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State Street presents ‘New, fun, fresh’ production of ‘The Nutcracker’

Sarah Totman (right) rehearses Tuesday for the State Street Dance Studios  production of "The Nutcracker" at the Batavia Fine Arts Centre.
Sarah Totman (right) rehearses Tuesday for the State Street Dance Studios production of "The Nutcracker" at the Batavia Fine Arts Centre.

Nearly as synonymous with the holiday season as gift-giving and Santa Claus is the yearly onslaught of “Nutcracker” performances taking place on stages across America. And Kane County is no exception.

State Street Dance Studio in Geneva will stage its ninth annual production of “The Nutcracker” ballet Dec. 15 and 16, but with a slew of new features. From star-studded performers to new costumes, backdrops and a change in venue, the show’s look and feel are going to be different, said State Street Dance Studio founder and artistic director Linda Cunningham.

Previously performed at the Norris Cultural Arts Centre in St. Charles, the show is moving farther down the road to the new Batavia Fine Arts Centre – a two-story, 890-seat theater built on the Batavia High School campus as part of the school district’s $75-million building referendum approved by residents in 2007.

“The new theater has some bells and whistles that I didn’t have at the other theater,” Cunningham said, adding that the allure of Batavia’s theater was its newness, even though it meant sacrificing about 100 seats in the audience.

State Street made up for the loss in available seating by adding a third show – a matinee at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15. In addition to a third show, Saturday evening’s performance time was bumped up this year, so people can get out earlier, Cunningham said.

Overall, State Street’s “Nutcracker” remains 100 percent original to Tchaikovsky’s traditional score and story, but each year, the dance studio introduces new choreography. The show’s silk work will be performed without the use of a harness; and new backdrops and costumes will help illustrate the show’s focus on “enchantment,” Cunningham said.

This year’s production also includes world-renowned guest dancers and Cuban natives, Ariel Cisneros, a former Joffrey Ballet dancer who will play the Snow King; and Abdelazis Rogue, a Miami City Ballet dancer who is cast as Grand Pas Cavalier. During the show’s second act, Jessi Kennedy of television’s “Dance Moms: Miami” will also grace the stage.

For the first time in State Street’s “Nutcracker” history, the principal role of Clara is being double-cast. Julia Blahnik, 11, will take the lead in the Saturday matinee, and Kate Sieber, 16, will perform as Clara in the Saturday evening and Sunday shows.

The Make A Wish Foundation is also making an appearance in this year’s production. Twelve-year-old Wish recipient Ailine Solis of Elgin will take the stage during a party scene in “The Nutcracker.” Solis suffers from Osteogenisis Imperfecta – a life-threatening genetic disorder that makes bones extremely fragile.

In a news release, State Street operations manager Ashlie Anderson said “... our dancers have made [Solis] feel very welcome,” adding that a group of dancers welcomed Solis to the cast by making her a pair of specialized pointe shoes.

“It’s a blessing to have her in the show,” Cunningham said. “[Solis] makes a beautiful addition ... .”

After four and a half months of rehearsals, Cunningham is ready for the 100-person cast’s hard work and dedication to come to fruition.

“... I feel all of the emotions: great anticipation, exhaustion, love ... I’m excited to see the beauty that will transpire on stage,” Cunningham said. “Every year is so unique.”

To celebrate this year’s “new, fun and fresh” rendition of the ballet, Cunningham also said that one audience member from each show will receive a gift.

“It’s my Oprah-esque moment,” she said.

For tickets and information, visit or call 630-232-0444.

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