Since its premiere in 1892, The Nutcracker ballet has told the story of Clara and her journey through a fantasy world where a nutcracker comes alive, life-sized mice battle toy soldiers and snowflakes dance. Tchaikovsky's boffo score, especially the tinkling Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, has become essential holiday music that stands on its own.
, The Nutcracker with Moscow Classical Ballet: This version probably comes closest to the original premiered in Russia more than 100 years ago. With dancers in elaborate costumes, the Florida Orchestra plays live. 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $39.50-$55. Donate three cans of food to the Homeless Emergency Project and get $5 off one ticket. Valid only at Ruth Eckerd Hall ticket office. (727) 791-7400.
The Nutcracker with the Orlando Ballet: This condensed version hits all the highlights and might be better suited for the fidgety set who are out of school next week. It still has beautiful costumes and special effects, all set to recorded music. The performance also features 80 students from the Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet. 7:30 p.m. Tue., 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wed. Morsani Hall at David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $22.50 and up. (813) 229-7827. tbpac.org.
The Nutcracker with the Tampa Bay Ballet: This version has local dancers. The Tampa Bay Ballet is an emerging professional dance company and pre-professional dance school in Oldsmar. 2 and 7:30 p.m. Fri. Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $10-$30. (727) 822-3590. mypalladium.org.
The Nutcracker with Dance Theatre of Tampa: Another version with bay area dancers. The Dance Theatre of Tampa joins guest artists and local dancers from Hillsborough and Pasco counties. 7 p.m. Fri., 2 and 7 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Theatre 1 at University of South Florida, 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. $20-$24, $15-$20 students. (813) 287-8844. www.arts.usf.edu.