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Where to see The Nutcracker ballet in NYC

Decide which version of the holiday classic is right for you with help from our guide to The Nutcracker ballet in NYC

New York City Ballet: George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
Photograph: Courtesy Paul Kolnik New York City Ballet: George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
By Helen Shaw and Adam Feldman |
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December in New York abounds with opportunities to see The Nutcracker ballet, which for dance fans is always among the best Christmas shows around. Whether you’re an old hand (you went as Drosselmeyer to your last fancy-dress ball) or a total newbie (you keep wondering what ballerinas have against nuts), the city caters to every taste: Options range from the rigorous beauty of New York City Ballet’s marquee classic to a hip-hop rendition and Company XIV's down-and-dirty, NSFW Nutcracker Rouge. ’Tis the season to gorge on sugarplums.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas in NYC

Nutcracker ballet in NYC

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New York City Ballet: George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
Photograph: Courtesy Paul Kolnik
Dance, Ballet

New York City Ballet: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

This magical 1954 production, set to Tchaikovsky's incredible score, includes the full New York City Ballet company and two casts of School of American Ballet students, as well as an onstage blizzard and a Christmas tree that grows from 12 to 40 feet. In the end, however, Balanchine's choreography is what holds it all together. It's enchanting.

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Nutcracker Rouge
Photograph: Courtesy Mark Shelby Perry
Dance

Company XIV: Nutcracker Rouge

Austin McCormick and his risqué neo-Baroque dance-theater group Company XIV present a lavish erotic reimagining of the classic holiday tale, complete with circus performers, operatic singers and partial nudity.

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Mark Morris Dance Group, The Hard Nut
Photograph: Courtesy Julieta Cervantes
Dance, Ballet

Mark Morris Dance Group: The Hard Nut

With its 1960s setting, comic-book–style art design and cross-dressing lyrical dancers, this is one of the kookiest productions of The Nutcracker. Using the entirety of Tchaikovsky’s composition and including a section from the original E.T.A. Hoffmann story that even the original version of the ballet left out, Mark Morris Dance Group’s annual take is still fresh and very, very fun, especially after a few boozy hot cocoas during intermission.

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The Hip Hop Nutcracker
Photograph: Courtesy Hip Hop Nutcracker
Dance, Hip-hop

The Hip Hop Nutcracker

Tchaikovsky's ballet gets a facelift as rap icon Kurtis Blow MCs a ferocious contemporary reimagining with hip-hop dancers, digital projection and a beat-driven score. 

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The Bang Group: Nut/Cracked
Photograph: Courtesy Sally Cohn
Dance, Contemporary and experimental

The Bang Group: Nut/Cracked

Choreographer David Parker and his Bang Group reprise their neovaudevillian version of The Nutcracker, a comedic deconstruction of the holiday classic that mixes tap, ballet, contemporary dance and disco. The cast includes teen dancers from the Dalton School and the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.

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The Shell-Shocked Nut
Photograph: Courtesy Stacie Joy
Dance, Contemporary and experimental

The Shell-Shocked Nut

Conceived by Martha Tornay and directed by Tornay and Victoria Roberts-Wierzbowski, this production sets its Nutcracker in the East Village, where a child and a PTSD-stricken vet visit neighborhood landmarks and learn to heal. Youth performers for the East Village Dance Project, ages 4 to 19, are joined by more than a dozen professional guest dancers and choreographers, including Detroit-based dance artists Shaina and Bryan Baira and New Mexico's Project in Motion.

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In a Nutshell
Photograph: Courtesy Raquel Beauchamp
Dance, Ballet

American Liberty Ballet: In a Nutshell

American Liberty Ballet's annual twist on The Nutcracker preserves Tchaikovsky's score but sets the dreamlike action in New York City. The choreography is by Valerie Mae Browne; Allie Hutchins plays Clara. 

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