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Sweet Honey in the Rock: The a cappella group presents Celebrating the HolyDays; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20; Rio Theatre, Santa Cruz; $35-$55; www.kuumbwajazz.org. The Klezmatics: Award-winning Jewish roots music outfit; 8 p.m. Dec. 21; Freight & Salvage, Berkeley; $28-$30; 510-644-2020, thefreight.org. Peter White: Jazz guitarist teams with Rick Braun & Euge Groove for a holiday concert; 8 and 10 p.m. Dec. 21-22; Yoshi’s, Oakland; $39-$69; 510-238-9200, www.yoshis.com. Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Show: Featuring the Stray Cats singer and guitarist; 8 p.m. Dec. 24; Warfield; 49.50-$69.50; www.axs.com.
A Long Winter’s Tale: Creatures of Impulse does improv shows each night based on audience input; Nov, 29-Dec, 2; Firehouse Arts Center, Pleasanton; $5-$10; 925-931-4848, www.firehousearts.org, A John Waters Christmas: Solo show by the “Hairspray” director; 8 p.m, Nov, 30: Great American Music Hall, San Francisco; $49.50-$55; slimspresents.com, Kung Pao Kosher Comedy: Annual event features Elayne Boosler, Eddie Sarfaty, Alex Edelman and Lisa Geduldig; 5 and 8:30 ivory ballet flats toddler p.m, Dec, 23-25; New Asia Restaurant, San Francisco; $49 (with cocktails), $69 (with dinner); 925-743-1282; www.koshercomedy.com..
As the world grows ever more unpredictable, there’s something deeply comforting in observing holiday traditions, particularly rituals that welcome all comers. I’ve sometimes resisted its lure in the past, but this year I’m giving myself over completely to “The Nutcracker,” Mouse King, Sugar Plum Fairy and the whole United Nations dance corps. At a time when political assumptions prove to be built on sand, we can marvel at “The Nutcracker,” as hundreds of choreographers have set motion to Tchaikovsky’s jaunty score without dulling its wintry luster. Inspired by E. T. A. Hoffmann’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” the ballet’s party-gone-awry plotline has proven well nigh indestructible, even in the hands of a master deconstructivist like Mark Morris (where is “The Hard Nut” when we need it?).
The Bay Area is blessed with a multiplicity of “Nutcrackers,” from the gloriously ornate to the sleek and silly, And why not? Like so many previous movements that have swept across the nation from the West Coast, “The ivory ballet flats toddler Nutcracker” made its full-length U.S, premiere in San Francisco on Dec, 24, 1944, With the Battle of the Bulge still raging and a full scale invasion of Japan on track, it’s not hard to understand the appeal of a production portraying a world united by dance, Here are some top options for holiday dance performances, There are more options in our holiday arts calendar..
San Francisco Ballet: A dozen years after Helgi Tomasson unveiled his extravagant love letter to San Francisco, this production is still the belle of the “Nutcracker” ball. Set amid the triumphant post-quake revelry of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the San Francisco Ballet’s “Nutcracker” combines breathtaking décor, Tomasson’s athletic choreography, magnificent dancing and Tchaikovsky’s complete and unadulterated score performed by the magnificent San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.
Details: Dec, 10-29, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco; $42-$498; 415-865-2000, www.sfballet.org, Oakland Ballet: While New Jersey’s American Repertory Ballet premiered Graham Lustig’s “Nutcracker” in 2000, this lovely production set in the early 20th century feels right at home amid the Paramount Theatre’s Art Deco finery, Showcasing the company’s impressive ivory ballet flats toddler cast of professionals and more than three-dozen young dancers ages 7 to 17, Lustig’s choreography offers a series of captivating moments, With the Michael Morgan-directed Oakland Symphony and the Mt, Eden Women’s Ensemble joining the orchestra for the Snow Scene, the ballet brings together several East Bay institutions..
Details: 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 17, 2 p.m. Dec. 18; Paramount Theatre, Oakland; $29-$90, www.oaklandballet.org. “The Nutcracker” with Symphony Silicon Valley: The demise of Silicon Valley Ballet doesn’t mean that the South Bay is going Nutcrackerless, not with Symphony Silicon Valley on the scene. Taking matters into its own hands, the orchestra has hired a glittering cast of dancers from Russia, including Bolshoi Ballet star Andrei Bolotin and Mariinsky Ballet principal Oksana Bondareva. Under the direction of George Daugherty, Tchaikovsky’s score is in estimable hands.
Details: Dec, 16-24; San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, San Jose; $38-$80;www.symphonysiliconvalley.org, Mark Foehringer Dance Project: It’s tempting to describe Mark Foehringer’s “Nutcracker Sweets” as “Nutcracker Lite,” but ivory ballet flats toddler rather than turning the ballet to fluff, he’s distilled it to an intoxicating essence, He designed a 50-minute production for families with young, squirmy children, without sacrificing key elements, particularly live music provided by a nine-piece chamber orchestra under the auspices of Michael Morgan..