From HPSD to Joffrey: dancer takes on “The Nutcracker” ballet

Joffrey Ballet company member Victoria Jaiani as The Queen of the Fair in Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Nutcracker”. - Cheryl Mann
Joffrey Ballet company member Victoria Jaiani as The Queen of the Fair in Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Nutcracker”. – Cheryl Mann

By ALLISON MATYUS
Staff Writer

A Hyde Park dancer is taking her longtime love for “The Nutcracker” to the stage once again by performing in this year’s Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet’s rendition of the holiday favorite.

Twelve-year-old Zoe Russo has been dancing since she was four years old and has been enchanted with “The Nutcracker” since the first time she saw it being performed.

“We went to see the Hyde Park School of Dance’s ‘Nutcracker’ when she was little and [Zoe] was mesmerized the entire time,” said her mother, Dana Russo.

Zoe Russo said that she began dancing at the Hyde Park School of Dance where she first got into ballet.

“I like how there are different forms of [ballet],” she said. “I like how it is graceful.”

She said this will be her fifth time performing “The Nutcracker”, but that this year’s rendition, reimagined by Christopher Wheeldon, takes place in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair through the eyes of a child.

“[In the ballet] the family I belong to and the community I belong to are immigrant workers for the fair,” Russo said. “The whole story is based in Hyde Park…the Golden Lady statue [in Jackson Park] is the main character in the ballet.”

Russo said she is in the children’s cast, comprised of dancers from ages seven to 16, and is performing in 14 out of the 29 shows this holiday season.

“It’s been a fun experience because you work really hard in rehearsal and then you get to see it all come together in the end,” she said.

Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet will perform “The Nutcracker” through Friday, Dec. 30.

a.matyus@hpherald.com