IT'S A LONG-STANDING Philly tradition to go to the Pennsylvania Ballet and other local productions of "The Nutcracker" during the holidays. But this year you can start a new tradition, courtesy of ballet pro Stas Kmiec and his Nutcracker Workout.

Kmiec was in town recently to introduce this lively exercise regimen at Philadelphia Sports Clubs.

The Massachusetts native is a veteran ballet choreographer and performer whose credits include dancing with the Boston Ballet and touring with Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. Kmiec also is considered a leading authority on Polish folk dance.

"Dance is for everyone, not just professional dancers," Kmiec said. "Everyone should have exposure to dance. Dancing frees the mind, strengthens and tones the body, but most importantly, dance allows you to walk onto the stage, the restaurant, or the job interview with confidence and ease."

His Nutcracker Workout is a mixture of traditional ballet moves and real choreography from George Balanchine's version of "The Nutcracker," all set to Tchaikovsky's lovely classical music.

Kmiec created the workout to make exercising during the holiday season more festive. "It's all about celebrating the season and the fantasy of ballet," he explained.

He's created "Romeo and Juliet" and "West Side Story" workouts, too. Stay tuned, a DVD for all of them is in the works.

A Nutcracker Workout class is 55 minutes long and is suitable for anyone age 17 to 75. Kmiec's teaching style is clever and fun. He breaks down ballet's complexity into simple terms so that even a novice can understand commands like "chasse" and "plie." For more experienced participants, he also bumps the class up with a "power option."

But what you really want to know is how many calories you're going to burn, right? Well, Kmiec can't say with 100 percent accuracy, but no matter how you move, you'll burn a lot.

The class is in great demand at the New York City Sports Club, where it premiered two years ago. It should be a hit here in Philadelphia, too.

I believe in dance-based workouts. They're not only excellent cardiovascular exercise, but fun, too. Dance is also a social activity. And dancing speaks to the soul - it trumps the often-boring routine of treadmill, elliptical or bike.

Besides the Nutcracker Workout, other dance-based workouts I'd recommend include Zumba (a Latin-inspired dance workout), hip-hop dancing, belly dancing and striptease aerobics, to name a few.

Inquire at your gym about dance-based workouts or try a dance class at one of our many local dance studios.

Whether you have always fantasized about being a ballet dancer, or you simply want to have fun with your fitness, the Nutcracker Ballet workout could be your sugar plum fairy come to life.

For more information on the Nutcracker Workout, contact www.mysportsclubs.com. For more information on dance in Philly, go to the Philadelphia Dance Organization Web site, www.philadelphiadance.org.

Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimatefitness.com). E-mail her at

kimberly@1on1ultimatefitness.com. Her column appears each Thursday in Yo!