The Nutcracker onstage in Kingston & Poughkeepsie

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

If winter comes, can The Nutcracker be far behind? Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet, based on a fairy tale by E.T.A. Hoffman, captures the glittery magic of Christmastime arguably better than any other of the classic cultural offerings associated with the holiday season. But for ballet companies and schools, the extravaganza with its huge cast also provides a can’t-miss opportunity for young dancers to get some onstage experience and catch the performing bug for life.

No matter where you live in America, it seems, there is at least one local production near you, and usually more. So the question becomes: Which Nutcracker to attend? Here are two happening in the mid-Hudson Valley this weekend, both with long track records and persuasive reasons to check them out.

Each December at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie, the New Paltz Ballet Theatre (NPBT) brings out a couple of big guns: dancers from the New York City Ballet (NYCB), associates of NPBT founders/artistic directors Peter and Lisa Naumann, who used to dance with NYCB themselves for many years. This year, NYCB principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht and soloist Erica Pereira will headline the production, whose fabulous costumes and scenery were designed by Ray Delle Robbins of the Houston Ballet.

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NPBT will perform The Nutcracker at 2 and 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, December 13 and again at 3 p.m. this Sunday, December 14 on the Bardavon stage. Tickets cost $30 general admission, $27 for students and $25 for Bardavon member. They are available at the Bardavon box office at 35 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, (845) 473-2072; the Ulster Performing Arts Center box office at 601 Broadway in Kingston, (845) 339-6088; or via TicketMaster (no member discounts) at (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com.

While also featuring some cast members with impressive professional ballet credentials, this weekend’s production of The Nutcracker by Anne Hebard’s Catskill Ballet Theatre (CBT) offers an intriguing extra hook: Two of the younger dancers are second-generation performers in the long-running local production. One of this year’s two Claras, Emma Loewen, is the daughter of Melissa Bierstock, who danced the same role in 1984 and now serves as children’s ballet mistress for CBT. (Clara will also be portrayed by Michelle Moughan in alternating performances.) And Jacob Eichenhofer, who will dance the parts of the Nutcracker, a Candy Cane soloist and a Toy Soldier, is the son of Catherine Franklin, who danced the part of Clara in 1985.

Also in the CBT cast this year, in the principal adult male role of the Nutcracker Prince, a new recruit with roots in the classical European dance scene: Norbert Nirewicz, who got his training at the National Ballet School in Gdansk, Poland. He was a finalist in the New York International Ballet Competition in 2000 and went on to dance for two seasons with Cleveland/San Jose Ballet, later becoming a principal with the Columbia City Ballet. The Neos Dance Theatre’s Jennifer Maria Safonovs will be reprising her role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

CBT’s Nutcracker will be performed at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston this Friday and Saturday, December 12 and 13 at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinée this Sunday, December 14. Tickets cost $30 for adults, $25 for children under age 12, students and seniors. Tickets are available at the UPAC box office, (845) 339-6088 or through TicketMaster at (845) 454-3388 or www.ticketmaster.com.

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, New Paltz Ballet Theatre, Saturday, December 13, 2 & 7:30 p.m., Sunday, December 14, 3 p.m., $30/$27/$25, Bardavon 1869 Opera House, 35 Market Street, Poughkeepsie; (845) 473-2072, www.bardavon.org.

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Catskill Ballet Theatre, Friday/Saturday, December 12/13, 8 p.m., Sunday, December 14, 2 p.m., $30/$25, Ulster Performing Arts Center, 601 Broadway, Kingston; (845) 339-6088, www.bardavon.org.

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