It just doesn’t feel like the holiday season until you’ve partaken in a few longstanding traditions. These may include: watching “Home Alone” (or your holiday movie of choice) at least three times. Eating obscene amounts of unhealthy food. Fielding invasive questions from extended family members.

Seeing “Nutcracker” is another tried-and-true way to celebrate the season. But even if you’re no stranger to the beautiful show, you should make it a point to see this year’s performance put on by Charlotte Ballet. Here’s why:

(1) It’ll be a completely different experience.

Thanks to a gift from the McColl family, the performance got a facelift that was 25 years in the making, including breathtaking new costumes and scenery. You’ll also notice slightly different choreography, which President & Artistic Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux has developed to play off of the strengths of the individual dancers.

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(2) The show is Charlotte-specific.

As Executive Director Doug Singleton explained to me, “The essence of the story is always going to be about Clara and her dream, but what’s different about this is that it’s Charlotte’s. Nobody else has this. It’s our version. It’s such an amazing gift by the McColl family to the ballet for the community.”

You may have seen the show growing up in Ohio or Florida, but this interpretation of “Nutcracker” is unique to the Queen City.

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(3) There’s no age limit.

When I went, I sat in front of my friend’s 3-year-old and ended up spending half the time sneaking glances at her face. I’ve never seen someone’s eyes get so huge or their attention remain so fixated. She was hooked. I’m 28 and still got chills at several points, so I get it. If you’ve got family in town and need an activity that everyone can agree on, this is the perfect pick.

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Before the performance I got to chat with some of the dancers, including 18-year-old Jonas Godwin. The show marks his professional ballet debut. When you were 18 you were probably wondering if you and your high school boo were going to make it when you went to different colleges in the fall. Can you even imagine what’s running through his head?

“I’m feeling stress,” he said. “But I’m happy to do it. I love what I do. I just want to please the artistic director and hopefully he’ll like what I do.”

But with those nerves comes an incredible amount of giddy anticipation, he says.

“I’m most excited to perform with the new company,” Godwin said. “This is my first professional performance, so that’s really exciting as it is, but also this is mostly a new production with new sets and new choreography. It’s a great holiday tradition.”

Maurice Mouzon Jr., 19, has danced in “Nutcracker” in his hometown of Baltimore, but he notes that the Charlotte Ballet’s version is a totally different experience, “My favorite thing about this show is that back home all of the costumes were mediocre. Here, everything is nice and new. It’s much more exciting.”

Charlotte Ballet’s “Nutcracker” runs Dec. 3-23 at the Belk Theater, featuring live music from the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Get your tickets at CharlotteBallet.org.

Photos: Lauren Levine

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