- The Washington Times - Friday, November 13, 2009

Times may be tough, budgets may be tight, but the most glittery holiday dance season in memory is sailing into Washington this year.

“The Nutcracker” is making its annual visit in various productions both modest and exuberant, from the charming one danced by the Maryland Youth Ballet at Montgomery College to the high energy performance of the Washington Ballet’s Americana version — complete with blossoming cherry trees — in its annual appearance at the Warner Theatre.

Plus, this year for the first time, the ultimate “Nutcracker” will be seen here in the District — the version that prompted the work’s wholesale embrace as the Christmas ballet. Created by the legendary George Balanchine in 1954 for the New York City Ballet, this is the version that has been seen every year since then at New York City’s Lincoln Center — but never here, until this year.

The Pennsylvania Ballet, one of the few companies (other than the NYCB) to perform Balanchine’s “Nutcracker,” will appear at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House for seven performances Nov. 24 through 29. The Philadelphia-based troupe will be accompanied by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, a sumptuous offering in today’s belt-tightening economy.

As a young student in Russia, Balanchine (1904-1983) danced in “Nutcracker” at the Maryinsky Ballet.

Like the Maryinsky staging, Balanchine’s version captures a sense of wonder. His Christmas tree begins to grow as the stage scenery — windows, furniture, everything — flies into the wings. Tchaikovsky’s music swells, and a little girl in a white nightgown, a tiny figure alone on a vast empty stage, gazes up at the tree as it grows to magical heights — a striking image and a great moment of theater.

That’s only the beginning of the goodies from the Balanchine canon coming our way this season. The New York City Ballet will appear at the Kennedy Center Dec. 9 through 13 with two extraordinary programs — highlights of this or any other season — and, again, with full orchestra.

The first includes Balanchine’s “Mozartiana” and “Violin Concerto” and Jerome Robbins’ sublime “Dances at a Gathering.” A second program offers Balanchine’s “Concerto Barocco” and gorgeous “Liebeslieder Walzer” as well as “Les Gentilhommes” by NYCB’s director Peter Martins and Christopher Wheeldon’s “Liturgy.”

As usual, music lovers will find enchantment in the scores for these dances, including works by Bach, Chopin, Stravinsky and Brahms.

The season has more to celebrate than Christmas, of course, and something for almost every taste is coming our way.

Here are some of them:

Friday: Step Afrika! at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Kay Theatre, University of Maryland. Tickets and information: 301/405-ARTS (2787).

Saturday and Sunday: American Dance Institute premieres its new Chamber Ballet, its resident company, with three ballets by Runqiao Du and guest artists Jared Nelson, Maki Onuki and Corey Landolt from the Washington Ballet. 301/984-3003.

Nov. 20: Fuego Flamenco V Festival at Gala Hispanic Theatre features programs with artists from the U.S. and Spain through Dec. 6. Onstage Nov. 20 and 21: “Flamenco desde abajo,”choreographed and performed by Isabel Lopez with musical direction by Jose Luis Silva “Morito.” Nov. 28: “Flamenco en familia,” featuring free family workshops in flamenco led by Natalia Monteleon and her company, Arte Flamenco. Dec. 5 and 6: “Flamenco Deconstructed,” with Aparicio Flamenco Dance Company and guest artist Omayra Amaya from Spain. 202/234-7174.

Nov. 20-21:“Ballroom With a Twist” with dancers from ABC-TV’s “Dancing With the Stars” at the Music Center at Strathmore. 301/581-5100

Dec. 4-5: “Crush,” a premiere presented by CityDance at Strathmore. The program features highlights of Artistic Director Paul Gordon Emerson’s three-week tour of the Middle East working with Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 301/581-5100

Dec. 10-20: The Washington Ballet’s “Nutcracker” at the Warner Theatre. 877/598-8497.

Dec. 18-27: “The Nutcracker,” Maryland Youth Ballet at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center at Montgomery College in Rockville. 240-567-5301

Dec. 18-20: American Dance Institute Youth Ensemble in a condensed, hourlong version of “The Nutcracker” specially geared toward young audiences. 301/984-3003.

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