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Hyde Park School of Dance Prepares for Annual 'Nutcracker' Performances

By Sam Cholke | November 27, 2013 10:21am
 "The Nutcracker" is still the Hyde Park School of Dance's biggest show of the year with more than 200 dancers.
Hyde Park School of Dance Nutcracker
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HYDE PARK — The Hyde Park School of Dance has less than three weeks to get 200 dancers on their marks for its biggest performance of the year, “The Nutcracker.”

“We’ve tweaked it over the years,” said August Tye, the artistic director of the Hyde Park School of Dance. “Over 10 years we’ve figured out steps that kids can do.”

The school’s rehearsal space behind the First Unitarian Church, 5650 S. Woodlawn Ave., was packed with dancers on Monday night during rehearsals. The wind-up dolls of the first act twirled in the hallway as the Danish marzipan shepherdesses from the second act leapt across the basement rehearsal space.

“My son is a party boy,” said Danila Miranda, pointing to her 7-year-old patiently waiting as the some of the parents ran through their number.

Miranda said she thought of joining the other parents in the ballroom number, but her children wanted her to watch from the audience.

“There are a few rough spots that need to be polished up,” said Greg Darr, one of the parents who chose to join in and spent two hours Monday night in preparation for opening night on Dec. 14 at Mandel Hall on the University of Chicago campus.

Several teachers were on hand in each rehearsal, but there was little reference to notes and each move of 200 dancers for the 1-hour-and-15-minute performance was recalled from memory.

“A lot of the stuff is passed down year to year,” Tye said. “Prima ballerinas would pass it on to the next generation like folklore.”

This year, four professional ballerinas will join the performance, but even they have no idea how Lev Ivanov choreographed the original Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ballet when it premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1892, Tye said.

“We don’t know what the original ‘Nutcracker’ looked like because there’s no ballet mistress that wrote its language,” Tye said.

The Hyde Park School of Dance’s version of the ballet is based on Tye’s own experience performing the ballet as a young ballerina in Kalamazoo, Mich., dancing six shows a day.

The Hyde Park version changes some steps to make sure all the dancers can participate and shortens it slightly to make time for 70 of the school’s youngest dancers' pre-show performance.

The show opens on Dec. 14 with performances at 2 and 7 p.m. A second matinee will be performed at 2 p.m. on Dec. 15.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.