December Dance Chock Full of Nutcrackers!

Santa will surely find out who’s been nutty or nice this December  in Chicago, with more Nutcrackers per square mile than plastic reindeer dancing across rooftops.  Traditional renderings of the classic Christmas story, inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman’s 19th century tale, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” and set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, proliferate throughout the greater metropolitan area. New spins on the tried and true include none more grand than Christopher Wheeldon’s 1893 Chicago World’s Fair adaptation for the Joffrey Ballet, running the whole month at the Auditorium Theatre. Ballet 5:8 sets the story in 1940’s America, and A&A Ballet proffers an “Art Deco Nutcracker.” Studio companies with guest artists include Ballet Chicago’s rendition of George Balanchine’s choreography, while The Ruth Page Civic Ballet of Chicago carries on its namesake’s legacy of her staging, which ran for 32 years at McCormick Place’s Arie Crown Theatre. Salt Creek Ballet, Von Heidecke Chicago Festival Ballet, DanceWest, Hyde Park School of Dance's Hip-Hop spin, and Chicago Ballet Conservatory round out the mix. See our calendar listings for details and tickets.




A&A Ballet's Art Deco Nutcracker A&A BALLET's production of the Art Deco Nutcracker (7 PM, November 30; 2 PM and 7 PM, December 1; and 1 PM and 4 :30 PM, December 2; Studebaker Theater) features ABT's sensation Aran Bell, Katherine Williams, BalletMet's Michael Sayre, and a record-breaking 175 members cast! "A glossy rendition filled with “gorgeous, glitzy costumes” and an “impressive cast" (The Chicago Tribune) "It is impossible to find one word that summarizes Kremnev's choreography: It is everything, encompassing the best and brilliance of what movement can be while breaking boundaries of what we know."  (The Huffington Post ) "The electricity of his work echoes with audiences of all ages." (The Huffington Post)


Christopher Wheeldon’s must-see Nutcracker for the Joffrey Ballet returns to the Auditorium Theatre (December 1-30; see calendar for various times). Journey to Chicago's 1893 World's Fair with Wheeldon's holiday masterpiece. Magic is on the horizon for young Marie and her mother when a visit from the charming but mysterious Great Impresario sets off a Christmas Eve dream of whirlwind romance and adventure.


Ruth Page Chicago Civic Ballet Central to the Ruth Page Civic Ballet’s performance schedule is its annual presentation of The Nutcracker (3 PM and 7 PM, December 1; 1 PM and 5 PM, December 2, Northeastern Illinois University). Originally presented in the Arie Crown Theater from 1965 to 1997, the Ruth Page Civic Ballet’s performance recreates Ruth Page’s original full-length staging. Exquisite dancing, stunning costumes and magical settings in the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of the Sweets, these performances promise world-class entertainment and holiday joy for children of all ages.


Chicago Ballet Conservatory, accompanied by the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, presents "The Nutcracker" (7 PM, December 1; 2 PM, December 2, Hemmens Cultural Center, Elgin). Local dancers and actors share the stage with seasoned professionals to create an inclusive production full of elaborate and colorful surprises. Directed by Linda Cunningham,

this year’s event returns to the beautiful Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin, with the amazing addition of The Elgin Symphony Orchestra, led by Stephen Squires, Resident Conductor.  Promising to be one of the most extravagant and creative suburban reprisals, the performance will feature professionals including Alexandre Hammoudi (soloist with ABT), Abigail Simon (ABT and The Joffrey Ballet), Raoni Xavier (Bolshoi Brazil) and C5 Create With No Limits. As a special bonus, Roger Hendricks Simon, star of stage and screen (and father of Abigail Simon), will be playing the role of Drosselmeyer. The performance includes live pre-show entertainment by The Chancel Choir of Chicago.


