‘The Nutcracker’ comes alive on stage, celebrates 25 years


Photo courtesy of Claire Daly

Ballerinas stand in shock of the state of the nutcracker during CU Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” performance. The Champaign-Urbana community come together ang share their excitement for the 25th anniversary of “The Nutcracker” at the Krannert Center for the Preforming Arts

By Kylie Corral and Odeth Rubio

For the 25th year in a row, people from all over Illinois gathered to watch “The Nutcracker” at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, a performance prepared by Champaign-Urbana’s CU Ballet. With the holiday season drawing so close, families, students and holiday lovers have been waiting in anticipation for this classic ballet.

As attendees celebrated the oncoming season, CU ballet also celebrated its 25th anniversary of “The Nutcracker” performance with many ballet alumni returning to the stage.

The atmosphere inside Krannert was warm and welcoming, with the buzz of many who were excited to see what was yet to come to the stage in the showing this year.

Arwen Handel, Frances Ivy-Barrett and Clara Wood, community members in C-U and excited fans of “The Nutcracker,” said the ballet performance is a regular holiday celebration for them.

“I mean, ‘The Nutcracker’ is just this amazing tradition,” Wood said. “So I love to come back and revisit.”

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Both Ivy-Barrett and Wood said that they’ve been dancers in the ballet themselves when they were younger. Handel added that while she has never performed in “The Nutcracker” before, she has danced ballet in the past.

“We’ve kind of had a tradition to come and see it every year, especially when she was in it, so that we could come and see her,” Ivy-Barrett said. “We haven’t been in a few years, but we’re graduating this year from high school, and so we thought we’d come and see it one more time … as a last hurrah.”

Handel agreed, saying that “The Nutcracker” has been the group’s holiday go-to event.

“I’ve gone to support Clara and we’ve also just gone most years like a tradition. I don’t really know how we started, but it’s been going on for a while,” Handel explained.

The three of them said that their favorite parts of the play before intermission were the dances that took place when the ice fairies showed up on stage, as well as the music. They added that the snow was fun to watch and that they were looking forward to the scenes “Arabian Dance” and “Waltz of the Flowers.”

“It’s very grand,” Wood said, with Handel adding that the show was, “Very visually magnificent.”

With a vibrant stage presence it was hard to keep your eyes anywhere but towards the stage. The costumes of all performers were eye-catching and cemented the performance as a whole. 

With the traditional dresses, button-downs and trousers, the scene was perfectly set in the time and atmosphere that surrounds the classic show, with a different pop of color on the stage every few moments, well received by the audience. 

Jessica Kang and Park Jae Sang said they attended the ballet show because of their proximity to Krannert and their knowledge of its connection to Christmas, but were quickly drawn in by the performances and everything it entails. 

“The costumes are beautiful,” Kang said, to which Jae Sang quickly agreed. 

During intermission, Kang said the rats and mice hats were a distinguishing costume that caught his eye during the performance.

“I’m pretty impressed about the rat hats or the mice — they’re so cute,” Kang said. 

The effects were well orchestrated and tied into the performers actions and movements while also being magnified by the music. With fog and snow creeping up the stage, the audience was welcome to a new surprise frequently, magnifying the performance. 

Florence Lin and Ethan Roberts said they attended the show to mainly support their friends who happened to be a part of it. 

Lin and Roberts both said they enjoyed the stage as a whole, particularly favoring the lighting and stage presence. 

“I thought the stage decorations were pretty great,” Roberts said. 

They also said they particularly enjoyed the “Rosebud” dance at the end, as well as the “Sugar Plum Fairy” dance. 

“I really liked the Rosebud dance near the end. And also, (the) Sugar Plum Fairy. I thought the costumes were really beautiful and also (I) just really like the dancing there as well,” Lin said. 

Jason Pandelidis, graduate student studying vocal performance and literature, said that it was when he heard that Krannert was holding the performance of “The Nutcracker” he decided to attend.

“I think I saw it when I was very young, but I haven’t gotten the chance to see it and remember all of it. So my girlfriend and I thought we would make a little date night out of it,” Pandelidis said.

Pandelidis added that as he is studying vocal performance he is interested in the nonvocal side of ballet.

“It’s really cool to see the other side of artistry. It’s really impressive to see how much the dancers hone their craft, especially at a young age,” Pandelidis said.

He also added that he thinks there is something for everyone who finds themselves at one of the many seats Krannert provides for “The Nutcracker” showings.

“I think it’s just a very well known piece and everyone that hears about “The Nutcracker” knows a tune from it or something from it. So I think there’s something in it for everyone — colorful costumes, cool set, awesome dancing, awesome music.”

The night closed to the standing ovation from lovers of the classic ballet, accompanied by applause that lasted for a few minutes, leaving those who had just seen the performance excited for the one that will follow next year.


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