It’s a Wonderful Nutcracker

Menlowe Ballet’s Executive Director Lisa Shiveley remembers attending her first Nutcracker with her father when she was four years old.

“The moment the curtain rose was magic for me, and my life was forever changed,” she says. “I was soon enrolled in ballet classes and studied 5-6 days per week throughout my childhood. Performing in the Nutcracker became an annual tradition, and to this day when I hear the Tchaikovsky score, I can still remember the choreography of my early productions (that’s 40 years ago!).

Giving other young aspiring dance students the opportunity to create their own Nutcracker memories was an impetus to create the ballet company’s new offering this holiday season, It’s Wonderful First Nutcracker, which allows families with children under the age of five to begin their own Nutcracker holiday tradition.

“Since the runtime of full-length Nutcrackers can test the attention span of young children, leading to stress for parents and other theater goers, we decided to supplement our season with this new abridged 65-minute version, featuring the most child-friendly moments from our full-length production,” says Lisa.

In addition to this new production, the company continues to honor its tradition of refreshing It’s a Wonderful Nutcracker each year with new characters and surprises. “The full length version is much beloved, and there is no experience like being in being in the same room with a living, breathing work of art,” says Lisa.

Two years ago, the company introduced a sensory-sensitive version of its Nutcracker, It’s a Suite Nutcracker, to provide a friendly, supportive environment for those with special needs and their families. This 55-minute production features Nutcracker excerpts and narrated storytelling. Ttraditional theater rules are relaxed — house lights remain on, music is softened, and lighting effects are muted. Audience members are welcome to express their glee and may exit and re-enter the theater as needed.

“As a mother, I’ve always felt this intense yearning to give other children the opportunities I’ve worked to give my own,” says Lisa. “There is so much we take for granted until we come face-to-face with families who must choose to leave a special-needs child at home or significantly modify the outings they can enjoy all together.”

Menlowe Ballet’s  unique Nutcracker storyline emphasizes what is truly most valuable and meaningful about the holidays — the opportunity to share time together with loved ones. Just before the curtain rises, audience members are encouraged to share a moment with the person who brought them to the ballet, as a reminder that spending time with those we love is the greatest gift of all.

The performance schedule — which begins Friday, Dec. 13, and runs through Sunday, Dec. 22, for all three versions — as well as ticket information, is available at Menlowe’s website.

Photo by Irene Searles (c) 2019

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