Volledig “Volledig: Emptied of Shame: Full of Life” (7 PM, November 29-December 1, Links Hall) represents the stories of the artists in this project – what they experienced living through the AIDS Crisis, how they survived it, and how they are living in a world that still stigmatizes HIV and doesn’t provide equal care to everyone who is affected by HIV/AIDS. It is also our recollections of the people we have known who suffered through, lived through, and died in the AIDS Crisis. This work does not try to represent every narrative within the Crisis. In fact, there are many accounts that have been lost and will never be heard. There are many voices that even now are marginalized and ignored, especially those of people of color. Welcher explains: “With the assembled artists, I lead us through a journey of re-exploration and re-discovery of histories, memories, buried emotions, and even old wounds. In our process, we bore witness to each other and mined our collective experience for material with which we created this performance that hopefully, will allow the audience to go on the journey with us from those dark, exposed, vulnerable places to the light of the lives we lead today – emptied of shame and full of life. We refuse to be silent, to let what has transpired be unspoken and forgotten. We shall not let the world sit comfortably and look away from the tragedy that we have endured and that continues to unfold around us. Some members of this project are HIV-negative; some are HIV-positive; some have received an AIDS diagnosis. All project members have been altered by the AIDS Crisis; all have seen friends suffer; all have seen friends die.”

Featuring dancers Jeff Hancock, Joseph Hutto, Cat Mahari, Merrick Mitchell, and Robert Welcher. With music by Paul Hamilton and art work by Ted Sollinger.


The Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern University presents “A Chorus Line” (7:30 PM, November 29, 30 and December 1; 2 PM, December 2), directed and choreographed by Kurt Domoney. A Broadway chorus audition comes to life in one of the most celebrated musicals of all time with a brilliantly complex fusion of song, dance, and drama. Exploring the inner lives and poignant ambitions of professional chorus dancers, this Tony and Pulitzer prize-winning show features one powerhouse number after another including “What I Did for Love, “One,” “At the Ballet,” “I hope I Get It,” and “The Music and the Mirror.”


Marginalia Come see the rough draft of Khecari’s newest work Marginalia (3 PM, December 2, Indian Boundary Cultural Center, admission free) as we tumble through edits and additions to complete this evening length duet. There will be a chance for feedback after the performance to help shape the continuing development of the work. The performance will run for 50 minutes. This work features dancers Kara Brody and Amanda Maraist, recorded music by Joe St.Charles, choreography by Julia Antonick and Jonathan Meyer.


As part of Links Hall's 40th anniversary season, Banks Performance Project (BPP) presents “That Time I Felt Things.” (7:30 PM, Dec. 2, Links Hall) Discussing the evening-length work, BPP founder Elysia Banks explains: "I've experienced many events,Banks Performance Project I've processed them all differently. No matter the event, no matter the process. I felt them all." Peformed by Sarah Baker, Erin Coffman, Ariel Dorsey, Demetrius McClendon Michelle Reid, Jasmin Williams, Karielle Wiliams. Special thanks to Hamilton Park Cultural Center (BPP's resident rehearsal space).


Chicago Dancemakers Forum presents “In Progress: Dance Dialogues” (6 PM, December 4, Museum of Contemporary Art). Carrie Hanson of The Seldoms (2005 Lab Artist) and Adam Rose of Antibody Corporation (2014 Lab Artist) address how they use dance to contend with the spaces and places where they perform, and to encounter the audience within them. “In Progress” is a new MCA series of public programs that give visitors a glimpse into the working practices of artists. It highlights Chicago artists with a focus on live art happenings, discussions, workshops, and screenings that expose the behind-the-scenes labor of art making. This series further positions the MCA as a platform for creative culture, providing a place for artists to test ideas and push their practices to new levels through audience engagement, and creating a forum for conversation and interaction in our new space, the Commons.


"What Remains" “What Remains" (7:30 PM, December 5-9, Museum of Contemporary Art Warehouse) unites poet and MacArthur Fellow Claudia Rankine, Bessie Award–winning choreographer Will Rawls, and filmmaker John Lucas for a unique, collaborative live performance. The performers stage encounters with themselves and one another, poetically addressing the erasure and exposure that drive the historical murder and disturbance of black citizens. Layered with language, video, dance, and music references, the performance invites its audience into the dreamlike environment of an entombed imagination and responds to violence and disappearance with a resonant, ghostly chorus. As its performers insist on their own bodily presence within a society that curtails their movements, What Remains unfolds a spectrum of physical actions to challenge and destabilize how the audience comes to recognize personhood. “What Remains” is performed in the MCA Warehouse, reflecting the influence of Chicago’s sprawling geography on the tundra-like psychic space of the performance. It is a Live Arts Bard Production and is created in collaboration with and performed by Leslie Cuyjet, Jessica Pretty, Tara Aisha Willis, and sound designer Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste, with production design by David Szlasa and costume design by Eleanor O’Connell.



Todd Rosenberg) After Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s danc(e)volve: New Works Festival was met with positive reviews during Season 39 in 2016 - 17, Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton is bringing the innovative idea back as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s own Alice Klock, Florian Lochner and Rena Butler construct impressive new work specifically created for their fellow company members. The program will premiere at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park (205 East Randolph Street) on Thursday, December 6 at 7:30 p.m., followed by performances Saturday, December 8 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 9 at 3 p.m.


Co-MISSION three-month resident artists share the works they have developed at Links Hall in a four-night, shared bill festival format. Aaliyah Christina: Black women/girls deal with colorism. We hate it, we ignore, we perpetuate it. In “When Iva Met Eunice”, two people discover themselves through the unlikely friendship of their grandmothers. They battle the commonality of social expectations (social dances) and the physical negotiations they perform in their day-to-day through set improvisational scores and freestyled movement. *Aaliyah Christina performed in Darling Shear’s 2017 “Coeur Enchantée”, and produced “Lather. Rinse. Repeat. | Fall. Climb. Release.” at Links Hall in January 2018.

Erin Kilmurray: SEARCH PARTY is an multiphase dance work that explores the separate turf of studio practice, nightclubs and sports arenas through raising the stakes by combining them. This work follows a group of women who, in this particularity maddening time, test their limits by taking us on a gradual slide from the intensity of an intimate performance to the wild abandon of dance party to the extreme physicality of a sporting event. *Erin Kilmurray curated THAW 2012’s dance programming as part of The Open Space Project, was a 2015 Creative Time Sponsored Artist, was featured on Chicago Dancemakers Forum’s 2017 Elevate Festival program at Links, and began a quarterly Contemporary Forms class series at Links in June 2017.

Talia Koylass is creating a series of dance films that investigate how the prison system exploits and dehumanizes people causing generational trauma. Her research delving into the history and present state of the prison system in America and investigating how they can physicalize these concepts through film and choreography. Talia will be partnering with the non-profit First Defence Legal Aid and donating a portion of her ticket sales to the organization. *This is Talia’s Links Hall debut.

The Leopold Group presents a choreographic counterpart to Artistic Director Lizzie Leopold’'s dissertation research, focusing on making dances and making a living. This work explores the economic possibilities and the financial realities of choreographing and performing in twenty-first century Chicago. Working to make it work. *Lizzie Leopold most recently showed work at Links Hall as part of James Moreno’s “Marginalia” in 2017 and was part of the 2014 Peep Show Series.



Finding Nature “Finding Nature”  (Dec. 6-7, 7:30 PM, Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater)  is a deeply felt pull to relate to the world around us and its offering of solace, regeneration, and endless inspiration.  “Finding Nature” features dance, music, and storytelling as a means to express the relationship with the nature that surrounds us, as well as the recognition of our human nature. “Finding Nature,” a collection of world-premiere experimental dance, music and storytelling performances, features the work of Corinne Imberski, Mark Kater, Wilson Tanner Smith, and Danielle Gilmore.



