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DANCIN' FEATS 'Tis the season of Nutcrackers
by Lauren Warnecke

This article shared 7406 times since Wed Dec 10, 2014
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In the dance world, December means Nutcracker, and in the Chicago area there are dozens. The famous story of Clara ( or, in some versions, Maria ) and her Nutcracker doll who turns into a magical prince is based on a tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann. It was originally choreographed as a ballet by Marius Petipa, and set to a 90-minute Tchaikovsky score. Rare is the dancer who hasn't participated in The Nutcracker in some capacity: There are student Nutcrackers and professional Nutcrackers, classical Nutcrackers and jazz-dance Nutcrackers.

To Nutcracker or not to Nutcracker? For many families, the ballet has become an annual tradition synonymous with the holiday season. But in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, the options are so numerous that Nutcracker can get a bit overwhelming. Windy City Times is here to help, identifying four pretty failproof options:

The popular one: Joffrey Ballet of Chicago

Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker is one of Chicago's most beloved performances. The professional production features stunning sets, world-class dancing, Gerald Arpino's gorgeous Waltz of the Flowers, complete with strewn petals all across the stage, and 118 young dancers from the community. The party scene includes a special role shared by two wheelchair dancers created by Robert Joffrey in 1987, and has remained in the ballet ever since.

Regular attendees won't notice any big differences in this year's production, perhaps with the exception of some of Joffrey's newest dancers taking on some of the large roles. New hires Elivelton de Gracasï申andï申Fernando Duarte will be sharing Fritz/Snow Prince 2013's hire Amanda Assucenaï申will learn Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen. With 24 performances in all, the dancers rotate between multiple roles, with some of the veterans prepared to perform up to a dozen roles. This year's Nutcracker also marks the swan song for dancer Erica Lynette Edwards, who is transitioning into the role of director of community engagement at The Joffrey.

The Joffrey Ballet performsï申The Nutcrackerï申at Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Pkwy., throughï申Sunday, Dec. 28. Ticketsï申are $32-$134 and are available at The Joffrey Ballet's official box office, 10 E. Randolph St., as well as the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University box office and Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, either atï申( 800- 982-2787ï申or .ï申ï申

The suburban one: Ballet Légere

Ballet Légere celebrates its 30th anniversary of The Nutcracker Ballet, a student production featuring professional dancers Joseph Caruana and Megan Walsh of Elements Contemporary Ballet and Vanessa Woods and Erik Hoffman of the St. Louis Ballet dancing the Grand Pas de Deux ( Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier ).

Performances run Dec. 11-15 at Dominican University Performing Arts Center, 7900 W. Division St., River Forest ). Ticket are $20-30 available by phone at 773-237-1874 or online at . A $2 fee is applied to tickets purchased at the door.


The big one: Hyde Park School of Dance

Hyde Park School of Dance's ( HPSD )'s massive cast is its Nutcracker's claim to fame, boasting a record 175 dancers of all ages supported by 100+ volunteers. HPSD Founding Artistic Director August Tye, also the ballet mistress and choreographer at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, staged the 90-minute production including narration for an easy-to-follow audience experience.

The cameo role of Mother Ginger is given to a special VIP, featuring Hyde Park Bank President Mike McGarry in this year's production. On Friday, Dec. 12, HPSD will perform an abridged version for more than 800 schoolchildren from the Hyde Park area as a part of its STEPS ( Serve, Train, Educate, Promote, Succeed ) community engagement program.

Hyde Park School of Dance's The Nutcracker takes place Dec. 12-14 at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St. Tickets are $10-$30; children under 5 have no admission fee. A special fundraiser, the Sugar Plum Tea, follows the Dec. 14 matinee; tickets purchased separately $20-$40. All tickets and further information are available at 773-493-8498 orï申 .

The alternative one with talking: House Theatre of Chicago

Through Dec. 28, the House Theatre of Chicago's Nutcracker takes up residence at the Chopin Theatre in a "fantastical expansion of this holiday classic centers on young Clara's journey to save Christmas." Mixing theater, dance and puppetry in a reimagined interpretation of the E.T.A. Hoffmann tale, playwrights Jake Minton and Phillip Klapperich and composer Kevin O'Donnell bring Clara to life with dialogue and original songs as rich as their imaginations. Families, theater fans and musical-theater fans will surely enjoy House's twist on the original ballet, particularly those who have gotten "Nutcracker-ed" out.

Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. with 3 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 28 at the Chopin Theatre, 1523 W. Division St. Tickets are $10-$45, available at 773-769-3832 or .

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