The Hard Nut

When: Fri., Dec. 11, 8 p.m., Sat., Dec. 12, 2 & 8 p.m., Sun., Dec. 13, 3 p.m., Thu., Dec. 17, 7 p.m., Fri., Dec. 18, 7 p.m., Sat., Dec. 19, 2 & 8 p.m. and Sun., Dec. 20, 3 p.m. 2009

As its title suggests, Mark Morris’ Christmas ballet, The Hard Nut, is about the most scatological Nutcracker spoof that exists in contemporary dance — if you’re trying to keep a G rating, that is. That said, it’s pure Morris, meaning the choreography combines sleekness and grace with a wry sense of humor and the sets use a noir-ish comic-book aesthetic derived from artists Charles Burns (who specialized in childhood horrors). Morris uses the same storyline and Tchaikovsky score to which we’ve all been habituated, but tweaks them, ever so slightly, to go against the Freudian grain. (Mrs. Stahlbaum is played by a man, as are several other female characters). For all its classical pretensions, much of the ballet harks back to Sixties-era trash culture — there’s even a Bob Fosse dance move in the opening party scene, which might be unintentional. Morris’ high style and lowbrow references have helped The Hard Nut remain viable, year after year, despite its competition. For anyone weary of Nutcracker oversaturation, it’s a fun alternative. Through Dec. 20 at Zellerbach Hall (UC Berkeley Campus). $36-$62.

Rachel Swan

Price: $36, $48, $62

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