The Nutcracker returns to Hyde Park

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

An annual holiday tradition will return to Hyde Park this weekend. The Hyde Park School of Dance will host its annual Nutcracker performance at University of Chicago’s Mandel Hall.

This is HPSD’s 24th presentation of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, and it will feature more than 200 dancers from 4-year-olds to grandparents. HPSD Founding Artistic Director August Tye, ballet mistress and choreographer at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, staged the performance.

Except for a few parts, students of the HPSD are dancing in all of the roles for the Nutcracker, said Terra Schultz, executive director at HPSD.

The show has always focused on ballet, but choreographers have mixed in some diversity in dance genres. For example, last year for the first time HPSD included a hip hop dance battle between the mouse king and the Nutcracker.

“Our battle scene in the Nutcracker is unique in that instead of weapons like they use in a traditional story our mice and our soldiers have a dance battle,” Schultz said adding that the shift from the traditional battle scene was received enthusiastically by attendees.

Each year, HPSD casts one or more well-known Hyde Parkers as the honorary Mother Ginger.

“We try to bring someone in who is a celebrity guest of the neighborhood,” Schultz said.

This year’s performance roster includes Ginger Odom, a HPSD Board member; Daschell Phillips, the editor of the Hyde Park Herald; JL Jordan, a volunteer at the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce; Mike McGarry, past president of Hyde Park Bank, and Dr. Gregory Jones, principal at Kenwood Academy High School.

Michael Strautmanis, the vice president of Civic Engagement for the Obama Foundation was featured in the performance last year.

This year will also include the Holiday Bazaar, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday in between the performances and serves as a place to get some holiday shopping done, indulge in hot chocolate, talk about the performance and meet some of the main characters from “The Nutcracker.”

Preparation for the Nutcracker starts in the summer each year and auditions for the show are held in September with HPSD students, rehearsals for the production are carried out over an eight-week period.

“This [the Nutcracker] is one of the larger undertakings that we have in terms of performance,” Schultz said.

Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the HPSD. Schultz said they are producing a new story ballet that is a version of Cinderella titled, “Amira: A Chicago Cinderella Story” it will premiere at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., in June 2018.

Five performances will be offered this year beginning on Friday morning, Dec. 8, for a student matinee performance—and at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. and at 6 p.m., and on Sunday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. All performances will take place at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St.

Tickets for the Nutcracker are $25 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for children ages 6 to 18 and free for children younger than 6. Tickets can be purchased in advance at hydeparkdance.org/tickets or at the HPSD during open office hours at 5650 S. Woodlawn Ave.

 t.hill@hpherald.com