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Seidel: Revisiting holiday memories at Sunset Dance Academy’s ‘Nutcracker’

’Tis the season for holiday traditions. And, for me, no Christmas is quite complete without “The Nutcracker.” As a child, I often traveled downtown for the Joffrey Ballet’s annual production. From the edge of my seat, I could never wait for the show to begin.

There’s nothing quite like the moment before the curtain lifts – when the cacophony of the orchestra calms, the lights dim and the audience’s buzzing chatter quiets to a hushed silence. The excitement is almost tangible, as hundreds of people wait to be transported into a world of magic and splendor.

When I grew older, I experienced this moment from a new perspective. In my local dance studio’s production of “The Nutcracker,” I rehearsed for months as a snowflake, a Chinese cup of tea and a flower. When it was time for the curtain to rise on my own performance, I couldn’t wait to exhibit all of my hard work.

While I took photographs of this weekend’s Sunset Dance Academy “Nutcracker,” I was reminded of how truly valuable this holiday tradition is. Seeing little ones practicing steps with friends and proudly showing Mom and Dad their new costumes, it became obvious the benefits of dance reach far beyond cardiovascular.

These little dancers learn discipline through weeks of practicing. They learn teamwork as they join hands and dance together in time. And most importantly, they learn how to take the stage. Even when they don’t know all the steps, their proud smiles are enough to steal the show.

As the curtain closes on this season’s “Nutcracker,” the Geneva Park District begins preparing for its summer dance recitals. Enrollment is open for Sunset Dance Academy’s 2013 dance classes. The program begins Jan. 5 and concludes with performances in Geneva High School’s auditorium on May 18 and 19. This performance opportunity is uniquely affordable, as recital costumes are included in program fees.

The variety of dance classes offered through the Geneva Park District builds confidence, sparks creativity and fosters social skills. According to Dana Foundation research, dance stimulates the brain’s visual, auditory and memory centers, aiding children’s ability to learn new information. As children prepare for the annual recital, they develop coordination, focus and showmanship.

Boys and girls ages 2½ and older can choose from more than 80 classes offered Monday through Saturday. Class types include ballet, pre-ballet, lyrical, Tiny Toes (a nonrecital class for toddlers), tap, jazz, hip-hop, Irish step dance, musical theater, pointe and acro. Sunset Dance Academy also offers combination classes, which explore two different forms of dance each week.

Dancers looking to delve more deeply into the performance experience can audition for Sunset Dance Company. Members perform at competitions and local events and in the annual recital. Information regarding auditions for the 2013-14 season will be available in the park district’s summer brochure.

Sunset Dance Academy is in the Sunset Community Center at 710 Western Ave., Geneva.

For information or to register, call 630-232-452 or visit

• Natalie Seidel is the marketing coordinator for the Geneva Park District and can be reached at 630-232-4542. Email her at

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