Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker

December 1, 2013
Today's Chicago Woman
Carrie Williams


A special treat this month, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker features memorable music and The Joffrey Ballet’s incredible dancing that one reviewer said “is so remarkable, I almost cried.”

The emotions evoked by The Nutcracker come at a time when people are drawn toward charitable giving and making dreams come true. And for the children dancing in The Nutcracker, a wish has been granted.

Eight of the 120 children featured in this year’s Nutcracker ballet participate in Joffrey’s Lemonis Bridge Program, which introduces Chicago Public School students to the elements of classical ballet training. “The Joffrey offers scholarships to students in the Academy of Dance,” explains Pierre Lockett, director of community engagement. “We offer ballet classes in various communities throughout the city and bring students into Joffrey Tower, where they develop their technical dance skills and experience all of the benefits that this art form has to offer.”

The Bridge Program made our family a lot more organized in order to get Sharonda back and forth to her classes,” explains Annie McNickles, mother of the 10-year-old, who enjoys dancing but also learning and taking notes in class. “She’s a lot more focused and disciplined, which transfers to her school work,” Ms. McNickles adds. “I don’t have to say, ‘It’s time for homework.’ She just does it. The Joffrey has made such a positive impact in her life.”

For Keisha Keith, mother of Keiara, 8, she was “impressed that the Joffrey came into the community to find students for the Bridge Program. Keiara spent a year-and-a-half in an intense program and transferred into the Academy. The only requirements are that she comes to class, focuses and enjoys herself. You can’t ask for more.” Keiara is excited to be in The Nutcracker and says, “Dancing at the Joffrey is my favorite [extracurricular activity].”

There are currently 40 Lemonis Bridge Program students enrolled in Joffrey’s Academy of Dance on full scholarships. They receive formal instruction two to three times a week, are invited to participate in summer programs and have an opportunity to continue their ballet training and attend Joffrey performances, while a select few participate in Joffrey productions like The Nutcracker.

Ticket sales from home and touring performances, and revenue generated through the Joffrey Academy of Dance account for only half of the Joffrey’s annual operating budget. In order to continue initiatives such as the Lemonis Bridge Program, the Joffrey depends on the generous philanthropic support of individuals, corporations, foundations, government sources and its special events.

The Joffrey Ballet
December 6-28
Auditorium Theatre
50 East Congress Parkway

Top three: Moriah Mesa, 9; Sharonda McNickles,10; Andrew Gonzalez, 9; Bottom four: Jaylinne Ramirez, 9; Keiara Keith, 8; Selena Garcia, 10; Isabel Makris, 9. Ashley Fischer Photograph