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Salt Creek Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ a tradition for many

The Salt Creek Ballet, and its production of "The Nutcracker," is part of the lives of daughter and mother Gretchen and Elizabeth Laurence.
Salt Creek Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" returns to Hinsdale Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
The Mirlitons in Salt Creek Ballet's "The Nutcracker." | Photo by Scott Lewis

Facts

Salt Creek Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 14; 2 p.m. Dec. 15 North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie $20-$40 Northshorecenter.org

With the holiday season come annual traditions such as Salt Creek Ballet’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”

“It’s a great show, it’s a family show,” said Salt Creek Ballet Artistic Director Sergey Kozadayev. “[Guests] will feel the warmth of the upcoming Christmas and New Year.”

Established in 1985, the nonprofit Salt Creek Ballet is supported in part by the Illinois Arts Council.

“Part of Patty Sigurdson’s mission when she started Salt Creek Ballet, was that she really wanted everyone to only be exposed to the best — the best teachers, the best choreography, the best sets and costumes,” said Elizabeth Laurence of Clarendon Hills, co-president of the Salt Creek Ballet Guild, which supports the ballet and dancers. “She’s passed away now, but her dream was to have it continue on beyond her and the fact that it’s been going on for so long, I think her dream came true.

Salt Creek Ballet is a tradition among three generations of Laurence’s family. In high school, she danced in the company, her mother is a Guild member, her sisters were dancers — one was also in the company at Salt Creek Ballet — and now her daughter, Gretchen, takes classes at Salt Creek Ballet.

Gretchen has been with Salt Creek Ballet for four years, but this year is her first performance of “The Nutcracker.”

Elizabeth Laurence has performed “Nutcracker” roles such as Clara, Chinese, Snow, Waltz, Columbine Doll and Soldier Doll while Gretchen’s upcoming role as the Pirate Toy is special for her as her aunt once danced the same role.

“I think it’s just really fun and she can tell me about how it was for her in ‘The Nutcracker’ and her first time and what it was like being on stage,” Gretchen said.

This year’s show additionally provides a family element for Kozadayev because he’ll share the stage with his wife Zhanna Dubrovskaya, who also serves as Salt Creek Ballet’s artistic director, and their twin sons.

Kozadayev said the production stays fresh each year with an ever-changing cast and his alterations to the choreography, making it more complicated and sophisticated. However, it stays true to Tchaikovsky’s score.

The pre-professional cast of approximately 100 dancers includes local children and young adults ages 8-18 from the Salt Creek Ballet School. Guest artists Maria Mosina, Alexei Tyukov, Misa Kuranaga and Ilya Kozadayev join this year’s cast on stage.

“It’s always a great experience for the kids to see the best dancers in the world and dance next to them,” Kozadayev said.

This will be the final year the original costumes and sets used when Elizabeth Lawrence danced will appear on stage. The vision for next year is to come up with all new aesthetics.

“I just hope it’s a wonderful production as usual and that people come out and see it and get in the spirit for the holiday season,” Laurence said.

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Facts

Salt Creek Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 14; 2 p.m. Dec. 15 North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie $20-$40 Northshorecenter.org
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