Film Will Show Your Friends Why You’re So Busy During Nutcracker Season

A movie about Nutcracker could easily be a bumbling comedy or worse—a horror flick. As studio owners everywhere know, staging the holiday classic, for all its charm and tradition, presents an enormous undertaking that requires students, parents and staff to work together for the good of the ballet. (How many dance dads does it take to screw in a Christmas tree lightbulb?)

But the award-winning documentary Getting to the Nutcracker focuses on the part of tackling the notorious Nut that makes it all worth it: the passion and dedication of dancers and teachers. The film follows the creation of the ballet at the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet in Los Angeles, from auditions and castings through rehearsals and performance. Directed by Serene Meshel-Dillman (a former School of American Ballet student), the film also profiles dancers, ages 3 to 18, offering viewers a glimpse at the joys and sacrifices of pursuing a dance career.

And though it may not highlight the chaos and behind-the-scenes hijinks inherent in putting on this (or any) ballet, it still illustrates the point that Sugarplum season is no trivial occasion.

Getting to the Nutcracker is showing in select theaters this month. It will also be available on VOD and iTunes December 2.

Photo courtesy of Getting to the Nutcracker

Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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