A hard nut to crack? Your guide to 5 local ‘Nutcracker’ ballets

· Dec. 4, 2013, 8:31 pm

"The Nutcracker"—a ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's famous fable of action, romance and fantasy—has become a staple of many American ballet companies' repertoire.

Dance organizations across Colorado are no exception to this holiday ritual and are gearing up for their interpretations of the beloved story set to Tchaikovsky’s timeless score. But with so many "Nutcrackers" to choose from, it can be difficult to pick out the one that sparkles most for you.
Here’s a sampling of some of Colorado’s best bets, so run away to a winter wonderland of dancing snowflakes this season with one of these enchanting productions.
Photo: Colorado Ballet NutcrackerCourtesy of Mike Watson
Artists of the Colorado Ballet in the Act II Finale of "The Nutcracker." 
The holiday season is driven by traditions that bring people together. This sentiment is at the heart of Colorado Ballet’s "The Nutcracker," which boasts a cast of professional dancers, more than 60 students from the Colorado Ballet Academy, a full orchestra and elaborate sets and costumes. The excitement of getting dressed up and heading downtown for a night at the ballet gives it that special edge and keeps families coming back each year.
"It is always nice when people tell me how going to "The Nutcracker" is a family tradition," says artistic director Gil Boggs. Now in its 53rd year, Colorado Ballet continues to share the magic of Clara, her Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy with all of Denver.
See it: Nov. 30 – Dec. 28, 2013 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver. Tickets available at ColoradoBallet.org.
Photo: Wonderbound NutcrackerCourtesy of Amanda Tipton
Wonderbound dance artists Sarah Tallman, left, and Brandon Freeman as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier.
For Denver-based Wonderbound, formerly Ballet Nouveau Colorado, "The Nutcracker" is all about sparking the imaginations of young audience members. Upon the conclusion of each show, children from the audience are invited onstage to learn choreography from the holiday classic. Audience members can also engage in an intimate Q & A session with the artists and get autographs from their favorite characters—it’s a fun, interactive experience that boldly breaks the norms of a typical ballet setting.
"We really see "The Nutcracker" as a magical journey through the eyes of a child,” says Wonderbound artistic director Garrett Ammon. “If we can inspire a child in the audience to go after his or her dreams, then we have done our job."
See it: Dec. 14 – 22, 2013 at Performing Arts Complex at Pinnacle Charter School in Denver. Tickets available at Wonderbound.com.
Photo: Boulder Ballet Nutcracker(Photo: Courtesy of Sue Daniels Photography)
Clara in the Boulder Ballet production of "The Nutcracker."
Featuring jugglers, acrobats and unicyclists, the Boulder Ballet’s production of "The Nutcracker" is anything but ordinary. This truly theatrical event features original choreography and live music from the Longmont Symphony Orchestra. Artistic director Peter Davison, who plays Herr Drosselmeyer in the production, juggles and performs magic tricks as the nutty old uncle. He heads the young boys program at the dance academy, and his pupils join him onstage in Act II to showcase their both their dance and circus skills. This production keeps audiences guessing because it’s different every year.
See it: Dec. 7 & 8, 2013 at Vance Brand Civic Auditorium in Longmont. Tickets available at BoulderBallet.org.
Photo: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Nutcracker(Photo: Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor)
Waltz of the Flowers from Aspen Santa Fe Ballet's "The Nutcracker."
What sets Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s "Nutcracker" apart from all others is its unique second act. Rather than taking place in the Land of the Sweets, the short dances of Act II are set against the backdrop of a carnival with a twinkling, revolving carousel. Infused with a fun circus theme, the dancers deviate from the traditional candy origins, taking on the true flavors of the countries they represent. The Spanish Dance is done flamenco style, the Arabian dance is athletic, a classical Chinese sleeve dancer performs the Chinese Dance and Russian folk dancers take the stage for Trepak.
See it: Dec. 14 & 15, 2013 at Aspen District Theatre. Tickets information at AspenSantaFeBallet.com.
Photo: Canyon City Ballet NutcrackerCourtesy of Greg Hughes
Herr Drosselmeyer in the Canyon City Ballet's "The Nutcracker."
Every year, Canyon Concert Ballet performs "The Nutcracker" for the city of Fort Collins. The production features the company’s young, emerging artists, guest professional dancers from acclaimed international ballet companies, choreography by artistic director Richard d’Alton and the sweet melodies of "The Nutcracker Suite," as played live by the Fort Collins Symphony. The company also hosts a "Nutcracker" boutique at each performance, inviting guests to enjoy holiday shopping. A special feature at the boutique this year is “Clara’s Peppermint Par-Tea,” a tea specifically blended for the Canyon Concert Ballet by Happy Lucky Tea Shop.
See it: Dec. 13 – 15, 2013 at Lincoln Center in Fort Collins. Ticket information at CCBallet.org.

Stephanie Wolf is a former professional ballet dancer and a freelance journalist based in Denver reporting mostly on the arts.

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