December has officially arrived, and nothing announces the holidays quite like The Nutcracker. Head to the Palace of Fine Arts for a traditional rendition by the City Ballet School starting December 6, but this year San Francisco has many other Nutcracker options for you to think outside the bun.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts wins for hosting the "most San Francisco" iteration on December 8, when everyone is invited to the "Dance-Along Nutcracker." Interpretive dance while the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Bank performs Fantasia. This year's theme is Hollywood Holiday. Forget the Land of Sweets. Clara and Fritz want to make it big in Tinseltown!
If Black Swan taught us anything, it's that all the real action is happening backstage. On December 14, head down to the Cabrillo Theater in Santa Cruz for A Night at the Nutcracker. Felix T. Filibuster is the world's greatest detective, and he knows how to surround himself with good people: Pinchie, the silent butler and his Italian friend, Pepponi. Constance Stuffington is in trouble. She's been swindled out of her fortune, which means she can't patron the arts, putting the city's Nutcracker Suite Ballet in peril.
The first moment a ballet dancer goes En Pointe during a performance is very exciting, but if you'd prefer shoes be used as a percussive instrument, then head over to the Marin Center. On December 15, Clara will get swept away by the Tapcracker. Christmas trees and presents will be dancing, mice will be rappin', and snow flakes will be totally unreliable. Now in its 13th year, students employ a variety of dance styles for a fresh take on a Christmas Standard.
If contending with holiday crowds overwhelms you, have no fear. Local publishing house Chronicle Books has issued a special holiday edition of The Nutcracker: A Magic Theater Book. Beloved children's author Geradine McCaughrean teamed up with illustrator Kristina Swarner, who's paper engineering offers the illusion of dancing without the hassle of paper tabs doomed to break.
If you like to remain one step removed from live performances, many theaters throughout the Bay Area will be playing The Nutcracker Mariinsky Ballet in 3D, including Century San Francisco and CineArts @ Empire. There are also plenty of options to stream online at home, including a 2009 version starring Elle Fanning.