News

5 Reasons Why You'll Love ​This Documentary About the Joffrey Ballet's New ​​Nutcracker

Photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy of WTTW11

Last year, the Joffrey Ballet premiered a brand-new Nutcracker, retiring Robert Joffrey's original production. It was a big deal—it cost $4 million to create, and celebrated choreographer Christopher Wheeldon was at the helm. Now, a year later—and just in time for the holidays, so you can get your Nutcracker fix from in front of your laptop—WTTW, Chicago's public-media organization, has debuted a documentary about the making of the ballet.

This is seriously fascinating stuff, all packed into an hour—we highly recommend you watch. Here are five of our favorite moments from the documentary:


Photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy of WTTW11

1. The ballet is set in Chicago (duh), in 1983, the year the city hosted the World Fair. It was one of the city's most significant cultural events: More than 25 million people attended the six-month-long fair that represented nearly 50 countries. Finally, the divertissements feel organic and make sense!

2. The tree-growing bit is the best special effect I've seen in a ballet in a reeeeally long time. Actually, my favorite might be the rat puppets. Major props to puppeteer Basil Twist.

3. When Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, heard that the Joffrey Ballet was saying goodbye to Joffrey's original production in favor of a brand-new one, he told those involved, "Don't mess it up." (Except he substituted another four-letter word for "mess.")

4. Christopher Wheeldon falls through the orchestra pit, breaking his foot—during tech week.

5. The Russian divertissement is now for Buffalo Bill and his Western ladies. That is all.

Watch it now!

Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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