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Georgia Ballet

From the Sugar Plum Fairy to Scrooge, holiday dance productions are back

The Washington Post ran a rave review when Atlanta Ballet premiered Yuri Possokhov’s thrilling Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center Opera House in December 2019. Dance critic Sarah L. Kaufman described it as the smartest and most entertaining Nutcracker she’d seen, full of innovations and creativity. “It finds fresh ways to illuminate the age-old themes of love, play and endless possibility,” she wrote. High praise indeed.

Atlanta audiences saw the world premiere of Possokhov’s production in December 2018 and again in 2019, both at the Fox Theatre, but the physical limitations of that venue couldn’t do it justice. Then the pandemic scuttled any hope of seeing it in 2020. Now we get to enjoy the ultra high-tech production as it was meant to be enjoyed – on the stage of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, December 4-29.

Aside from being a holiday tradition, Nutcracker is the primary income-producer for most ballet companies, so it’s no doubt a relief for these ensembles to be back on stage this season. The Atlanta Ballet production has all the bells and whistles you could ever want, but if a neighborhood production calls to you there are several to choose from. Some are more professional than others, some bring in guest artists for the lead roles, some update the time, place and storyline; most feature dozens of children who have been rehearsing for months.

Other productions such as Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre’s Marley Was Dead, To Begin With bring a contemporary vibe to holiday dance.

Here’s a list of seasonal productions in and around Atlanta.

Alpharetta

Ballethnic’s Urban Nutcracker Experience
December 18, Legacy Theatre 

Ballethnic Dance Company does a beautiful job of making their annual Nutcracker a true community event. Waverly T. Lucas’ production is set in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of the 1940s and includes many references to Atlanta then and now. In an effort to keep the cast smaller this year, co-founder and co-artistic director Nena Gilreath says some scenes will play on an LED screen. Masks and temperature checks are required.

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Druid Hills/Virginia Highlands

Callanwolde School of Dance’s Our Common Joy
December 10-11, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, Outdoor Amphitheater

In this all-new show, 31 dancers in the Callanwolde-based Prime Mover Dance Company are joined by actor J.R. McCall, who portrays notable celebrities and holiday icons, and the Grammy-winning Ebenezer Gospel Choir from Senator (and Pastor) Raphael Warnock’s church. The story is written in verse and the choreography is in the capable hands of Callanwolde teachers Jillian Mitchell (founder of Kit Modus dance company), Corian Ellisor (formerly with Core Dance) and Jerylann Warner, director of Callanwolde’s School of Dance.

Attendees must be masked going to and from their seats. If the performance is moved indoors, masks will be required upon entry into the Callanwolde Mansion and must be worn at all times, except when individuals are eating or drinking.

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Terminus Modern Ballet Theater

Kennesaw

Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre, Marley Was Dead, To Begin With
December 10-12, Kennesaw State University Dance Theater

Choreographer Heath Gill and actor-singer-composer Jacob Ryan Smith fuse movement and spoken word in this innovative retelling of A Christmas Carol. Created originally for film, this is the first time Atlanta audiences will see the work live on stage. The seven-member cast includes new company dancers Jackie Nash and Ashley Eleby and two company protégés. Shorn of sentimentality, the evening-length work is imbued with mystery and comedy as well as the compassion and redemption of Dickens’ novel. The TMBT box office is making every effort to add space between parties as they book. Masks are strongly recommended. On-site rapid testing available an hour prior to each performance.

Named Atlanta’s Best Dance Production of 2020 by ArtsATL, the film will be available again December 17-31 through the Terminus website.

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Marietta

Georgia Ballet’s The Nutcracker
December 2-5, Jennie T. Anderson Theatre

Under the direction of Daet Rodriguez from Cuba, this small, deeply committed company continues to maintain a high standard technically. One dancer who shines is Joan Sebastian Zamora. He trained at the Royal Ballet School in England and spent two seasons with the English National Ballet before joining The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. Now he is a full-time member of Georgia Ballet and will perform in this year’s Nutcracker. Audiences can enjoy live music on December 3-5. The December 2 show is shorter, with recorded music, tailored to children and adults with different visual and auditory needs. Masks are recommended but not required.

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Midtown

The Hip Hop Nutcracker
December 14, The Fox Theatre

Tchaikovsky might be crying in his grave – hip-hop? to my music?  — but if he could see this production he might change his mind. Now in its seventh year, it’s close to becoming a tradition. Director-choreographer Jennifer Weber’s contemporary holiday mash-up includes a cast of a dozen all-star dancers, a DJ, a violinist, and MC Kurtis Blow, one of hip-hop’s founding fathers, who opens the show with a short set. Vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals are required to wear a mask, except when eating and drinking.

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Roswell

Metropolitan Ballet Theater, The Nutcracker
December 17-19, Blessed Trinity Catholic High School

This small neighborhood company has been visiting the Land of the Sweets for 20 years. Like most other companies, they skipped last year because of the pandemic. Unique to this production is a Sugarplum Storytime pass that is great for the little ones. It includes a matinee performance and in-person time with the Sugarplum Fairy and other characters from sweets-ville. Masks are required for vaccinated and unvaccinated audience members. Individuals with Covid symptoms are asked not to attend.

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Gillian Anne Renault has written for ArtsATL since 2012. In August 2021 she was named senior editor overseeing Art+Design and Dance. 

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