Ah, the holidays. This is the season of leftover turkey, impulse purchases, football, trees and ornaments, various bell ringings, baking and just about anything that can fit under the holiday banner as long as the holiday cheer is broadly being spread.
Since it’s that time of year, it means one of the area’s infallible holiday traditions is about to leap onto family calendars. Yes, it’s once again time for “The Nutcracker.” Four dance companies are staging the ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.”
“The Nutcracker,” which debuted in 1892 with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, is a Columbia holiday tradition.
A brief synopsis: A young girl, Clara, receives a wooden nutcracker carved in the shape of a small man. At midnight, the Nutcracker comes to life.
There’s a battle between gingerbread man soldiers and mice led by the Mouse King. During the fight, Clara saves the Nutcracker, who then takes her to the Land of Sweets ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Here are four local productions of “The Nutcracker.” Each adds its own panache to the century-old production.
Ann Brodie’s Carolina Ballet: Carolina Ballet, which started off “The Nutcracker” season this week, has one show left. It’s at 3 p.m. today at the Township Auditorium. The company’s tagline is “Stars of Tomorrow… on Stage Today.”
Sara Mearns, who began her training with Carolina Ballet and is now a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, has danced the Sugar Plum Fairy role in George Balanchine’s version of “The Nutcracker.” You really could be seeing dancers who will one day perform on the world’s biggest stages.
The Township is at 1703 Taylor St. $15.50-$20.50 (student tickets cost $12.50 but are only available at the Township’s box office); www.thetownship.org
Columbia Classical Ballet: Columbia Classical Ballet, which begins its “Nutcracker” performances Friday at the Koger Center, will rotate company members in the ballet’s major roles. “The Nutcracker” is world-renowned, so it’s fitting that CCB will present the ballet with an international cast, as dancers from Europe, Asia and the Caribbean will perform. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Friday; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 and 3 p.m. Dec. 2. The Koger Center is at 1051 Greene St. $5-$32; www.capitoltickets.com or (803) 251-2222
Columbia City Ballet: The Columbia City Ballet’s production will feature a cast of 130 dancers, new costumes and special effects. William Starrett, the company’s artistic director, created a new piece for the Land of Sweets in Act II that was inspired by the Summer Olympics. The ballet will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, 810 Lyttleton Road, Camden. $18-$20; www.fineartscenter.org
The Columbia performances are at the Koger Center, with performances Dec. 8-9 and Dec. 14-16. An added bonus is the Nutcracker Tea the company hosts in the Koger Center’s ballroom. Clara, the Nutcracker Prince and others attend the event. It will be held at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 8-9 and 15-16. Tea tickets cost $20 and can be purchased by calling (803) 799-7605. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8-9 and 14-16 and 3 p.m. Dec. 8-9, 15-16. $15-$38; www.capitoltickets.com or (803) 251-2222
Columbia City Jazz Dance Company: The company’s distinct take on “The Nutcracker” runs Dec. 14-15 at Drayton Hall Theatre. “The Two Claras” is a departure from the traditional storyline. The production’s soundtrack, which has featured doo-wop and big band versions of Christmas songs in years past, strays from the original, too. In other words, “The Nutcracker” has been jazzed up. Showtimes: 7 p.m. Dec. 14 and 1 and 7 p.m. Dec. 15. The theater is at 1214 College St. $10 or $5 for military; www.columbiacityjazz.com or (803) 252-0252