams about being in show biz.

n “Nutcracker,” Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, Dec. 7-23, Flint Center, 21250 Stevens Creek, Cupertino, $26-$62, 408-288-2800, www.balletsanjose.org.

The ballet company moves to the big time with its shift to the 2,433-seat Flint Center. The space accommodates not only the crowds, but a cast of more than 60 dancers and students and the Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley Orchestra. The theater itself gets gussied up with garlands and lights, free toy give-aways and photo opportunities with the Nutcracker and Mouse King themselves.

n “Nutcracker Ballet,” Theatre Ballet of San Francisco and the Academy of Arts & Ballet, Dec. 8, Creative Arts Bldg., 250 School St., Pittsburg, $12/$14/$15, 925-778-9797.

This production has allowed East County residents to stay close to family hearth for their “Nutcracker” fix. Nor do they lose out in the traditions: The local and professional dancers in performances past have followed in the intricate footsteps of the 1892 Russian choreography.

“2001 Dance-Along Nutcracker,” San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, Forum, Dec. 8-9, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., S.F., $12/$18/$35, 415-978-2787 (ARTS), 415-255-1355, www.jonsimsctr.org/sflgfb.

Watching a truly great performance stirs the soul, but sometimes it agitates the body, who longs to throw off the confines of its velvet plush seat and take a flying leap on-stage. This kind of irrepressibility is encouraged, down to the bring-it-yourself tutu (although conveniently that and fair wands are available for rent).

“Impressions of the Nutcracker,” San Ramon Valley Dance Academy, Dec. 7-9, Village Theatre 233 Front St., Danville, $10-$12, 925-837-4656, www.srvda.com

The impression of this ballet company’s performance goes quite deep in the community, as this is the 17th go-around. The 60-plus cast members, often joined by special guest soloists, in the past has wrung a few extra twists with tap-dancing and tumbling amid the traditional twirls.

“Nutcracker,” Peninsula Ballet Theatre, Dec. 7-8, Fox Theater, 2215 Broadway, Redwood City, Dec. 15-16, 22-23, San Mateo Performing Arts Center, 600 N. Delaware St., San Mateo, $12-$30, 650-340-9448, www.peninsulaballet.org.

Internationally famed director and choreographer Carlos Carvajal pulled off another coup last year, pairing his lilting production with live orchestral accompaniment. Lightning strikes twice, just in time for the company’s 30th anniversary.

“Nutcracker,” San Francisco Ballet, Dec. 11-30, War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F., $9-$125, 415-865-2000, www.sfballet.org.

How much more traditional can one get than watch the company that performed the first full-length American production back in 1944? OK, maybe not the exact same dancers, but S.F. Ballet has made its bewitching production an outstanding spectacle.

“Nutcracker,” Oakland Ballet, Dec. 14-24, Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway, Oakland, $8-$45, 510-625-8497, www.oaklandballet.org.

The San Francisco Ballet may have its War Memorial Opera House, but Oakland holds up wonderfully well with the elegant art deco of the Paramount. With the score delivered by the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the company’s staging stuffs local celebrities in its “All-Star Night.”

“The Story of the Nutcracker,” The Contra Costa Ballet, Dec. 16-20, Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, $15/$20, 925-943-SHOW (7469), www.dlrca.org, www.contracostaballet.org.

This hour-long production brings back Diablo Ballet guest artists Tina Kay Bohnstedt as the lovely Sugar Plum Fairy and Viktor Kabaniaev as her Cavalier.

“Nutcracker,” Valley Dance Theatre, Livermore-Amador Symphony and Harmony Crossroads Chorus, Dec. 22-23, repeats Dec. 27, Livermore High School Theater, 600 Maple St., Livermore, $8/$12, 925-243-0927, www.valleydancetheatre.com.

The performance not only wraps its arms around the full-length production, but it also enfolds a symphony and chorus. The voices this year come courtesy of a cappella women’s group Harmony Crossroads Chorus.

“The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” Dec. 27-28, “The Nutcracker Gone Nuts,” Dec. 28, California Ballet Theatre, Hofmann Theatre, Dean Lesher Center for the Arts, Civic Drive at Locust Street, Walnut Creek, $12/$16, 925-943-SHOW.

You have to hand it to the Martinez-based studio. Not only does it find the post-Christmas and pre-New Year stamina to pull off its full-length traditional turn, but it turns around with a parody unto itself with its one-time “The Nutcracker Gone Nuts.”

Vera H-C Chan is the Times event editor. She can be reached at 925-977-8428 or at vchan@cctimes.com.

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