The best dance shows of Christmas 2016 – from the Nutcracker to Hansel and Gretel

Walk among pirouetting dancers or get drawn into the world of a breakdancing wolf this season

The Red Shoes
London and Plymouth

Matthew Bourne’s latest production promises to be more Powell and Pressburger than Hans Christian Andersen. Love, power and the obsessional vocation of dance are rich themes for Bourne, although the film’s original cast of Moira Shearer, Leonid Massine et al will be a hard act to follow.
From 21-26 November, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, From 6 December-29 January, Sadler’s Wells, London,

Scottish Ballet dancers in Hansel and Gretel by Christopher Hampson. Photograph: Andy Ross.
Scottish Ballet dancers in Hansel and Gretel by Christopher Hampson. Photograph: Andy Ross. Photograph: 028021009065/Andy Ross

Hansel and Gretel
Edinburgh, Glasgow, and touring

Christopher Hampson’s 2013 ballet has become a nice addition to the Christmas repertory. It plays safe with the more gruesome elements of the tale (there are no delinquent parents here) and it pretties up the action with sparkly divertissements. But the story races along with wit and invention, and the witch is a properly frightening, cannibalistic crone worthy of Roald Dahl.
From 8-31 December, Edinburgh Festival Theatre. Tour continues at Glasgow Theatre Royal from 5 January,

The Nutcracker by The Royal Ballet at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.
The Nutcracker by The Royal Ballet at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Will Tuckett’s Nutcracker
Canary Wharf, London

This isn’t quite the world’s first immersive ballet, as its publicity claims (Dutch National Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada got there first), but Tuckett’s fertile imagination is likely to make it an outstanding one. Staged in a custom-built venue, the production invites its audience to become participants, walking through the action and even talking to the performers in ballet’s foremost Christmas fantasy. The excellent Adam Cooper takes the role of Drosselmeyer, the magician in charge of proceedings.
From 30 November-8 January,

Traditional Nutcrackers

For those who prefer to experience their Christmas Nutcracker from the safety of the auditorium, there are tried and trusted productions to choose from. The Royal Ballet’s is the most opulently traditional; Birmingham Royal Ballet’s has a slightly more adult storyline and better conjuring tricks, while English National Ballet’s has the most blizzardy of all the snow scenes. All productions, of course, come with the Tchaikovsky score that has made the ballet such an enduring Christmas classic.
From 23 November-12 January, Royal Opera House, London. From 25 November-13 December, Birmingham Hippodrome. From 23‑26 November, Milton Keynes Theatre. From 29 November- 3 December, Liverpool Empire. From 14 December-7 January, London Coliseum

The Wolf and Peter
Birmingham, Newcastle and Bray

As its title suggests, this clever production takes the viewpoint of the wolf in retelling the familiar story and turns the villainous beast into a comic, breakdancing character with attitude. Pianist Conor Linehan plays his own music live on the stage, and David Bolger’s choreography promises a funny, imaginative, but also moving experience for children aged six and upwards.
From 2-3 December, DanceXchange, Birmingham, From 7-10 December, Dance City, Newcastle, From 14-16 December, Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray, County Wicklow,

• This article was amended on 18 November 2016. An earlier version referred to Portsmouth where Plymouth was meant.


Judith Mackrell

The GuardianTramp

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