December isn’t just about 'The Nutcracker'—but it's also about 'The Nutcracker'

With the holiday shopping season properly kicked off, twinkle lights lining the Magnificent Mile and more cold days ahead, “Nutcracker” is in the air.

The Joffrey Ballet’s impressive 29-show run of its World’s Fair-inspired “Nutcracker”—premiered in 2016 with brand new sets, costumes, and choreography by Christopher Wheeldon and a Broadway-bred team of collaborators—is already underway. A gentle reminder: this is the Joffrey’s last season at the Auditorium Theatre, which comes magnificently alive in the last moments of this ballet. So—even if you’re still not on totally on board with Buffalo Bill in lieu of the Russian Trepak and a golden statue as the Sugar Plum Fairy—if you haven’t seen it yet, do. It’s your final opportunity to see this “Nutcracker” in the theatre it was designed for. 

Of course, Joffrey’s is not the only “Nutcracker” in town. There are productions all over the region, including BataviaSt. CharlesElginHyde ParkNapervilleNorth Park and Lakeview. And the suburban company Ballet 5:8 does “Beyond the Nutcracker” each year, too, which combines the famous ballet with the biblical story of the first Christmas.

Believe it or not, December isn’t only about “The Nutcracker.” If you’re feeling in a holiday mood, but not much up for a “Nutcracker,” try “Tidings of Tap,” Chicago Tap Theatre’s annual revue of Christmas, Chanukah, and wintery standards with a loose, but endearing, storyline about friendship and compassion. Since moving from the UIC Theater to the North Shore Center in Skokie a few years ago, CTT has seriously upped the ante with their fun, family-friendly matinee, making small changes each year to get toward a spectacle as beefy as “The Nutcracker.” What’s new this year? Billy Siegenfeld, the founder of another tap company called the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, is now billed as director of this show, so that loose storyline might be more jelled for “Tidings of Tap’s” 17th edition.

And there’s a surprisingly full dance calendar of shows unrelated to the holiday season, with world premieres from Ensemble EspanolAerial Dance Chicago, Mordine and Company and Robyn Mineko Williams’s long-awaited “Echo Mine,” a trio (of rock stars Williams, Meredith Dincolo and Jacqueline Burnett) originally intended for Claire Bataille, the muse of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago founder Lou Conte who died late last year from cancer.

Steppenwolf’s LookOut series, a gaggle of new-to-them artists presented in the intimate black box at 1700 N. Halsted, is bubbling over with dance. The series kicked off last month with Lucky Plush’s “Rink Life,” and December includes a revival of The Seldoms’s tour de force “Exit Disclaimer: Science and Fiction Ahead,” plus works by burlesque phenom Jenn “Po’chop” Freeman with DJ Hijo Prodigo, J’Sun Howard and Aura Curiatlas, a quirky physical theater troupe that’s hard not to love.

Additional December events are listed below: