This is the time of year when the dance fancier's choice starts to look like Hobson's.
Will it be The Nutcracker or The Nutcracker? And will that be a Nutcracker featuring a giant flying snow goose (Birmingham Royal Ballet at Birmingham Hippodrome, 0844 338 5000, to 13 Dec), a Nutcracker peopled by Gerald Scarfe grotesques (ENB at the Coliseum, 0871 911 0200, 17-30 Dec) or a grand, traditional Contes d'Hoffmann affair (Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, 020 7304 4000, 15 Dec to 10 Jan)? And that's not counting the Nutcrackers of all those Russian touring troupes who materialise on cue with the mince pies. Most reliable is St Petersburg Ballet Theatre. Its Nutcracker plays Nottingham, Blackpool, Eastbourne and Brighton ... and that's just between now and New Year. It visits eight more venues thereafter.
Look beyond the traditionalist hot spots and the choice widens. Sadler's Wells is going for broke on the family appeal of Edward Scissorhands (0844 412 4300, to 18 Jan, now with a 15 per cent reduction on all ticket prices). In this close-to-the-movie dance treatment by Matthew Bourne, watch out for the care with which he manoeuvres his digitally challenged hero around a passionate pas de deux without cutting the heroine's flesh to ribbons.
The Southbank Centre, freed of its ballet obligation, is venturing into the unpredictable with The Lost and Found Orchestra (0871 663 2500, 21 Dec to 11 Jan). With a timpani section of soup cauldrons, traffic cone trombones, swinging aerialist percussionists and speeding shopping trolleys, this is neither music nor choreography so much as a jamboree of sound and movement, turning everyday scrap into the wild and wonderful. In a similar spirit, the Peacock Theatre is hosting the Canadian circus outfit Les 7 Doigts de la Main (0844 412 4300, from 3 Feb), a friendly, grungy antidote to slick Canadian franchise Cirque du Soleil.
For dance shows for children, the Linbury Studio at Covent Garden often comes up trumps. This year's offering from the ever-inventive Will Tuckett is The Thief of Baghdad, an Arabian Nights adventure told in movement (10 Dec to 3 Jan, for kids 8+). For little ones, balletLORENT will reprise its sell-out Angelmoth (Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler's Wells, 18 Dec to 3 Jan) about the characters who inhabit a dusty library, and how their lives are transformed when they encounter a magic butterfly-like creature.