"The Nutcracker" may be the most popular ballet in the history of dance.
And, of course, the holiday staple for most ballet companies can be seen locally.
In "The Nutcracker," which is based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Clara (sometimes called Marie) receives a nutcracker shaped like a prince from her godfather, Drosselmeyer, at her family's annual Christmas party. After all of the guests leave, she sneaks downstairs to get her present.
That's when all sorts of incredible things start to happen.
But, of course, it's all a dream.
Lafayette Ballet Co.
The Lafayette Ballet Co.'s version of "The Nutcracker" can be seen in Troup County High School's Performing Arts Center in LaGrange, Ga., next weekend.
Amy Orr, the artistic director, took the job four years ago, but she has been teaching and choreographing with the company since 1997.
Being in a small town, the ballet company has some history, she said.
"I taught the daughter of the first Clara," she said.
This year marks the 30th year the Lafayette Ballet Co. has presented "The Nutcracker."
Orr said one of her snow dancers a few years ago said she was wearing the same costume her mother and grandmother wore.
She's proud to "actually have a thriving ballet" in LaGrange.
As for those old costumes, the company is in the final year of a three-year costume campaign that has replaced 75 percent of the costumes.
She's hoping the 2014 performances will have all new costumes.
Orr has hired two male guest artists -- Nolan Seda, a freelance dancer from New York, and James LaRussa of Atlanta, who used to dance with the Atlanta Ballet but is now a medical student at Emory University.
"I'm excited to have these two gentlemen this year," she said.
Alas, her dancers use a recording.
"It is a wish for the future to have a live orchestra," Orr said. "But dreams do come true."
The Columbus Ballet's version of "The Nutcracker" can be seen the weekend before Christmas in the Bill Heard Theatre with a live orchestra, the Columbus Ballet Orchestra, led by Paul Hostetter.
Hostetter is the Ethel Foley Distinguished Chair for Orchestral Activities and a Columbus State University Schwob School of Music professor who conducts the CSU Philharmonic.
Maria Hirsch has lost track of all of the "The Nutcracker" ballets she's either danced, choreographed, produced or directed. In some years, she's done all four things.
Hirsch is the director of the Columbus Ballet.
She's choreographed, produced and directed the traditional holiday ballet the past two years.
This will be her third. Before that, she said she led the ballet for about seven years.
She first started dancing in the ballet, featuring the music by Tchaikovsky when she was about 15 in Puerto Rico with the San Juan Ballet.
The ballet, particularly the music, has universal appeal.
"They play the music anywhere and everywhere," Hirsch said. "Victoria's Secret, for crying out loud, plays the music. You can hear 'Nutcracker' music everywhere."
In her career, she has danced every role except for Clara, the young girl who is the focus of the ballet.
Returning to play the Cavalier is Noel Dupuis, who made his Columbus debut last year. He's based in Atlanta and owns a dance studio.
Asked if it gets any easier every time she directs the ballet, she said, "Every year, there's something different. It doesn't get any better but it doesn't get any worse."
The costumes have been "refreshed," but are basically the same with a new tutu for the Snow Queen and new costumes for the Arabian dancers. The Candy Canes have been changed to Peppermint Puffs.