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Nearly everyone loves the story of Clara, the young girl in "The Nutcracker" ballet who falls asleep under the Christmas tree with her precious Nutcracker and then awakens at midnight to a much different scene. The Christmas tree has grown, a battle with the Mouse King ensues and she must save her Nutcracker prince, who later whisks her way to the Land of Sweets and the beauty that awaits there.

This year, in Reno, there are two remaining opportunities to catch "The Nutcracker," a ballet based on E.T.A Hoffman's original "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice." The first is the performance of the Northern Nevada A.V.A. Ballet Theatre at the Pioneer Center and the other is the Reno Dance Company's performance at John Ascuaga's Nugget Resort Casino. Both shows promise excellent dancing, beautiful costumes, and performances to remember with family or friends.

"The Nutcracker" at the Pioneer Center

Northern Nevada A.V.A. Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Alexander Van Alstyne once again brings his special choreography skills to the stage, with his 2016 version of "The Nutcracker." While many of the key roles in the ballet are actually performed by principal dancers from other companies, including Ballet West, Diablo Ballet, and Houston Ballet, many of the smaller roles are performed by local dancers. Just think of all those dancers in the mice army -- you may even recognize some.

The score for the ballet is performed by the  Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Laura Jackson. This is a score that was written by the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, whose many pieces for the ballet have now become timeless, including "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" and "Waltz of the Flowers." Seating at the Pioneer Center is comfortable and a good view is available from almost angle.

The two-act ballet also provides an intermission to get up and stretch your legs, purchase small snack items and beverages from the food bars, or enjoy the classy environment of the center. For young children, the ballet can be a great introduction to the world of theater and live orchestral music.

Nutcracker performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10 as well as 2 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11. Tickets range from $25 to $55, but discounts are available to children and seniors. Also, after the Saturday and Sunday afternoon performances, a special Sugar Plum Fairy party is scheduled so that children have the opportunity to meet Nutcracker characters.

Details: pioneercenter.com or 1-866-553-6605.

"The Nutcracker" at the Nugget Casino Resort

The Reno Dance Company has performed "The Nutcracker" on stage in the Nugget's Celebrity Showroom for years. In fact, this year marks the 15th annual performance. Showtimes for the Reno Dance Company's "Nutcracker" are actually scheduled later in the month than those at the Pioneer Center, providing last-minute opportunities to make a show with family or friends. (The Grand Sierra Resort also does a show every year, but it usually is earlier in the month -- Dec. 3-4 this year).

Seating at the showroom tends to be fuller than the performances at the Pioneer Center, so plan to arrive early with plenty of time to find your seats at a table or booth. If you arrive near the start of the show or even late, you may find other people have snagged your seats in attempt to be closer or have a better view.

Like "The Nutcracker" at the Pioneer Center, this performance is two acts and carried out beautifully by the Reno Dance Company. In fact, dance members typically put on a quick fundraiser during the intermission, and go out in the audience to meet family members, friends, and others afterward. It is much more difficult to move about this theater, and, of course, there is no live orchestra like at the Pioneer Center.

The Nugget offers places to eat either before or after the show, including Rosie's Café, which is open 24 hours. There are many more show times available, too, than at the Pioneer Center. These include 3 and 8 p.m., Dec. 17, 3 and 7 p.m., Dec. 18 and 7 p.m., Dec. 20, 21 and 22 and 8 p.m. Dec. 23.  Ticket prices vary, but start at $26.95 for adults. Children younger than 12 cost $19.95, but provide seating at tables only. To order tickets, see nuggetcasinoresort.com or call 800-648-1177.

If you are unable to catch either of these performances, you might want to see if you can find a televised version of a performance (including that original with Mikhail Baryshnikov), or purchase any of the DVD options available on Amazon. Whether on stage or on television, "The Nutcracker" ballet certainly has inspired many young dancers and sent many families to the theater to enjoy a show.

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