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Southland kids dance in ‘Nutcracker’

Local children performing 2012 editiJoffrey Ballet's 'The Nutcracker.' In front row from left are AngelinCakuls Palos Park; Abigail Dudich Oak

Local children performing in in the 2012 edition of the Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker." In the front row, from left, are Angelina Cakuls, Palos Park; Abigail Dudich, Oak Forest; Kayla Piunti, Midlothian; Evelyn Labus, Lockport; and Nicole Boudos, Oak Forest. Back row, from left, are Alena Pedroza, Orland Park; Emma Jones, Orland Park; Kevin Ivins, Oak Forest; Katie McGee, Justice; and Camille Jones, Orland Park. | Supplied photo

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Updated: January 24, 2013 6:04AM



At Christmas, as the tale goes, visions of sugar plums dance in children’s heads.

For some lucky children in the Southland, the holidays will be spent dancing with sugar plums and doing battle with mice.

Picked for the 25th anniversary of the Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” they’re among 118 children from the Chicago area performing in roles including mice, soldiers, dolls and snow tree angels.

Along with the Joffrey’s dance academy, children for the “Nutcracker” cast are recruited from dance studios throughout the Chicago area, including Dance Images in Tinley Park, The Dance Workshop Performing Arts Center in Orland Park and Dance Gallery in Chicago’s Beverly community.

Local students in this year’s cast include Karina Widman, of Evergreen Park; Rachel Newton, Kelly Scott, Grace Varvik and Chelsea Wells, all of Frankfort; Kayla Piunti, of Midlothian; Oak Forest residents Nicole Boudos, Abigail Dudich and Kevin Ivins; Alena Pedroza, Camille Jones and Emma Jones, all from Orland Park; Angelina Cakuls, of Palos Park; Quinn Kircher, of Park Forest; Gillian Kwan, of Tinley Park; and Grace Boyd, Faith Carey and Lily Ryan, from Chicago’s Beverly community.

Some of the children in this year’s cast also were part of the “Nutcracker” last year.

For instance, Boyd, Carey and Ryan, who are students at Dance Gallery and are portraying soldiers this year, were on stage for performances last year. Boyd was a doll in the 2011 cast while Carey was a mouse and Ryan a soldier.

Also, some families have had more than one child perform.

This year, two Orland Park sisters — 13-year-old Emma Jones and 11-year-old Camille, who study at Dance Images — are in the cast. Two years ago, Alena Pedroza, 11, and her older sister, Jessica, both were in “Nutcracker,” according to John Fagan, owner of The Dance Workshop, where both girls study.

Local children in this year’s cast range in age from 9 to 13, but it’s not necessarily age that is a limiting factor. The children’s costumes are designed in such a way that they’ll fit a young dancer fine one year but become too snug the next year.

“The kid has a growth spurt or puts on a few pounds and suddenly can’t fit into the costume,” Fagan said.

‘A huge commitment’

Dance studios have been a steady source of young performers for “Nutcracker” casts, production spokesman Eric Eatherly said.

Over the years, Dance Gallery has had more than 75 of its students selected to take part, according to owner Marylee Sinopoli. Fagan said that, during the dozen years he’s owned The Dance Workshop, at least one student from the school has been picked each year for the cast.

“One year we had four students take part,” he said.

The Joffrey holds an audition in September, and rehearsals start in early October, Eatherly said. Kids have to go to Chicago once or twice a week for rehearsals, with sessions lasting one to two hours, he said.

“It starts off slowly (with rehearsals) but gets a little bit more intense as you get closer to the performances,” Fagan said.

For a young dancer, being selected to take part in “Nutcracker” is an opportunity few can pass up. But between school and other demands on their time, the experience can be draining for a young girl or boy.

“It’s a huge commitment, not just for kids but for parents as well,” Fagan said.

The children’s cast is split in half, so not every child is in all 22 performances, Eatherly said.

Performances continue through Dec. 27 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway. Tickets are available at the theater, at the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph St., and through Ticketmaster by calling (800) 982-2787 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.



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