Seniors prepare for their finale of 'The Nutcracker'

For some, the holiday season begins with the first snowfall, the radio's transition to songs about Santa or the first spotting of an evergreen tree tied to the top of a minivan. For dancers like Samantha Leddy and Kylie Norman, the holidays begin with rehearsals for the annual production of "The Nutcracker."

"I love that 'The Nutcracker' has always been part of my holiday season," Norman said.

But after this year, the holidays will never be quite the same for Leddy and Norman, as the Hinsdale teens prepare to perform one final time in Salt Creek Ballet's holiday production.

Leddy and Norman were 9 and 7, respectively, when they joined "The Nutcracker" cast for the first time. Since then they have danced many different roles, rising up through the ranks as their dancing skills developed and improved.

"I basically have the entire show memorized," said Norman, who will dance seven different roles during the show's three-weekend run, including her debut dancing the waltz solo - a role she said she's dreamed of dancing since she first stepped foot on "The Nutcracker" stage as a toy in the production's opening scene.

"I've worked so hard. It's nice to be rewarded with that," Norman said.

Following Salt Creek tradition, both dancers will add "Clara's mom" to the list of parts portrayed in this year's performance.

Leddy, who will appear in six different roles throughout this year's production, said Clara's mom is a role that requires more acting than dancing. The character is part of the opening party scene, which sets the stage for all that lies ahead. Leddy said she recalls admiring the girls who danced on pointe in the beautiful costumes of "The Nutcracker," and it's exciting to think that somewhere in the audience is another little girl who dreams of being on stage.

"I love being an inspiration for the younger girls," she said. "It's still hard for me to believe that I'm a senior, that I'm graduating this year, and that I won't be able to do this again."

When next year comes around, the dancers said they will miss their long rehearsals, Saturday lunches with their fellow dancers and the excitement that comes from being on stage. But the lessons learned from being part of "The Nutcracker" will be part of them forever.

Norman said preparing for and performing "The Nutcracker" each year has taught her lessons that will far outlive her time on stage, including the value of hard work and the importance of perseverance.

"Dance has taught me so much," Leddy said. "It's taught me persistence and grit, and I've learned that if you don't get the part you wanted the first time, you have to keep working hard and it will pay off."

After nearly two years of virtual performances, both dancers said they are excited to be back in front of a live audience for their final performances of Tchaikovsky's holiday classic. The return to live performances also means the return of the Sugar Plum Party on Sunday, Nov. 28 (turn to Page 28 for details), a chance for audience members young and old to step on stage, meet the dancers, and perhaps get a taste of what it's like to be part of this beloved holiday tradition.

- story by Sandy Illian Bosch, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean