News: Making Magic

Under the glittering chandeliers of the Genesee Theatre, children squeal with delight as a giant Chinese dragon with flashing red eyes peeks from around the curtain. A life-size gingerbread house bursts with tiny clowns, who skip around the stage blowing kisses and turning cartwheels. From their pink settee, Clara and her Prince watch the Kingdom of the Sweets unfold around them. It’s all part of Dancenter North’s The Magic of the Nutcracker, December 4–5 at Libertyville High School’s Butler Auditorium and continuing December 10–12 at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, Illinois.

 

Now celebrating its 22nd year, the production serves as northeastern Illinois’ longest running Nutcracker. “At the time we started, there was only one big Nutcracker in Chicago,” says Cheri Lindell, Dancenter North’s founder and director. “Everybody thought it would be a great idea to have something for the suburban community, so I decided to do one show. We immediately sold out.” What began as one weekend at the local high school expanded to two weekends and two locations.

 

The show is open to Dancenter North’s 1,000 students. By mid-September, casting is determined, and rehearsals are scheduled after technique classes on weekends. The production includes 70 students, 12 professional dancers, local gymnasts and adult volunteers. Lindell says the show’s revenue covers its cost, and she notes, more importantly, that it serves as a vital learning experience. “It’s been a stepping stone for many of our students who want to go on to a professional life,” she says. “It gives them an opportunity to explore the whole process.” Students who have gone on to dance careers include James Kopecky, who danced the Nutcracker Prince as a teen and recently landed an apprenticeship with Ballet San Jose, and Kathleen Martin, who danced the Snow Queen and is now with Ballet West II.

 

Lindell feels fortunate to have a regular group of professional dancers come in each year, including Jon Lehrer, artistic director of LehrerDance, as the Mouse King. “It’s fun to see how the kids get so excited when the pros come in last-minute,” she says. “After rehearsing for weeks and weeks, it’s like boom, another shot of adrenaline in the arm.”

 

Prior to acceptance into the cast, students and parents sign contracts of commitment, which outline expectations ranging from attendance to fees and parent volunteers behind the scenes. To stay within budget (which ranges from $150,000 to $170,000), the school created its BRAVO parent organization. “We have parents organize costumes, help with the props, help build sets, organize food for the dancers, put up posters, sell advertising—there are a million different ways to help,” says Lindell, who produces the show without outside funding or support.

 

The Magic of the Nutcracker sells 6,000 to 8,000 tickets each year. To lure audience members back, Lindell says: “We try to do something different every year, whether it’s new costumes, sets or new choreography.” She beams with pride over the production’s success. “Audience members say it’s extremely colorful,” she says. “They enjoy it from beginning to end, which is ultimately our goal.”

 

For more: www.dancenter-north.com


 

Amy Brandt dances with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet and is a columnist for Pointe Magazine. She’s performed as a guest artist with Dancenter North.

 

Photo: Dancenter North students in the Mother Ginger scene. (by Norm Kidder, courtesy of Dancenter North)

Neuromuscular expert Deborah Vogel with Jordan Lazan, right. Photo by Jim Lafferty

By strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle, a dancer can help prevent or correct existing pronation. Having strong intrinsic foot muscles keeps the arches aligned, preventing them from dropping inward.

Here, Vogel shares three strengthening exercises to help correct and prevent pronation. She advises dancers to include these in their cross-training regimen.

Mobilize your ankles. (Step 1)

For this ankle mobilization exercise, having a TheraBand wrapped around your ankles puts pressure on your feet to pronate. By resisting that action and keeping your feet centered through the relevé, you're essentially training the ankle where center is.

  • Sitting up straight in a chair, with your feet planted on the floor a few inches apart, tie a TheraBand in a loop around your ankles. You can place a yoga block vertically in between your knees to maintain space between your legs.

Next Page
Photo courtesy of New York Live Arts

Ellen Robbins' modern dance classes for kids and teens are legendary in New York City. Robbins, who has been teaching kids how to dance since the 1970s (and whose pupils included the actresses Claire Danes and Julia Stiles), takes the standard recital model and turns it on its head. Her students—ranging in age from 8 to 18—are the choreographers for the annual concert she produces at esteemed NYC venue New York Live Arts.

If that approach sounds borderline insane to you (we know you're all deep in the throes of recital season right now), consider Robbins' unique teaching philosophy: Improvisation is present in every aspect of class, for every age group. Here are four ways she shapes her youngest dancers into choreographers—almost without their realizing it!

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers & Role Models
Former students of Kelley gather around a cardboard cutout made in his honor at the recent tribute. Photo courtesy of Merritt

Every dancer has a teacher who makes an impression. The kind of impression that makes you want to become a dancer or a teacher in the first place. For Mara Merritt, owner of Merritt Dance Center in Schenectady, NY, and countless others, that teacher was Charles Kelley.

Known as "Chuck" to most, Kelley was born December 4, 1936. He was a master teacher in tap, jazz and acrobatics, who wrote syllabuses for national dance conventions like Dance Masters of America. Growing up in upstate New York, Merritt's parents, both dance teachers, took her into Manhattan every Friday to study with Kelley. First at the old Ed Sullivan Theater and the New York Center of Dance in Times Square, then years later at Broadway Dance Center.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo courtesy of DM archives

"It's hard not to get too hurt in this profession."

Ann Reinking got real earlier this month at New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Bright Lights Shining Stars gala. She was being honored as a 2017 NYCDA Foundation Ambassador for the Arts, and her speech was so moving that we had to share the entire thing with you.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Photo by Grant Halverson, courtesy of ADF

As a soloist with William Forsythe's Ballet Frankfurt and later as his assistant, Elizabeth Corbett got to experience firsthand the groundbreaking choreographer's influence on contemporary ballet. "I find it fascinating and never-ending," she says of his work. "It was a repertory that was constantly changing over time and still is." Now on faculty with the American Dance Festival, Corbett brings Forsythe's repertory and processes to the dancers in class every summer.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
During seated stretches, I encourage my students to sit straight on their sits bones and then fold forward at the hips—even if they don't go forward very far. One student tells me that if she sits as I instruct, she can't reach forward at all. Why?
Keep reading... Show less
Teachers & Role Models

In 2011, New York City–based choreographer Pedro Ruiz returned to Cuba after 21 years of dancing with Ballet Hispanico and more than 30 years being away. The experience was so moving that he created The Windows Project as a continuous cultural collaboration between American artists and Cuban dancers.

"I was so overwhelmed seeing all the dancers do Afro-Cuban dance with live music. It was the moment my soul reconnected to Cuba and to my roots," says Ruiz of his first trip back. "I started weeping." He saw that, while Cuban companies and schools have amazing knowledge and passion for dance, they needed access to train with teachers in a variety of techniques, and choreographers outside of Cuba. "Cuba is still struggling economically, so the dancers also don't have good ballet shoes or costumes, and The Windows Project was my way to begin to help," he says.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored