The Nutcracker at the Paris National Opera, 2009-10 © Julien Benhamou Classical Guide / Classical World

Choosing a Christmas Ballet Performance

Christmas is coming, and surely there are visions of sugar plums dancing in heads around the globe. For many, the Christmas season is not complete without a performance of “The Nutcracker”, with its dancing Sugar Plum Fairies and other fanciful figures. “The Nutcracker” is certainly the ultimate Christmas ballet, but maybe this is the year to branch out and end the year with a dance experience of a different kind. Try a lesser-known classic, or delve into the world of contemporary dance.

Traditional Holiday Ballets

For die-hard Nutcracker fans, the magic can be found at the Estonian National Opera Ballet in Tallinn, where American choreographer Ben Stevenson’s wildly popular production will be staged throughout December. Or, in nearby Helsinki, the Finnish National Opera Ballet presents “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”, a particularly family-friendly interpretation where the action takes place in the medieval Finnish town of Porvoo. For a southern twist, look to Rome, where the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma offers a new version of “Lo Schiccianoci” (The Nutcracker) by Italian choreographer Giuliano Peparini.

If you want an authentic tutu experience, but have already overloaded on Sugar Plum Fairies, visit the ballet in Vienna, where “The Snow Queen” takes center stage at the Volksoper Wien this holiday season, with music based on Prokofiev’s “The Stone Flower”. More Prokofiev can be heard at the ballet in Versailles, where you can indulge your romantic side in a royal atmosphere at the famed Ballet Preljocaj’s production of “Romeo and Juliet”.

Ballets Old and New in Paris

The array of Christmas ballet in Paris promises something for everyone. The Opéra de Paris Ballet offers Nureyev’s breathtaking version of Marius Petipa’s “La Bayadère” for those seeking authentic Franco-Russian ballet heritage.

For a taste of the new, consider a contemporary ballet in the opulent surroundings of Palais Garnier. The Batsheva Dance Company visits this winter with a work by the company’s artistic director, Ohad Naharin. The Paris Opera Ballet will dedicate most of their December dates to contemporary dance set to 20th century music, with works by Christopher Wheeldon, Wayne McGregor, and the legendary Pina Bausch.

Also in Paris, witness contemporary ballet in the venue where the Ballets Russes caused a riot a century ago with Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”: At the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées,  choreographer Blanca Li is in the limelight this winter with her new work, Goddesses and Demons, featuring principal dancer Maria Alexandrova.

Credits:The Nutcracker at the Paris National Opera, 2009-10 © Julien Benhamou

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