PHOENIX -- "The Nutcracker" isn't just a holiday tradition, it is the gift that keeps on giving for ballet companies around the country.
Three weeks of Nutcracker performances make up 50 percent of Ballet Arizona's annual ticket sales and pay for about one-quarter of its operating budget.
This year, Ballet Arizona is reaching out to the community in new ways in hopes of building its audience and increasing those vital ticket sales.
Ballet Arizona has added new elements to its holiday performance, including a canon exploding onstage.
Also, the company's top dancers take on cameo roles to add comedy to the show. The Mother Ginger character dresses in drag and flirts with the conductor.
The changes seem to be working.
The New York Times named Ballet Arizona's production of The Nutcracker one of the top three in the nation.
Ballet Arizona has also launched a digital marketing campaign.
The company offers deals on websites like www.dealchicken.com, and shares dancers' biographies through social media.
Ballet Arizona now has almost 9,000 followers on Facebook and nearly 6,500 on Twitter.