Two New Nutcrackers and a Half Dozen Other Performances Worth Catching This December

November 27, 2023

From annual staples returning with fresh surprises to thought-provoking new works, here’s what we’re excited to see this December.

All About Ailey

Dancers costumed in silvers and blues reminiscent of the jazz age cluster around a man playing a trumpet, pointed to the sky as he lunges.
Alvin Ailey’s For ‘Bird’ – With Love. Photo by Dario Calmese, courtesy AAADT.

NEW YORK CITY   Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater takes over New York City Center for the month of December as the company celebrates its 65th anniversary. Following an opening-night gala on Nov. 29 honoring artistic director emerita Judith Jamison, the five-week season features premieres by former artistic director Robert Battle, former Ailey dancer Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish (Me, Myself and You, a duet set to “In A Sentimental Mood”), and new Ailey artist-in-residence Amy Hall Garner (CENTURY, inspired by the choreographer’s grandfather). Also in the mix are fresh productions of Ronald K. Brown’s Dancing Spirit, Alonzo King’s Following the Subtle Current Upstream, Jamar RobertsOde, and Hans van Manen’s Solo; programs highlighting the legendary women of the company and featuring live music performed by the Future of Jazz Orchestra; and, of course, a healthy helping of Ailey classics. Nov. 29–Dec. 31. —Courtney Escoyne

Seven and Seven

Two dancers warm up in an art gallery. One twists on the floor, the other tests her balance on one leg.
Tiffany Mills Company. Photo by Beth Heller, courtesy National Sawdust.

NEW YORK CITY   Seven dancers, seven violists, three collaborative works. Tiffany Mills Company and contemporary music troupe Ensemble Ipse converge at National Sawdust for a program of live music and dance theater, inspired by texts exploring exile, the human cost of war, and the literal and metaphorical power of sight and being seen. Dec. 2–3. —CE

Dreamy Duets

Two dancers are shown mid-lift. One lunges and leans forward with a flat back. The other is lifted on his back, legs curving in attitudes as she rolls across his back. Both wear white. They are alone onstage.
Bruce Wood Dance’s Stephanie Godsave and Alex Brown in Lar Lubovitch’s Dvorak Serenade. Photo by Sharen Bradford, courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

NEW YORK CITY   A dreamy collection of current and former dancers from Bruce Wood Dance, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, New York City Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet come together for Lar Lubovitch at 80: Art of the Duet, a special Works & Process program featuring performances of some of the choreographer’s favorite duets alongside a conversation about their creation. Dec. 3. —CE

Snapshots of Love

Two male dancers in ties, dress shirts with the sleeves rolled, and flat caps pose together against a photo backdrop set up outdoors. One sits on a block, touching his forehead to the other dancer's as he lunges alongside.
Ryan T. Smith and Yebel Gallegos in Loving Still. Photo by Helena Palazzi, courtesy John Hill PR.

SAN FRANCISCO   In Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love, 1850s–1950s, Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell presented hundreds of previously unpublished vintage photographs of gay couples from their collection. Following a two-month developmental residency at 836M Gallery, RAWdance co-artistic directors Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith premiere a series of duets inspired by those images, Loving Still. Select photos are being reproduced in a larger format for display in the space; additionally, audiences attending the free performances can catch an abbreviated version of Shawn Sprockett’s Unspeakable Vice walking tour, which unearths Jackson Square’s queer history, ahead of the show. Dec. 8–10. —CE


Three hands intertwine gracefully against a black backdrop.
Photo by Carlos Quezada, courtesy Dresden Semperoper Ballet.

DRESDEN   Contemporary choreographer Johan Inger has a knack for delving into the psychology and dark undercurrents of the subjects he tackles, particularly when he takes a more narrative bent. His latest: A Swan Lake for Dresden Semperoper Ballett, which uses the oft-performed classic to question how violence, manipulation, personal freedom, and respect intersect and impact personal relationships. Dec. 9–Jan. 14. —CE

Happily Ever After?

Three dancers pose together. Downstage, a dancer in blue rehearsal clothes lunges deep and arches back. Her upper arm curves toward a dancer balancing on one leg in attitude side. Upstage of them, a dancer caught midair in a C-jump.
Kristin Wagner’s For you, I dream of me. Photo by Olivia Moon Photography, courtesy JMK Public Relations.

WORCESTER, MA   Why is it that in so many fairy tales, female protagonists can only attain happiness by enduring sacrifice and violence? That’s the question animating For you, I dream of me, a new evening-length from Kristin Wagner. Developed in part through workshops reconsidering those stories with local young adults of all gender identities, some of whom will perform alongside Wagner’s Bodies Moving company, the work has its first public showings at the Jean McDonough Arts Center BrickBox Theater Dec. 15–16. —CE

Fresh Nutcrackers

Two new takes on the holiday classic premiere.

Orlando Ballet

A sketch of a yellow and black tutu and headpiece evocative of a heron.
Robert Perdziola’s costume sketch for the heron in Orlando Ballet’s new Nutcracker. Courtesy Orlando Ballet.

ORLANDO   Drawing from his experience working in children’s theater, artistic director Jorden Morris frames Clara’s dream as a journey through a life-sized snow globe. Steering away from the Land of the Sweets’ potential for cultural insensitivity, Tchaikovsky’s “Chinese” dance is reinterpreted as a pas de deux between Drosselmeyer and a yellow-and-black heron, and the Arabian divertissement features a dancer—premiering with a female soloist but choreographed to be non–gender-specific—defying gravity in an acrobatic Cyr wheel. Tapping the Orlando community, Morris collaborated with Disney puppeteers to bring sets and costumes by Robert Perdziola to life. Dec. 8–24. —Hannah Foster

Milwaukee Ballet

A dancer glances down at the costume she is being fitted in. The bodice is dark, while the calf-length tutu is layered orange, green, and yellow.
Gregory A. Poplyk designed the costumes for The Nutcracker: Drosselmeyer’s Imaginarium. Photo by Rachel Malehorn, courtesy Milwaukee Ballet.

MILWAUKEE   Artistic director Michael Pink says that his 2003 Nutcracker production is still “bloody good,” so much so that much of its choreography is being retained for The Nutcracker: Drosselmeyer’s Imaginarium. With the reconceptualization, Pink seeks to continue the protagonists’ narrative journey into the second act, featuring them prominently in the dancing throughout. Whimsical new costumes, sets, and music transitions between scenes create a seamless flight into imagination and wonder. Dec. 8–26. —Steve Sucato