When it comes to the holiday season, certain clichés — pardon us, traditions — come to mind: chestnuts roasting on an open fire, visions of sugar plums dancing in one’s head, the tree at Rock Center and, of course, “The Nutcracker,” the Christmas-themed ballet that has captivated children (and adults) for over a century. But, even if classical music and tutus aren’t really your thing, or if you’ve seen the Tchaikovsky ballet a million times, you shouldn’t dismiss this holiday classic just yet. Here we round up some of the best, most unusual and most surprising versions, from the classic to the NSFW, for everyone on your list.
The Hard Nut
Mark Morris Dance Group
If “The Nutcracker” were directed by John Waters it would probably look a lot like this gender-bending, swinging-1970s romp. With a production design based on Charles Burns’ cartoons, the irreverent “Hard Nut” includes raucous parties, dancing GI Joes and lots and lots of confetti.
Dec. 12 – 20
Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn
Tickets start at $25
Dance The World Nutcracker Festival
JP Dance Group
This multicultural “Nutcracker” opens in a Harlem brownstone in the height of the roaring ‘20s — with music from Duke Ellington’s jazz arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s original score. It then makes it way to the World’s Fair, where Clara and her Nutcracker Prince take in performances by a host of New York City’s ethnic dance companies, including Bulgarian folk, Jamaican dancehall and Bollywood-fusion troupes.
Dec. 15 – 20
The Secret Theatre, 4402 23rd Street, Long Island City
$25 general admission, $20 students/seniors/artists
Keith Michael’s The Nutcracker
New York Theatre Ballet
A one-hour long “Nutcracker”? Sign us up! This kiddie-friendly production adds a cartoonish vibrancy to the traditional ballet, with mice dressed in polka dots, ballerinas dancing with huge chopsticks and even an owl that flies above the audience. Adults will dig the sophisticated Art Nouveau set.
Dec. 11 – 13
Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street
$34 general admission, $24 children 12 and under
This is not the “Nutcracker” from your childhood. “Nutcracker Rouge” blends classical dance with circus, opera, drag, burlesque and high fashion for the ultimate sexy mash-up. Partial nudity, so only 16 and over admitted.
Through Jan. 15
Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane
Tickets start at $50
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
New York City Ballet
The ne plus ultra of all “Nutcrackers,” with an epic onstage snowstorm, hundreds of elaborate costumes (including the 9-foot-wide, 85-pound Mother Ginger outfit), George Balanchine’s classic choreography and that famous Christmas tree that grows from 12 to 40 feet.
Through Jan. 3
David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza
Tickets start at $35