Aerial Dance Chicago “Road to the Sky"(7 PM, December 7-9, Aerial Dance Chicago 4028 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago) is Aerial Dance’s intimate evening of poetry-in-motion, an original collection of short dance works created by over a dozen of Chicago’s celebrated choreographers. Artistic Director Chloe Jensen presents a revival of “The Phantom Beside Me” from ADC’s production of Ghost Stories (2016), and a new celestial solo work performed by principal dancer Hannah Rosenfeld. Associate Artistic Director Karen Fisher Doyle presents a new entwining harness duet and Resident Choreographer Tracy Von Kaenel unleashes her new work “No” in passionate response to the current political climate. Esteemed artists of the Chicago Dance community join as special guest choreographers for this program. Mike Gosney presents an uplifting, fast paced, full company work, Maya Trujillo premieres her new work “La Soledad”, Lucy Vurusic Riner explores uncovering, unraveling and undoing in a new harness work and Jacqueline Stewart presents “Where butterflies live” set to text from “The Ultimate Journey” by Robert A Moore . Also presenting new work for this program are choreographers Joshua Blake Carter, Jeff Hancock, Lizzie MacKenzie, Aaron McGloin, Lauren Reed and Wilfredo Rivera.



Ballet Chicago Nutcracker Through its inspiring story, beautiful music, and charming choreography, Ballet Chicago’s The Nutcracker (various times, December 7-16, Athenaeum Theatre) is a celebration of the joyous holiday season. Every year The Nutcracker takes us on an unforgettable journey with young Marie as she travels from her home on Christmas Eve to the Kingdom of Snow and the Land of the Sweets. For adults, it is a time to relive cherished memories of childhood. For children who wait with breathless anticipation for the holidays to arrive, it is the opportunity to create new memories. For everyone, it is a time for sharing and giving among family and friends.



DanceWest Ballet presents its 25th production of “The Nutcracker”(7 PM, December 7; 1 PM and 5 PM, December 8; 1 PM, December 9, Pfeiffer Hall at North Central College, Naperville) Pfeiffer Hall, North Central College, Naperville) one of the world's most beautiful and engaging ballets and an annual holiday tradition in Naperville. Presented in its entirety, DanceWest's Artistic Directors, Regina and Ricardo Moyano, have ensured that their version of The Nutcracker is an accurate depiction of the original ballet, incorporating exceptional and stunning costumes, lights, scenery, and choreography. Guest artists include Katia Carranza, current principal dancer with Miami City Ballet, and Eduardo Pi Iglesias, formerly of Ballet De Monterrey, Mexico. Other world-renowned guest artists augment the cast, in addition to over 130 children from throughout DuPage County.


Salt Creek Ballet in "The Nutcracker" The Salt Creek Ballet presents “The Nutcracker,” its traditional holiday classic for young and old alike (1 PM, December 8. Governors State University; 1 PM and 5 PM, December 15 and 2 PM, December 16, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie). Meet the young Clara and her hero, the Nutcracker, as you are transported on a magical journey, encountering toys that come alive, dancing snowflakes, waltzing flowers, and the Sugar Plum Fairy along the way. The Chicago Sun-Times calls the production "A solid, professional 'Nutcracker'," and Laura Molzahn of the Chicago Tribune calls Salt Creek Ballet "A real treat.


Noumenon Dance Ensemble premieres an entirely new collection of repertoire by new artistic director, Erin Murphy and Resident Choreographer Nina Rose Wardanian in this one night only event with a live rock band and all original compositions by Chicago musician Jamie Dull. (7:30 PM, December 8, Chicago Dramatists Theater).



Asian Improv aRts Midwest Asian Improv aRts Midwest presents “Reduction 6-Kanrecki” (7:30 PM, December 8, Museum of Contemporary Art).

