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The Nutcracker

Through 12/28: Thu-Fri 7 PM (except 12/25), Sat 2 and 7 PM; also Sun 12/14, 1 and 6 PM; Sun 12/21 and Tue 12/23, 2 and 7 PM; Wed 12/24 and Sun 12/28, 2 PM

Perennial favorites like The Nutcracker are a double-edged sword: they're beloved because of their place in holiday tradition, but they can suffer from monotony, performed year after year by nearly every dance company hoping to break even. This season alone there are at least seven different performances of Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky's ballet being danced in the Chicago area. But once again, one stands out. Gracefully melding tradition with innovative choreography and modern spectacle, Joffrey Ballet's rendition shows why the troupe remains the city's preeminent ballet company. One of the most striking differences between this Nutcracker and every other one I've seen (and there have been many) is its incorporation of male dancers into the larger corps pieces. Two show-stopping group numbers, the Waltz of the Snowflakes and the Waltz of the Flowers, traditionally rely on an all-female group. Here the addition of ballerinos creates a dynamic swirl of leaping men, pirouetting women, and partnered duos with terrific height and speed, all viewed through a shimmering onstage snow shower. In the performance I attended, the perfectly cast Jeraldine Mendoza played the Sugar Plum Fairy, delicately executing Marius Petipa's original choreography with a charming smile. It couldn't help but warm my heart—yet I also couldn't help but fear for her, watching nervously as she fouettéd across a bed of slippery floral remains. The fistfuls of glitter, fake snow, and flower petals that make the show so lovely to look at also tempt fate. But of course, she nailed it. Even the kids in the cast are pros every step of the way—the Joffrey should have a battalion of dancers waiting in the wings for many Nutcrackers to come. —Brianna Wellen $32-$119

http://joffrey.org
Auditorium Theatre (map)
50 E. Congress Pkwy.
Loop
phone 800-982-2787
The Nutcracker

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