Nutcracker dances into the holiday season with new and old generations of audiences thrilling to the magic of Clara's dream come alive. It's now as much an Indiana tradition as is turning The Monument into the world's tallest Christmas tree. But, with half a dozen choices, how is one to pick "the right" Nutcracker? Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre will present a contemporary version of 'The Nutcracker' Dec. 3-5 at Pike Performing Arts Center.

Because each company definitely has merit, it may come down to factors as un-aesthetic as location, cost and who you know. The tendency is to "go see" your friends and family members.

A major aesthetic consideration could be live music. Both Butler University Ballet Theatre and Indiana University Ballet Theatre have the benefit of resident orchestras. All things being equal about technical training and production values, there is something special about a troupe dancing to live music that transmits to the audience. One has to experience it to understand the difference between live and taped music.

Dance Kaleidoscope is the sole company presenting a different seasonal show, "Home for the Holidays," with dance scenes of worldwide Christmas celebrations and an homage to Chanukah.

Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre presents a contemporary version with borrowings from Andersen's "Little Match Girl" and Dickens' "Christmas Carol."

Butler Ballet

Clowes Memorial Hall,

4602 Sunset Ave.

Dec. 2 and 5 at 7:30 p.m.;

Dec. 3-4 at 8 p.m.; Dec. 4-5 at 2 p.m.;

$10-$19.50; 940-6444;

Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre

Pike Performing Arts Center,

6701 Zionsville Road

Dec. 3-4 at 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 4-5 at 2 p.m.

$10-$20; 846-2441;

Central Indiana Dance Ensemble

Westfield High School,

18250 N. Union St.

Dec. 3-4 at 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 4-5 at 2 p.m.

$12-$15; 844-7453;

Indiana University Ballet Theater

Musical Arts Center (MAC),

Jordan Avenue, Bloomington

Dec. 3-4 at 8 p.m.; Dec. 4-5 at 3 p.m.

812-333-9955; group sales 812-855-7433,

Dance Kaleidoscope

"Home for the Holidays"

Pike Performing Arts Center,

6701 Zionsville Road

Dec. 16 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 17-18 at 8 p.m.;

Dec. 19 at 2:30 p.m.

$15-$33; 635-5252; group sales 940-6555;

Ballet Internationale-Indianapolis

The Murat Centre, 502 N. New Jersey St.

Dec. 17-20 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 18-19 at 2 p.m.

$22-$70 ($15 group); 637-8979, ext. 231;


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