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Kirov Ballet's unmissable Nutcracker

(Photograph) - Heralding a seasonal quartet of crackers, Kirov Ballet's unmissable Nutcracker (above, London Coliseum, December 17-January 4, 0171 632 8300) features young dancers from St Petersburg's famed Vaganova Ballet Academy. In the Russian version, the central character of Klara - taken on a magical journey by the Nutcracker Prince - becomes Masha, played by two performers: a young girl and a mature dancer.

English National Ballet's version features flying pastry cooks, a Christmas tree which grows and grows, and a monster mouse king (Royal Festival Hall, December 16-January 11, 0171 960 424; working rehearsal 2pm, December 16). Scottish Ballet embarks on a final tour of founder Peter Darrell's offering to Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Blackpool (0141 333 1092), hot on the heels of Birmingham Royal Ballet's snazzy Nutcracker Sweeties (0121 622 2555).

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