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On December 10th, the Joffrey Ballet opens a new version of The Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre. The highly-anticipated production, commissioned by the ballet company and penned by Brian Selznick, is under the direction of Tony Award winning choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon
In Chicago and across the nation, The Nutcracker’s large cast provides a place for emerging dancers at every level. Considering that the Joffrey’s ambitious community engagement program headed by longtime company member and ballerina, Erica Lynette Edwards starts out with four-year-olds, it is no wonder that there is lots of excitement about Wheeldon's world premiere production, set in Chicago just before the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. 
Erica joined the conversation on Nov. 8 to talk about the Joffrey Ballet’s outreach program, how influential dance can be on young people’s lives and how to keep grounded when you are always on your toes.  

Listen to podcast HERE

Erica on the importance of community outreach ... 
“Some communities are not familiar with our work, and they hear the word ballet and are turned off a little bit … We are proud that we do not just bring ballet to our schools. We bring multiple dance styles, and students are surprised once we start moving that even though they are learning ballet, they are also learning emotional skills, building self-confidence, they are disciplined … We are looking to excite them by giving them a chance to dance and also enriching their lives by showing them something new that they might not have experienced before.”  
The importance of thinking ahead as a dancer …
“A challenge for dancers is 'what are you going to do next' … If you do not become a professional dancer a lot of people are like ‘what do I do now?’ And even people who are professional dancers, when you are done you are like ‘what do I do now?’… Don’t become a ‘bun head.’ I would say you have to figure out what other things you enjoy ... where do your passions lie and continue to do that at the same time you are dancing … I think it is important to think toward the future because when you are young and living your dream you don’t think of much else.”

Her inspiration …
“I was four when I saw the Nutcracker for the first time … My mother said I loved the show so much that she put me in dance classes … Just by seeing the Nutcracker I was excited and wanted to partake in ballet, and we are trying to ignite that same flame in our students starting at kindergarten.”
What does the future look like …
“… We are excited to look forward and see how many kids we can impact with our programming because we have already seen such beautiful change from the students we work with right now.”

Purchase Nutcracker Tickets HERE
More on the Joffrey Ballet HERE


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