By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The San Francisco Ballet presents its annual staging of the classic Russian Christmas ballet when Nutcracker marks its 75th year as part of the company’s standard repertoire through Dec. 29.

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While an abridged version of the ballet was performed in New York City in 1940, it was the San Francisco Ballet that staged the first complete United States performance of Nutcracker on December 24, 1944, at the War Memorial Opera House. It would move on to performances in Oakland, Sacramento and Stockton, introducing the region to “Nutcracker fever” and starting what would eventually become a holiday tradition across the country.

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The San Francisco Ballet has presented Nutcracker every Christmas season ever since, debuting new productions in 1954, 1967 and most recently in 2004 when current artistic director Helgi Tomasson introduced his own choreography and new staging that set the story in San Francisco during the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition with most of the action taking place inside one of the City’s famed “Painted Ladies.”

With its dazzling costumes and memorable set pieces like the March of the Toy Soldiers, the Waltz of the Flowers and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy to Tchaikovsky’s memorable score, it is easy to see why Nutcracker has become a timeless holiday favorite for so many Bay Area families. For opening night on Dec. 11, a group of over 35 dancers who have portrayed lead character Clara and other former SF Ballet School Nutcracker performers from 1972 up to today will be onhand to be recognized by Tomasson himself at the special performance. For more information on additional special events and tickets, visit the San Francisco Ballet website.

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San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker
Dec. 11-29, times vary; $25-$199
War Memorial Opera House