Ballet West Principal Artists Christiana Bennett and Christopher Ruud as The Sugar Plum Fairy and Her Cavalier. Photo by Luke Isley.

In the Dance world December tends to mean one thing: The Nutcracker. As many little girls are dreaming of being the Sugar Plum Fairy the professional ballet dancer may look towards the daunting schedule of 30 performances in less then a month with a sense of trepidation and a touch of fear. But yet here we are in the middle of December midstream through the Nutcracker performance schedule and we thought it high time to give you the full scoop on all things Nutcracker.

The background: The Nutcracker is a two act ballet that was first performed in 1892 at the Marinsky Theatre in St Petersburg Russia. The libretto (story line of the ballet) is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The original production was not a success but the 20 minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet has become one of his most popular compositions; and the full ballet The Nutcracker has been performed by countless ballet companies since the mid 20th century and has gained massive popularity particularly in America.

Okay enough of the history, besides the beautiful costumes, enchanting Tchaikovsky score and bewitching sets what keeps people coming back to see this ballet year after year? The combination of all of the above with Hoffman's story blends together to produce a truly magical journey that is timeless. To many it just wouldn't be Christmas without the tradition of going to see The Nutcracker. One of the companies that does this best and has been performing The Nutcracker since they were established in SLC in 1963 is Ballet West.

To read a Ballet West Dancers backstage glimpse of opening night read this entry from Ballet West's dancers blog

Ballet west will hold 27 regular Nutcracker performances and three shows for people with special needs. Thirty shows in all. This year more then 500 children from across Utah auditioned to be in Ballet West's production of The Nutcracker, 280 children made the cut.

Artists of Ballet West | Photographer Luke Isley

For the last four years Ballet West has been doing something a little different with select performances of The Nutcracker. It is called The Nutty Nutcracker and was first performed in December of 2008. The "Nutty" Nutcracker still features the traditional choreography but the dancers throw in "fun flourishes and whimsical surprises". While the dancers are not the choreographers for the Nutty Nutcracker they are heavily involved in the creation and concept of each year's production. The company describes it as their annual spoof on the holiday favorite. It is a new and different Nutty production each season. The Nutty Nutcracker is December 30 and 31st and tickets can be purchased by visiting www.arttix.org.  Patrons cab also purchase a ticket to both the traditional "Nutcracker" performance and The Nutty Nutcracker in a "Nutty and Nice" Package by calling Ballet West at 801-869-6900.

There are four ways to buy tickets to The Nutcracker - (1) as part of Ballet Wests Season Subscription (save up to 40 percent off the regular price), (2) as part of the Family Series Package with "The Little Mermaid," (3) bring along a Group of 15 or more and save up to $9 off per ticket, and (4) attend The Nutcracker as a Single Show. Great seats are still available, but are selling fast.  For more information, visit Ballet West.