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Five ‘Nutcrackers’ you can stream for free

"The Nutcracker" was first performed in 1892. Pictured is The Kirov Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre.
(© The Kirov Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre)

Despite coronavirus, there are still ways to get a “Nutcracker” fix this holiday season.

Local groups like City Ballet of San Diego and San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, for example, have new (donation or ticketed) productions that you can stream.

And since we’re already experiencing the classic Christmas ballet from a computer screen, here are a few more national and international options you can stream for free.

American Ballet Theatre
The New York-based ballet company usually performs its grand version of “The Nutcracker” in Orange County, but this year it released a 10-minute video version (that maybe also doubles as a commercial for LG Signature Oled 8 K?).
Perfect for: Anyone who wants a small taste of “The Nutcracker” but doesn’t want to invest in the full two-act ballet. This recording is of the the romantic pas de deux near the end of the ballet, and features favorite principal dancers Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside.
The sweetest thing: Boylston and Whiteside are real-life best friends (on social media they’re known as “The Cindies”) and they have a natural rapport and chemistry when they perform together.
Sour drops: The video quality is so crisp that the dancers almost look animated.
Rating: 4 out of 5 bonbons
Where to watch: ABT’s YouTube channel

“Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker”
A Netflix documentary that takes a look a behind-the-scenes look at Debbie Allen’s “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” that’s been performed in L.A. since 2009.
Perfect for: Watching with non-ballet folks. This is a movie that shows how a major production comes together from auditions and rehearsals to costumes and backstage. You see clips of the final show, but you’re not watching a two-hour dance performance.
The sweetest thing: It’s a joy to watch Allen work with the dancers at her Debbie Allen Dance Academy — she’s strict and professional but full of genuine love for her students.
Sour drops: Don’t expect to hear the Tchaikovsky soundtrack. The “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” is a mix of jazz, pop, hip hop and other styles of music, but you don’t hear much of that, either.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 bonbons
Where to watch: Netflix

Debbie Allen's "Hot Chocolate Nutcracker"
Debbie Allen’s “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker”
(Lee Tonks/Lee Tonks Photography)

Mariinsky Theatre Ballet Company
If you’re looking for a very traditional “Nutcracker,” this one was staged at Russia’s Mariinsky Theatre, where the first “Nutcracker” was performed in 1892.
Perfect for: Ballet purists. This gorgeous production from 2012 features some of the world’s finest dancers ... even snowflake number seven is a standout (perhaps a result of government subsidized ballet?).
The sweetest thing: The jumps! The turns! The technique in this ballet is pretty much perfection.
Sour drops: You won’t find much diversity. The video quality is spotty.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bonbons
Where to watch: Vimeo.com/85312130

Brooklyn Ballet
This version mixes traditional ballet with various styles of hip hop, African dance and Native American hoop dancing to truly represent an inclusive world view.
Perfect for: Those who feel uncomfortable with the cultural appropriation that often comes with “The Nutcracker” (specifically the Chinese and Arabian dances).
The sweetest thing: The second act is where Brooklyn Ballet really shines. From street dancing set at a subway station and classical ballet to a genuine belly dancer and traditional Chinese fan dancing , the Land of the Sweets truly reflects the community Brooklyn Ballet serves.
Sour drops: The first act showcases a lot of children, which is cute if you’re in the mood for it. There isn’t much of a narrative.
Rating: 4 out of 5 bonbons
Where to watch: Vimeo.com/386397591

Dutch National Ballet
This Netherlands-based company consistently puts creative twists on ballet classics and its version of “The Nutcracker” is no exception.
Perfect for: Anyone looking for more clarity in the ballet storyline. People who are OK with change. Cat lovers.
The sweetest thing: This production has nonstop surprises — from including ice skaters in the opening scene to having the rats win the battle in the first act! (Spoiler: a giant cat helps defeat them in act two.) It also has the most realistic Fritz/Clara brother and sister dynamic.
Sour drops: The Arabian scene is very problematic. The YouTube stream has so many ad breaks, especially at the beginning, that it’s distracting and off-putting.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bonbons
Where to watch: YouTube

Bonus: The National Ballet of China uses Tchaikovsky’s score to honor traditions of Chinese New Year. It’s worth checking out despite the poor video quality. Find it on YouTube.


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