The Reduction concerts are a rich, erudite counterpoint to mainstream taiko drumming usually seen on contemporary stages. They find roots in the authentic origins of taiko, but continues to expand and deepen the artistic palette drawing on the rich traditions of classic and contemporary jazz. This year’s presentation features special segments from director Tatsu Aoki’s renowned Basser Live concerts commemorating his achieving kanreki, or his 60th birthday. In Japan, this significant birthday celebrates the completion of one Zodiac cycle and is a kind of a “second birth” and time to reflect on the past, as well as look ahead towards the future. Joining the drummers in this memorable kanreki ritual will be Chicago’s jazz artists Hamid Drake (drummer and percussionist), Michael Zerang (percussionist) and Nicole Mitchell (flutist/ composer) plus Chizuru Kineya (shamisen) and chindonya performer Yasushi Shimazaki.


Tidings of Tap Chicago Tap Theatre makes a major narrative step this year, taking Tidings of Tap! (3 PM, December 9, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie) from what was once a holiday revue to a complete production with a strong structure and engaging plot. The story features an expanded role for nationally ranked rhythmic gymnast Dasha Merkulov as well as significant production values. This is the third year that CTT will return to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, after receiving rave reviews and record-breaking attendance for the Company the previous two years. SeeChicagoDance said “It’s charming and gleeful and heart-rending at times.” Tidings of Tap! has been described by the Chicago Tribune as “undeniably charming and wholesome fun.” Tidings of Tap! is choreographed by Yonally, Kirsten Uttich, Richard Ashworth and Caleb Teicher and is a performance that captures the spirit of the holidays through joyful noise—celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, New Year’s and the winter season.


Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Deeply Rooted Dance Theater presents its annual season (12 noon, December 12; 7:30 PM, December 15; and 2 PM, December 16, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts) featuring the world premiere of Parallel Lives, choreographed by Gary Abbott with original music by Evangelos Spanos. Parallel Lives is inspired by the bonding resilience of poor working women. Flack, a revival by Kevin Iega Jeff set to music by Roberta Flack, reveals a community’s strife, despair and triumph through the unfailing power of love. Jeff’s Nia Keii—A Gift of Life is a revival to music by Joe Sample. Nia Keii is an interpretation of nature’s elements in fluid movement. Repertory favorites Somewhere, by Abbott to music by Aretha Franklin, and Heaven, by Abbott and Jeff to original music by Janice Pendarvis, Anthony Moten, and Raymond Jones and updated by Sam Trump, complete the program.


Shift Your Paradigm In Shift Your Paradigm, (7 PM, December 14-16, Links Hall) interdependence is sometimes of more importance that individuality. That doesn't mean you have to compromise self, it simply means everything isn't always about JUST you, because you are a functioning piece of that interdependent community. Performed by Talia Koylass, Gabriella Wiltz, Turiya Ingram, Sarah Baker, Michelle Reid, Erin Harner.


The Evanston Dance Ensemble (EDE) opens its 22nd season December 14th – 16th with a suite of three pieces, Moving On, that individually and in combination explore the theme of transition and which combine ballet, classical music, modern dance and original music. EDE co-Artistic Directors Christina Ernst and Béa Rashid believe the youth dance company’s audiences will in equal parts enjoy, be moved, and be entranced by Moving On.Evanston Dance Ensemble

The first act, Graduation Ball, is a delightful classical ballet originally choreographed by David Lichine in 1940 to music composed by Johann Strauss II. Set in an all-girls school in the 1840’s, the headmistress has invited cadets from the local military academy to attend the ball celebrating the graduation of the senior class. The ballet will feature guest dancer Glenn Leslie, a Dance Center Evanston faculty member, and in keeping with the ballet’s tradition of a man dancing the role of the head mistress, EDE welcomes special guest dancer Cam Turner, a Chicago theater director and performer. According to choreographer Laura Schwenk Berman the theme of transition is explored while “there are flirtations, exuberant dances, and a secret romance that ensues.”

