We may be experiencing an August heatwave, but there are kids in Ridgefield who have the holiday season on their mind. They are dancers at The Enchanted Garden who are preparing for the December production of Nuts about the Nutcracker! Now in its 14th season, Nuts about the Nutcracker is an original holiday production that gives back to the community by donating proceeds to a local nonprofit. We asked Jean Cobelli, director and choreographer, a few questions about the upcoming performance and this year's beneficiary - SPHERE.
Fourteen Years of Nuts About the Nutcracker. Wow! Tell me a bit about this Ridgefield tradition.
Being a native to Ridgefield and having performed many of the original dances from the Nutcracker, I decided to create a new and original version – “Nuts About the Nutcracker. ” Ridgefield and its iconic sights, like Main Street, the ice rink, and ballet school form the background. And the cast of dancers, ranging in age from 5-18, are drawn from the community at large.
The storyline has "Clara" purchasing her first Nutcracker and Nutcracker Suite Story book at "The Ridgefield Toy Shop." As she leaves, the toys come to life and begin a magical rendition of the joys and surprises of the holiday season. Back at home, Clara takes her book to bed and dreams of being visited by the Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen, and "Snow" as Peppermint girls bring alive Land of the Sweets. Other show highlights include traditional favorites such as the arrival of the Spanish, Russian, Arabian, and Chinese dancers. Some of my original variations to the timeless Nutcracker tale include dances titled “Ridiculicious Ribbon Candy,” “Tinsel in a Tangle,” and “Red Hots.” The story concludes with Clara's Nutcracker suddenly coming to life and they dance together, ending with a wave goodbye, a curtsey, and the darkening of the stage. When lights come up, the audience ponders: Did Clara have so many magical visitors or was it all a dream!
This story and performance has been a dream come true for me. The number of dancers has grown over the years to the point that it has become a massive production, requiring the use of trucks to transport all scenery, props and wardrobe. Fortunately, we have a wonderful crew of volunteers, many of them alumni, who help us each December with the show.
I understand your students have already begun learning the choreography for the December production during The Enchanted Garden summer classes. How is it going?
Every August the week before school starts, each group, from Gr K to 12, spend a week learning three of the dances at the Enchanted Garden. The atmosphere is one of fun, as older dancers rehearse with the younger cast. More than 20 original dances are performed in all, and the seniors receive featured roles.
Have you always donated proceeds of the holiday show to a local nonprofit?
Performing in "Nuts About the Nutcracker" has very special meaning to me and to the dancers, because the show raises money to help people in need. For more than a decade, proceeds from the performance benefited The Molly Ann Tango Memorial Foundation, which aids families who have children with disabilities. This year another Ridgefield-based organization, SPHERE, will be the beneficiary.
Tell me about SPHERE and the reason you have chosen them as the recipient this year?
SPHERE assists adults with disabilities, offering programs and much-needed resources to improve the quality of their lives. Our aim is to advance this cause by providing funds for enrichment activities.
Will SPHERE members be part of the production? Will they be in the audience?
We would love to have SPHERE members rehearse and perform with the cast!
Learn more about SPHERE here.