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Nutcracker Dreaming: 4 Productions to Experience This Season

Ballet West in Waltz of the Flowers. Photo by Luke Isley, courtesy of Ballet West

Check out these old (and new) productions of ballet's beloved holiday classic.


Longest running

As the longest running production in the U.S., Ballet West preserves Willam Christensen's 1944 choreography. In 2017, the company ambitiously renovated the production elements with a $3 million upgrade. All costumes (nearly 300) were updated, as well as 24 drop sets. There are new special effects, including the sleigh flying off at the end of the production (Mr. C's dream all along). December 1–29 (Salt Lake City)

The artists of Ballet West. Photo by Beau Pearson, courtesy of Ballet West

Brand-new

Atlanta Ballet has a new Nutcracker production with a stellar production team, the first in more than 20 years. Yuri Possokhov's choreography comes to the stage with set designs by Tony Award nominee Tom Pye. Innovative projection design is the work of Tony Award winner Finn Ross, and the design team is complete with Sandra Woodall's stunning costumes and David Finn's elegant lighting. December 8–24 (Atlanta)

Yuri Possokhov in Atlanta Ballet Nutcracker rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Atlanta Ballet

Conservatory-produced

University of North Carolina School of the Arts' production brings together high school and college students and three of the schools on campus. The Schools of Dance, Music, and Design & Production work together for a full staging with live orchestra, sets, lighting and special effects. UNCSA also annually invites two professionals from varying companies to perform with the cast. December 7–16 (Winston-Salem)

Mother Ginger, as part of the UNCSA production. Photo by Peter Mueller, courtesy of UNCSA

Female-choreographed

Premiered in 2011, Cincinnati Ballet's production is one of the few in the country created by a female choreographer. Victoria Morgan's Nutcracker includes a cast of 146 dancers: the company, second company, professional training division, children and parents. December 13–24 (Cincinnati)

Melissa Gelfin and Cervilio Amador, Principal Dancers at Cincinnati Ballet. Photo by Peter Mueller, courtesy of Cincinnati Ballet

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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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News
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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