Act Two begins with …my breath away…, a world premiere choreographed by guest artist A. Raheim White of Lucky Plush Productions which tackles the evening’s theme head on, acknowledging that there is death amidst life for all people. By exploring feelings of great loss, sustained intensity, and the passage of time there is healing despite the inevitabilities of transition. Under White’s direction, the dance ensemble will address the commonality of death which can be a taboo subject in an American culture obsessed with youth and health.

Finally, we are transported from mere earthly realities into the cosmos for Neptune - a selection from EDE’s Space Odyssey which will be re-mounted and produced in full in the spring – featuring original music by Steve Rashid (Emmy and Jeff-Award winning stage and film composer) and choreography by Christina Ernst. The blue planet Neptune – a so-called “gas giant” whose surface is more like slushy ice with frozen methane and ammonia - is one of the most dynamic environments imaginable where winds can reach 1,300 mph. Choreographer Ernst was inspired by the constant motion of Neptune’s atmosphere, and by Rashid’s highly-energized, original contemporary score.


Hyde Park School of Dance Nutcracker In Hyde Park School of Dance’s Nutcracker, (7 PM, December 14; 1 PM and 6 PM, December 15; and 2 PM, December 16, Mandel Hall, in the Reynolds Club, University of Chicago) stunning classical ballet and the beloved Tchaikovsky score get a welcome hip hop infusion by way of a special battle scene, where the original sword fight to the death between the Nutcracker's soldiers and the Mouse King's army is replaced with a breaking battle that teaches kids they can work out their issues without resorting to violence. The grandeur of historic and ornate Mandel Hall sets the scene for a theatre-going experience to remember, with sumptuous costumes, visually-arresting choreography, professional production quality, making this neighborhood non-profit's take on The Nutcracker one of the city's best-loved versions!


Von Heidecke Nutcracker Von Heidecke Chicago Festival Ballet’s “Nutcracker” (2 PM/7 PM; December 15, 1 PM/5 PM, December 16, McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage). The gorgeous holiday classic returns for three magical performances with accompaniment from New Philharmonic orchestra – a rare opportunity to see this magnificent ballet set to live music. One of everyone’s favorite holiday traditions, “The Nutcracker” delights with a magical full-scale production guest artists and dazzling costumes.


Ballet 5:8’s twist on the holiday classic The Nutcracker ( 2 PM and 7 PM, December 15; 3 PM, December 16, Lincoln Way West High School Fine Arts Center)  is set in the 1940’s! Featuring Tchaikovsky’s magical score, a cast of over 100 dancers from Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts, guests from the Ballet 5:8Ballet 5 8 "The Nutcracker" professional company including Lead Artists Brette Benedict and Antonio Rosario, and original choreography by Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Rubio Slager. Bring the entire family and join Emma, Uncle Abrahms, and the angel Anastasis on a once-in-a-lifetime Christmas adventure that leads to the story of the first Christmas.



Foster Dance Company presents All That I Have,”  (2 PM and 7 PM, December 15, Music Institute of Chicago, Evanston) a winter dance concert exploring the nature of gratitude on Saturday, December 15th at Nichols Hall at the Music Institute Chicago. The annual event welcomes community dance enthusiasts to experience the magic of the season through the inspired performances of Foster Dance’s talented ensemble. Led by Artistic Director and Juilliard Alum, Sarah Goldstone, the concert will feature new works from Terry Marling, Graca Sales, Maura Naughton and Aryssa Alonzo performed by Foster Dance Company, Classical Ballet Company and Foster Dance Crew. Tickets for this event are available at or Foster Dance Studios (915 Foster St., Evanston). Community members of all ages are encouraged to attend. 


Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater presents its “Holiday Concert 2018” (7:30 PM, December 15, Northeastern University Auditorium).Ensemble Español


For Details and Tickets, go to, and click on "See Dance."