Nutcracker is set in a mid-19th century family party, but it's really only been a part of American holiday traditions since the 1950s, when George Balanchine staged a complete production for the New York City Ballet. Since then, though, it's become a mainstay of repertories everywhere, bringing in the widest audiences, from once-a-year family outings to devoted balletomanes. Pacific Northwest Ballet's production, with choreography by Kent Stowell and those set design by Maurice Sendak (seen on bus ads and billboards all over town), pulls out just about every theatrical trick in the book, mixes them with some non-stop dancing, and wraps them all up with Tchaikovsky's beautiful score. If Nutcracker is your holiday tradition, you'll be in good company here. SANDRA KURTZ

Fri., Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 8-29, 2012

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