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How to Fill the Holiday Break: The Culture Guide

How to Fill the Holiday Break: The Culture Guide

Hunting down the best annual performances of The Nutcracker has become a bit of a holiday tradition at #goophq—one that inevitably leads to an unearthing of the other cultural events on the calendar this time of year. Most performance venues take a break between Christmas and the New Year, so this is actually a great time to be looking, as you’re just in time to catch both the end of this year’s long-running shows and the beginning of next year’s new offerings. Below, our favorite picks—a full range that includes everything from family-friendly ballets and concerts to R-rated art exhibitions.

New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker

New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker

New York City Ballet, Lincoln Center | 212.496.0600

It doesn’t take much to sell the idea of seeing The Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet around the holidays. Aside from, of course, George Balanchine’s choreography (and Tschaikovsky’s iconic score), there’s also a one-ton Christmas tree, the unwieldy Mother Ginger costume, and an unyielding storm of snowflakes. Sure to impress both kids and adults.

Kerry James Marshall at the Met Breuer

Kerry James Marshall at the Met Breuer

945 Madison Ave., UES | 212.731.1675

With 72 paintings on display, this 35-year career retrospective is the largest of American artist Kerry James Marshall’s work to date. Starting with pieces as early as Marshall’s 1980 "A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self”—still as incisive a nod to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man as ever—the exhibition explores his career as it unfolds chronologically and thematically. At the Met Breuer through January 29th. Photo: Untitled (Studio), Kerry James Marshall, 2014. Purchase, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation Gift, Acquisitions Fund and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Multicultural Audience Development Initiative Gift, 2015. © Kerry James Marshall.

r-Evolution, Dream

r-Evolution, Dream

NY City Center, 131 W. 55th St., UWS | 212.581.1212

From the vital and prolific Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, this large ensemble work created by veteran company member Hope Boykin was inspired by the sermons and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. New music by Ali Jackson (from Jazz at Lincoln Center)—plus historic and original writings recorded by Leslie Odom Jr. of Hamilton—make this relevant story as compelling as ever. Through December 28th.

Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty

Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty

200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn | 718.638.5000

It's high time Marilyn Minter had a serious, full-scale museum retrospective, and Pretty/Dirty, co-organized by MCA Denver and the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston does justice to the scope of her lengthy career. The show brings together all her classic crowd-pleasers, like Green Pink Caviar (which, awesomely, was the video backdrop of a Madonna tour) and her series with Wangechi Mutu, where Minter draped the artist in gold paint. What's perhaps more groundbreaking is the selection of lesser-known early works, like early photographs of the artist's mother, which help explain the development that led to Minter's signature style. Note to parents: There's a bit of nudity. Photo: Marilyn Minter (American, b. 1948). Orange Crush, 2009. Enamel on metal, 108 x 180 in. (274.3 x 457.2 cm). Private collection.

Agnes Martin at the Guggenheim

Agnes Martin at the Guggenheim

1071 5th Ave., UES | 212.360.4355

Agnes Martin's geometrically perfect squares and rectangles create a beautiful juxtaposition against Frank Lloyd Wright's curved Guggenheim—and the architecture allows visitors to see the works both up close in their individual banks, and from across the rotunda. The works are arranged chronologically, spanning Martin's entire forty-year career, so the viewer experiences the development of her craft as they makes their way up in the building. You'll kick yourself if you don't make time for a visit before it closes on January 11th.

The Color Purple at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater

The Color Purple at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater

242 W. 45th St., Midtown

This version of The Color Purple swept the Tonys for Best Musical Revival and Best Actress, which went to newcomer Cynthia Erivo for her soulful and energetic portrayal of Celie. It also features Jennifer Holliday, who you'll recognize from Dreamgirls, playing Shug Avery (she's replacing fellow Dreamgirls star Jennifer Hudson in the role). It's exactly the kind of powerful, feel-good show that's perfect for this time of year.

L’Amour de Loin at the Met

L’Amour de Loin at the Met

Lincoln Center, 30 Lincoln Center Plaza, UWS | 212.875.5456

"L'Amour de Loin," which translates to "Love from Afar," follows the story of two lovers who must communicate through a messenger across a vast ocean—which, on stage, is represented by strings of thousands of LED lights, like an undulating surface. The company pops their heads up and out for ensemble numbers. Commissioned by and first performed at the Salzburg Festival in 2000, this is only the second opera in the Met's history that was composed by a woman (the first was performed more than 100 years ago, in 1903). It's also conducted by a woman, Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki, whose Met debut has been met with great praise so far. Through December 29th.

The Hard Nut at BAM

The Hard Nut at BAM

Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn | 718.636.4100

Mark Morris's whimsical and quirky interpretation of the Nutcracker, which takes place in the '70s (complete with flared pants, bell sleeves, and go-go boots), brings new life to the classic ballet. With robots that stand in for nutcrackers, plenty of men as sugar plum fairies, and GI Joes fighting off rats, it has plenty of laugh-worthy moments, while still leaving the viewer with a sense of wonder that's consistent across every performance of Tchaikovsky's score. Through December 18th.

Siri Hustvedt at the Strand

Siri Hustvedt at the Strand

Rare Book Room, The Strand, 828 Broadway, Union Square | 212.473.1452

In addition to novels, including 2014's acclaimed The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt is known for her writings on art, politics, and science from a feminist's perspective. Her new book of essays, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, in which she takes on subjects as diverse as Louise Bourgeois, Susan Sontag, and SSRI drugs for depression, is no exception. If you're hoping for a seat at her conversation with author Jason Tougaw at the Strand, you'll want to be in line early. December 15th only.

A Celebration of E.L. Doctorow at the 92nd St. Y

A Celebration of E.L. Doctorow at the 92nd St. Y

Kaufmann Concert Hall, UES | 212.415.5500

E.L. Doctorow, who died at the age of 84 last year, was known for pieces of historical fiction (Ragtime, which was made into a film in the '80s, the most famous among them) as well as for progressive political writings. In a panel at the 92nd Street Y, authors Ta-Nehisi Coates, Don LeLillo, and Jennifer Egan celebrate the life of the revered New York writer on the occasion of the posthumous publication of his final work: Collected Stories. January 9th only.