Writer Joseph J. Airdo
Photography Courtesy of Phoenix Ballet

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here are some traditions that you absolutely must do each and every holiday season or risk feeling as though your Christmas was incomplete. These traditions include watching the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” holiday specials on TV, setting out cookies and milk for Santa and, of course, attending a performance of “The Nutcracker.”

“The music is so holiday-like,” says Slawomir Wozniak, artistic director for Phoenix Ballet. “I am thankful that [Pyotr] Tchaikovsky wrote such beautiful music. Whenever you go to a mall and you hear ‘The Russian Dance’ in the background or ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ somewhere in the speakers, that already creates that feeling and that atmosphere of Christmastime. ”

Wozniak produced “The Nutcracker” in Poland in 2006 before moving to the United States and bringing his version of the show to Americans the following year.

“The same production is still being played in Poland in one of the biggest theaters there,” Wozniak says. “It features the exact same steps, sets and costumes. So for the last 15 years, the same production has been presented on two different continents at the same time. I am so happy that so many people have been able to see my show.”

Slawomir’s “The Nutcracker,” which Phoenix Ballet will present Dec. 10–23 at Orpheum Theatre, features top students from Master Ballet Academy, gorgeous sets, festive costumes and even magical snowfall, all centered around the classic story about a young girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve and wages a battle against the evil Mouse King.

“Our school, Master Ballet Academy, is a huge part of my ‘Nutcracker’ and you will see very young students dance large parts,” Wozniak says. “It is something like nowhere else, the technical and artistic skill the young dancers bring that even the highest level of expectations regarding performing will be satisfied.”

Phoenix Ballet will elevate the experience with a boutique filled to the brim with nutcrackers, Christmas ornaments, holiday knick-knacks and other great gift ideas and souvenirs that remind one of the very special experience of seeing the show that has made “The Nutcracker” such a time-honored tradition.

“We have established something that is as spectacular as the performance itself,” Wozniak says.

“For some, ‘The Nutcracker’ was their first date. For others, it was the first performance that they attended together as a family. So people keep up the tradition to keep up with those memories. The more people come, the more people unite and the more people leave the theater happy. I hope that the tradition will continue forever.”

The Nutcracker // Dec. 10–23 // Orpheum Theatre // 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix // $25+ // phoenixballet.org