It's hard to get in the Christmas mood when it's 80 degrees outside and everything still looks the same as it did in July. Thankfully, there are some ways South Floridians can get in the holiday spirit this December, and it doesn't involve drinking peppermint mochas from Starbucks or playing in fake snow.
Going to see The Nutcracker ballet is a sure way to celebrate the season and get excited about the holidays. The story of a little girl named Clara (also known as Marie) who dances with a nutcracker, mouse king, and sugar plum fairy is a timeless tradition that has been enjoyed since its premiere in 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Though the ending of the story, as well as some nuances of the characters, has differed over the centuries, the core story line of the ballet has remained -- a little girl's dreams come to life on Christmas Eve.
This year, there are three major performances going on in the Broward and Palm Beach County areas -- each with its own take on the dance.
The Ballet Etudes Company of South Florida is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year performing The Nutcracker at the Miramar Cultural Center. On the weekend of December 20 and 21 for the price of $37 to $47, you can see an original production of the classic by artistic director and founder Susan Prieto.
Trained in Cuba and Coral Gables in the Russian method of ballet, Prieto has created original choreography and artwork for the sets. This year, the production features guest stars from Puerto Rico and a cast of more than 100 dancers. Ballet Etudes of South Florida distinguishes itself as a nonprofit organization that exists to preserve, present, and promote classical ballet.
"Our Nutcracker is now a 40-year-old tradition, yet still it is constantly evolving in terms of fresh choreography, new sets, scenery, and costumes," Prieto said. "At its core, it is still noticeably the Ballet Etudes production, but we do tweak it so our regular audience members can appreciate something a little different every year."
If you live a little farther north in Broward, you can attend Arts Ballet Theater's rendition of The Nutcracker at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale on December 17, 20, and 21 for $20 to $40. The choreography is also original work, done by director Vladimir Issaev from Siberia, Russia.
The dancers are from around the world, including Japan, Venezuela, and Chile. Issaev and his company have won numerous awards for their performances and are offering an alternative to the widely popular George Balanchine version this year as they preserve the Russian tradition of The Nutcracker. Company members are exceptionally excited about this year's performance as they celebrate 16 years of bringing affordable and exquisite ballet to South Florida.
For those who live in the Palm Beaches and want to see a more familiar, traditional version of The Nutcracker, the Miami City Ballet's performance at the Kravis Center would be a good choice. The show runs after Christmas, so if you get so busy baking and shopping that you don't have a minute to sit down, you could relax after the holiday buzz with this ballet. Tickets start as low as $25 and go as high as $79.
According to Caroline Murry, assistant director of marketing, this version is a true Broadway-style spectacular with lavish costumes, elaborate sets, and magical special effects. Some of those effects include a Christmas tree that grows right before the audience's eyes to about 40 feet, a blizzard of snow, and an epic battle between heroic toy soldiers and mischievous mice that involves real gunpowder in a cannon.
"The Miami City Ballet is one of the only companies in the country with the permission to perform George Balanchine's version of the holiday classic," Murray said. "It is one of the most complex, theatrical, and staged ballets in the Miami City Ballet's repertoire, and this is unrivaled by any other production in town." More than 60 young dancers will perform alongside Miami City Ballet's 50 professional dancers.
Though you may want to just choose a performance that is close to you or the most affordable, the three are definitely not the same (besides the fact that there will be mice dancing in every show). Whether you go for Prieto's original gem -- a historical and local landmark, Issaev's Russian and award-winning performance, or the most traditional rendition done by one of the largest ballet companies in the U.S., you are sure to get enough sights, smells, and sounds to get you in the mood for the most wonderful time of the year.
Miramar Cultural Center, 2400 Civic Center Place, Miramar. December 20 and 21. Tickets cost $37 to $47. Call 954-602-4500, or visit miramarculturalcenter.org.
Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale. December 17 (matinee), 20, and 21. Tickets cost $21.50 to $41.50 ($7 for matinee). Call 954-468-3313, or visit ticketmaster.com.
Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. December 27 to 30. Tickets cost $25 to $79. Call 800-745-3000, or visit kravis.org.