Most of the art world spends the holidays catching its breath, but it’s a great time for dedicated viewers to catch up. Whether it’s a fall blockbuster like Michelangelo at the Met or Louise Bourgeois at Museum of Modern Art, the Neue Galerie’s show of fabulous objets d’art from the Wiener Werkstätte, the Guggenheim’s small but gorgeous “Josef Albers in Mexico,” or the New Museum’s of-the-moment “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon,” the city’s museums are full of soon-to-be last-chance exhibits. But start with Mike Kelley’s provocative, multichannel, high-school flashback fantasia on view at Luhring Augustine in Bushwick through January. WILL HEINRICH
Classical: Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Haydn
Jan. 4, 5, 6, 9; nyphil.org.
In its first run of concerts in the new year, the New York Philharmonic takes a turn toward the Classical era. On Jan. 4, the ebullient Jeffrey Kahane, who recently concluded an invigorating tenure as music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, returns to the Philharmonic’s podium and keyboard to conduct and play Mozart’s buoyant Piano Concerto No. 17. For Tchaikovsky’s graceful, Mozart-infused “Variations on a Rococo Theme,” Kahane and the orchestra will be joined by the outstanding young cellist Alisa Weilerstein, the recipient of a 2011 MacArthur Foundation grant. Rounding out a musically rewarding if conservative program is Haydn’s burnished Symphony No. 98, written for London audiences not long after the composer learned of Mozart’s death. WILLIAM ROBIN
Theater: The Public’s Under the Radar Festival
Jan. 4-15; undertheradarfestival.com.
The New York theater season used to pause after the holidays. Now it takes approximately a single breath, and then the wealth of work keeps coming. Some of the most intriguing of it alights at the Public Theater’s dependably enticing Under the Radar Festival, whose panoply of contemporary performance stokes the appetite for the year ahead.
Highlights of the 12-day festival — starting on Thursday, Jan. 4, at the Public, and overflowing to several other spaces in Manhattan and Brooklyn — include the British lip-sync artist Dickie Beau performing in “Re-Member Me,” a meditation on Hamlet and the actors who have played him; Nature Theater of Oklahoma examining the American dream with the Slovenian dance company EnKnapGroup in “Pursuit of Happiness”; Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon morphing science fiction into a black-music opera with “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower”; and the Japanese director Satoshi Miyagi harnessing classical noh drama to retell Shakespeare in “Mugen Noh Othello.” The extensive lineup includes much more, and rewards adventure. LAURA COLLINS-HUGHES
Film: Maysaloun Hamoud’s ‘In Between’
In the first scene of “In Between,” an older woman waxes the legs of a younger one while counseling her on men: Keep your mouth shut and your body smooth, and never let on that you know what you’re doing in bed.
But the stars of the Palestinian writer and director Maysaloun Hamoud’s feisty feature debut aren’t heeding that advice. Laila (Mouna Hawa), a criminal lawyer, and Salma (Sana Jammelieh), an aspiring D.J., share an apartment in Tel Aviv, their nights filled with sex, drugs and electronica. Then they open their door to Nour (Shaden Kanboura), a hijab-wearing university student with a holier-than-thou fiancé intent on making her his dutiful wife.
But sometimes not even modern lovers — Laila and a worldly filmmaker, Salma and a female medical student — can escape the burden of tradition in a country that doesn’t fully accept them. Nor can a filmmaker: “In Between,” opening Friday, Jan. 5, in New York, before a wider release, earned Ms. Hamoud death threats after a conservative West Bank town banned the movie. KATHRYN SHATTUCK
Dance: Last Chance to See Ailey and Balanchine
On New Year’s Eve, the curtain will fall on two enthralling dances, one new and one old. Jamar Roberts’s “Members Don’t Get Weary,” a season premiere for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, didn’t feel so much like a dance — although it was a fine one, with nuance and power — as it did a profound message to the world. Its music was John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord” and “Olé.”
A cherished veteran of Ailey, Mr. Roberts delivered, in his first work for the main company, a transcendent look at how the blues play into our culture. It’s a rarity. It will last.
And as for a dance that has already endured through the decades? “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” a radiant melding of theatrical heart and choreographic ingenuity. Soon, the run of this holiday classic will come to its timely end, but it’s not gone yet. For some reason, it’s better to see it after Christmas. It feels all the more like a secret from childhood. GIA KOURLAS