`African Voices'

Stones worked by mankind's earliest ancestors and contemporary sculptures, textiles and pottery are on display in "African Voices," opening Wednesday at the National Museum of Natural History, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW (Metro: Federal Triangle). Admission is free. The museum is open from 10 to 5:30 daily. Call 202/357-2700.

Nutcrackers

The Washington Ballet dances Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker," Friday at 7, Saturday at 2 and 7, and Sunday at 1, with more shows through Dec. 26 at the Warner Theatre, 13th and E streets NW (Metro: Metro Center, Federal Triangle). Tickets are $25 to $38 from Ticketmaster, 202/432-7328.

The Metropolitan Ballet Theatre dances "The Nutcracker," Friday at 7, Saturday at 7, Sunday at 1 and 5, Dec. 17 at 7, Dec. 18 at 2 and 7 and Dec. 19 at 1 and 5, at the Montgomery College Performing Arts Center, 51 Mannakee St., Rockville. Tickets are $14 in advance, $16 at the door. Call 301/762-1757 or 301/279-5301.

Champions on Ice

Olympic champions Tara Lipinski, Oksana Baiul, Brian Boitano, Ilia Kulik, Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev, plus Rudy Galindo and other top skaters compete in the World Professional Figure Skating Championship, Friday and Saturday at 7 at MCI Center, 601 F St. NW (Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown). Tickets are $40 and $55 for each night, or $60 and $85 for both events from Ticketmaster, 202/432-7328 (service charges).

Dance Theatre Of Harlem

The Dance Theatre of Harlem performs two programs, Tuesday through Dec. 19 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. The first program, Tuesday through Thursday at 8, features"Ginastera,"

"Twist" and "Firebird." On Dec. 17 at 8, Dec. 18 at 2 and 8, and Dec. 19 at 2, the program features "Return," "A Song for Dead Warriors" and "South African Suite." Tickets are $25 to $62. Call 202/467-4600 (TDD: 202/416-8524).

Songs of the Kabarett

Singing actress Angelina Reaux takes you back to the decadent world of Weimar Berlin in "Songs and Deadly Sins, a Berlin Kabarett" with music by Kurt Weill and his contemporaries, performed Saturday and Sunday at 7, and Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 at Studio Theatre, 1333 P St. NW. Performances continue through Jan. 2. The Saturday evening performance is a pay-what-you-can show; tickets go on sale two hours before the show on a first-come basis. Tickets to other performances are $21.50 to $38.50. Call 202/332-3300.

Family Fare

"Susie's Snowflake" is a planetarium holiday show presented Friday at 7:30 at the Howard B. Owens Science Center Planetarium, 9601 Greenbelt Rd., Lanham. Tickets are $4, $2 students and seniors. Call 301/918-8750.

The Musical Theater Center's young actors perform "The Truth About Cinderella," Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 3 and 7:30, and Sunday at 4 at Albert Einstein High School, 11135 Newport Mill Rd., Kensington. Tickets are $9, $7 students and seniors. Call 301/251-5766.

A Dickens Christmas

Enjoy a holiday party with games, food, music and decorations from the Victorian period at "A Dickens of a Christmas," Saturday from 1 to 4 at the Lyceum, 201 S. Washington St., Alexandria. Admission is $3, free for ages 3 and younger. Call 703/838-4994.

Sounds of the Season

The National Symphony Orchestra Pops with Peter Nero performs favorite holiday music by Irving Berlin, Mel Torme and Leroy Anderson, Friday at 7 and Saturday at 8:30 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $15 to $54. Call 202/467-4600 (TDD: 202/416-8524).

The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington brings back the Grinch, Rudolph, Peanuts and other familiar characters in its concert, "Holiday Traditions With Our Family," Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3 at National City Christian Church, 14th Street and Thomas Circle NW. Tickets are $25. Call Ticketmaster, 202/432-7328 (service charges); for information, call 202/338-7464.

The Washington Men's Camerata presents "Christmas With the Camerata," Saturday at 8, 6601 Bradley Blvd., Bethesda, and Sunday at 3 at St. Columba's Episcopal Church, 4201 Albermarle St. NW. Tickets are $20 and $25 ($12 students). Call 202/364-1064.

The Choral Arts Society and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves present a "Christmas Music" concert, Tuesday at 7, Dec. 18 at 4 and Dec. 19 at 8:30 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $15 to $44. Call 202/244-3669 or 202/467-4600.

OUR PICKS

Exhibition

At the Corcoran Gallery of Art, efforts to restore and preserve the art collections of Clark Atlanta University, Fisk University, Hampton University, Howard University, North Carolina Central University and Tuskegee University are spotlighted in "To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities." See review, Page 62. -- Michael O'Sullivan

Nightlife

On Saturday, the Black Cat (202/667-7960) hosts the El Vez Christmas Show, a postmodern pop potpourri featuring El Vez, "The Mexican Elvis." A subversively dynamic entertainer, El Vez combines songs by the King with revolutionary folk songs, current radio hits and (at least on Saturday) some holiday tunes. (With the Ruby Dare). -- Eric Brace

Film

It's likely to be the smash hit of the season, judging by the teary-eyed moviegoers seen emerging from early screenings. We're talking about "The Green Mile," a touching adaptation of the Stephen King novel that stars Tom Hanks as a prison guard and newcomer Michael Clarke Duncan as a possibly innocent death row prisoner. See review, Page 44.

-- Desson Howe

REST OF THE BEST

Carla and Kids Dance

Carla & Company and Carla's Kids perform a modern dance concert for all ages, Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 4 at Dance Place, 3225 Eighth St. NE (Metro: Brookland/ CUA). Tickets are $15, $12 for students and seniors, $5 ages 13 through 17 free for ages 12 and younger with paying adult. Call 202/269-1600.

Holiday Parties

Gunston Hall celebrates the holidays with open-air carriage rides, warm cider and candlelight tours of an 18th-century home, Friday and Saturday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $7, $6 seniors, $2 children 6 through 18. Gunston Hall is at 10709 Gunston Rd. in Lorton. Call 703/550-9220.

Enjoy refreshments, jazz, blues, bluegrass and dance at seven Capitol Hill Houses, Sunday from 1 to 5 at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop's Holiday House Party. Tickets are $25, $10 for children 14 and younger, and are available in advance at the Capitol Hills Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh St. SE (Metro: Eastern Market) and other locations. On Sunday, the tickets are available at 118 12th St. NE. Call 202/547-6839.

Day of the Robot

The Smithsonian Institution's Lemelson Center is sponsoring a day-long exploration of robots on Saturday, with a talk at 11 by Akhil Madhani of Disney Imagineering, who will discuss his robotic inventions. At 1, curator Steve Lubar will discuss the robots in the museum's collection, including one of the original C-3PO costumes. From 1:30 to 2:30 and 2:30 to 3:30, the RoboCup teams of Carnegie Mellon and Cornell universities will demonstrate robots that can play soccer and other robots, including the Sony robot "dog". The "Working and Playing With Robots" program takes place in the Information Age Theater on the first floor of the National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW (Metro: Federal Triangle, Smithsonian). Admission is free. Call 202/357-2700 (TDD: 202/357-1729)