For about a decade now, seeing “George Balanchine’s Nutcracker” at the New York City Ballet has been a lovely start to the Christmas season for my teenage daughter and me. She did ballet when she was little. I also took dance lessons in my younger years. But that’s not the draw. It’s the joy, the storybook wonder of the holiday classic that has made it a mainstay of the Christmas season. Backstage, we’ve met mom Ginger and peeked under her huge skirt. We have been photographed with lead dancers. Three days from now, we’ll re-savour our sumptuous view from the orchestra seats in a jewel-box theater at Lincoln Center, seats so close to the stage that we’ll tilt our heads back to watch the magical Christmas tree grows to be a huge. height Even last year, amid a resurgence of the coronavirus, our holiday spirit wasn’t dampened as we saw dancers aged 12 and up replace angels, mice and pint-sized revelers at due to safety protocols and your eligibility for Covid vaccines. The little dancers are back this year. In fact, they add brightness and sweetness. But the sweetest moment for us came in 2019 when “The Nutcracker” broke a barrier with the first black dancer to play Marie, the brave young heroine. It was a milestone for the production, dating back to 1954. And Marie looked just like us!