The dance pickings are rather slim this time of year if you measure quantity, but rather impressive if you figure the number of dancers and costumes per square inch of stage, as the few available dance programs are holiday spectaculars with scores and scores of whirling, twirling, leaping, en pointe ballerinas and danceurs nobles. For those who don't speak dance, that means girls in tutus and men in tights.
You're also out of luck if you expect variety: the majority of December dance presentations work some variation on Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. By the time you read this, several troupes already will have come-and-gone with their annual versions of The Nutcracker, among them Salt Creek Ballet and the Civic Ballet of Chicago, so you won't find them listed below. All told, however, there were six stagings of The Nutcracker this season. Missing this year, alas, was Nuts and Bolts, the jazz dance version usually presented by the Joel Hall Dancers to Duke Ellington's syncompated re-invention of the Tchaikovsky score. Perhaps they'll be back next year.
FYI: there's a wonderful Web site, SeeChicagoDance.com ( case sensitive ) , with day-by-day listings of Chicago-area dance performances, descriptions and photos of each troupe, and ticket information. Discounted tickets frequently are available if you purchase them through the site itself.
The Nutcracker—Ballet Chicago Studio Company, under co-choreographers Daniel Duell and Patricia Blair, maintains the classical dance tradition in their Dec. 17-18 performances at the Athenaeum Theatre, a great intimate yet atmospheric venue for this holiday treat; ( 773 ) 935-6860; $12-$25.
The Nutcracker—The Joffrey Ballet claims bragging rights for the biggest and most lavish of the several productions of The Nutcracker, and the one with the longest run. Choreographed by the late Robert Joffrey himself, it plays at the Auditorium Theatre ( a perfect venue for it ) Dec. 14-28. Half of all performances are matinees and evening curtains are earlier than usual at 7 p.m.; ( 312 ) 902-1400; $15-$95.
The Nutcracker—The long-established Von Heidecke Ballet brings its version of the romantic treat to the western suburbs, Dec. 17-23, choreographed by founder Kenneth Von Heidecke. It's all there: the Sugar Plum Fairy, drummer boys, battling mice, Arabian dancers and a handsome prince. McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn; ( 630 ) 942-4000; $26.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular—Santa's helpers—not even the gay ones—have never been more curvaceous and high-kicking than the Rockettes who return for their seventh time to the Rosemont Theatre ( near O'Hare ) with a company of 100, among them dancing teddy bears and wooden soldiers and reindeer that actually fly. A lavish, dazzling musical spectacle for all ages, through Dec. 24; ( 312 ) 559-1212 ( Ticketmaster ) ; $24.50-$56.50.
Tidings of Tap—It's neither ballet nor Tchaikovsky and maybe that's a good thing! For the second year, Chicago Tap Theatre offers songs—both sung and danced—celebrating winter, Christmas and Chanukah, among them an a capella rendition of 'Carol of the Bells.' Tidings of Tap plays Dec. 16-18, Vittum Theatre ( 1012 N. Noble ) ; ( 773 ) 655-1175; $25 ( $15 for dancers ) .
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago ( HSDC ) doesn't have anything up on the boards for Christmas, but they DO have plenty up on the shelves for you to buy for Christmas. Actually, the shelves are electronic as Hubbard Street launches an e-boutique of signature Hubbard Street logo merchandise. Go to ShopHSDC.com ( case sensitive ) and you'll be able to select logo t-shirts, refrigerator magnets with photos of HSDC performances, sweatpants, hoodies, fleece jackets, etc. You'll also be able to purchase tickets—hey, there's a novel idea!—for upcoming Hubbard Street performances. We don't think HSDC is offering used dance belts online, but perhaps in time they'll realize the power of the fetish market. For those who wish to snuggle up with a dancer, a logo t-shirt might be as close as you can get at the present time.