En garde, Mouse King!

Local ballet companies breathe new life into renditions of 'The Nutcracker'


Last updated 11/15/2023 at 4:29pm | View PDF

Several local dance companies will help audiences ring in the holiday season with performances of "The Nutcracker," including (clockwise from left) West Suburban Ballet, Hinsdale Dance Academy and Salt Creek Ballet. (photos provided)

It's not the holidays without "The Nutcracker," and several local ballet troupes are performing the classic story over the next several weeks.

Hinsdale Dance Academy this weekend will pirouette its 11th annual production of "The Nutcracker" into St. Francis Preparatory's Kuhn Cultural Arts Center at 2130 Roosevelt Road in Wheaton.

Jennifer Grapes Croughan, HDA founder and artistic director, said audiences are in for an immersive experience.

"From the moment you walk into the door you're transported to a winter wonderland," she said.

The set features pieces courtesy of the Milwaukee Ballet, including a brand new growing Christmas tree that rises 25 feet high. Even those who have seen previous versions will be dazzled by reimagined choreography and professional guest dancers from the Minnesota Ballet.

"It really is kind of like it's received a fresh new look that we're super excited to share with our audiences," Croughan said. "You don't often get to see this caliber of production in the suburbs."

Croughan said her hope is to deliver a memorable show that all can relate to.

"We want to create a production that resonates with our audience members, an experience for all the senses.

"It's part of our Christmas tradition," she continued. "There's still something about seeing a live production and that element of anything can happen. You can feel the energy in the room, which is something you can't recreate on a screen."

Due to popular demand, the 2:30 p.m. Sunday show and Meet the Sweets event afterward already has sold out.

The shows at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Nov. 17, and 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, still have tickets available, priced at $38-$42. Visit ticketpeak.co/hda/events.

Salt Creek Ballet

Hinsdale eighth-graders Lily Bier and Caroline Hurley remember their "Nutcracker" debut a decade ago with Salt Creek Ballet.

"We were 'Toy' together," Lily said.

"I was Chinese toy and you were Russian toy," Caroline said to her company mate.

This year they share the portrayal of lead Clara as she and the Nutcracker battle the Mouse King and embark on a magical journey in Salt Creek's performances Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 25-26, in the Hinsdale Central auditorium, 5500 S. Grant St.

Erica De La O, co-artistic director of the troupe, spoke of the joy in watching dancers grow up through the cast.

"You can start so young and just go through all the roles. Every year's a new milestone," she said.

Audiences will enjoy the snow scene - with flakes drifting in their seats - and archangel characters have been added to this year's production. Santa Claus will be available for pictures on Saturday. And the Sugar Plum Party is always a hit for audience members, who can meet the characters, step onto the stage and enjoy refreshments in a winter wonderland.

"The goal is to make it a special experience from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave," De La O said. "We have a huge winterland theme for the children that will be really engaging visually."

The Nutcracker Boutique will be open for all performances, offering a selection of Nutcracker-themed holiday decorations and ornaments for purchase.

For Lily and Caroline, the show is an annual highlight.

"I don't think of it as winter, I think of it as 'Nutcracker' season," Caroline said.

Showtimes are 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 25 and 1 p.m. Nov. 26.

Tickets are $45 for adults and $42 for seniors and ages 12 and younger on Nov. 25; then $50/$47 on Nov. 26 to include the Sugar Plum Party. Visit http://www.saltcreekballet.org.

West Suburban Ballet

The West Suburban Ballet will bring the magic of the season to The Community House, 415 W. Eighth St., on Friday. Dec. 8, with its production of "The Nutcracker."

Kyle Seguin, founding director of the company, said the emphasis is on the performance.

"We keep our performance really simple because it's really about the quality of the dancing," he said, noting there are just 13 in the cast. "We try to keep the level and quality of the technique and artistry really high."

With that vision, The Community House is a tailor-made venue, Seguin suggested.

"I just think the theater is really intimate," he said. "The lobby we set up to be very warm and welcoming. It feels quite a bit more personal than our mainstage performances."

Santa will greet families, snacks and crafts will be offered, and kids will have a chance to dance on stage with performers following the show.

"And we'll have live music and cocktails for the adults. It's a nice event for all ages," Seguin said. "We try to make it a really friendly time for everyone."

The performance is at 6 p.m., and tickets are $55 for adults and $15 for children. Visit http://www.wsballet.org.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext 103


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