Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2016-10-19
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



DANCIN' FEATS Joffrey dancers reflect on 'Nutcracker'
by Vicki Crain

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

"Every time I do it, it gets easier," said veteran Joffrey Ballet dancer Derrick Agnoletti, 31, referring to dancing the beloved ballet The Nutcracker playing through Dec. 27 at The Auditorium Theater. "I would never say it is easy, but you learn to pace yourself and take things one at a time."

Fellow dancer Michael Smith, 30, agreed. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Robert Joffrey's version of the holiday classic, which was given the Goldstar National Nutcracker Award (or "Nutty") in 2011 as the "Best Loved Nutcracker" in the U.S.

This year also marks milestones for Agnoletti and Smith, who have been dancing in Joffrey's Nutcracker for 10 and 14 years, respectively. Between the two, they've performed almost every part aside from the Sugar Plum Fairy. They are enjoying being the "older" dancers, passing down information and traditions they've learned over the years. Good friends inside the studio and out, they consider each other and their fellow Joffrey dancers, past and present, family.

"You're drawn to certain people and you help them through," Smith said. "This career is so short, if you can give a little advice to help in any way, it makes the process of being in this field much easier." Smith "schooled" Agnoletti when he first joined the company. "Back in the day, the older dancers would school you," he said. "We looked up to them, because when you saw them on stage, they were so professional."

Both dancers say it isn't hard to keep performances fresh, even after dancing them for years in a row. Agnoletti said, "I learned from the older generation how to make up stories. They always had a story behind everything they did."

Smith plays off the people around him to keep things fresh, while actively pushing himself for new ideas. "There is always something different or another way to approach it," he said. "It's kind of like being on autopilot, but the more you're comfortable within a role, the more you can live in it. Sure you have to be stiff as a soldier, but there are moments artistically you can play with and explore."

To celebrate the silver anniversary, the company is going retro by restoring pieces of the original 1987 choreography by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino that had been altered over the years. What makes this iteration unique is it is set in America instead of Europe, the use of men in traditionally all-female corps dances and the way the characters are thread throughout the entire ballet. "There is something about its raw quality," Smith said. "The story is told in this pop-up book kind of way and the way things feed through the entire ballet like how the kids get the toys in the beginning, then the toys fight in the battle and carry on in the Act II divertissements, it stays true to the puzzle of all of it."

Another notable difference in Joffrey's Nutcracker is the way the ballet ends. SPOILER ALERT: Where most versions have Clara (a.k.a the girl who gets the nutcracker) waking up from her dream safe at home, this one has her floating away in a hot-air balloon. "To me it has a very American, Wizard of Oz feel," said Smith. "If you know the story, it's already implied that it's a dream. It doesn't need to be literal. It's more magical if she floats away. That's kind of what Joffrey and Arpino were about. Keeping the magic always going even outside the theater."

Agnoletti saw that magic first hand for the first time earlier this month while the company was on tour in Ohio. "I'd never seen it all the way through, but I had a night off," he said. "I liked seeing Mr. Arpino's choreography. I love the Snow Scene. The Arpino style is brought into it so well, because it's icy and sharp and fast. You have to know how to control your body and you have to make it look clean. When I'm in it, I try my best to keep it at the level that he trained us to do."

Arpino, affectionately known as Mr. A., is a presence still felt by the older dancers, especially during Nutcracker season. "There's a small group of us that were connected with Mr. A., that got to be in the studio and work with him. It's cool to see Arpino-isms being put into other people," said Smith. "It's interesting to be in a role where you are the one passing down the information."

The Joffrey Ballet presents Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker at The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Pkwy., through Dec. 27. Performance times vary. Tickets are $31-$132; call 800-982-2787 or visit .

Other holiday shows:

Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring The Rockkettes at the Akoo Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont, Friday, Dec. 14—Sunday, Dec. 31, performance times vary. Tickets are $30-$89; call 800-745-3000 or visit .

Chicago Tap Theatre presents Tidings of Tap! at the University of Illinois at Chicago Theater, 1044 W. Harrison St., Friday-Saturday, Dec. 14-15, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15-$35; call 773-655-1175 or visit .

Ruth Page Civic Ballet's The Nutcracker will be performed at the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts at the College of Lake County, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake, Saturday, Dec. 15, at 1 and 5 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10-$25; call 847-543-2300 or visit

Salt Creek Ballet presents The Nutcracker at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, Saturday, Dec. 15, at 1 and 5 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $24.50-$39.50; call 847-673-6300 or visit .

Ballet Chicago's The Nutcracker at The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Saturday, Dec. 15 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 16 at 2:30 p.m., as well as Friday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 22 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 23 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $26-$37; call 773-935-6875 or visit .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Queer comic artist/dancer Rosalarian makes what women really want 2016-10-19 - Femme comic-book artist/burlesque dancer Megan Rose Gedris is as unique as the artistic name given to her as a child. "The name 'Rosalarian' ...

Gay News

DANCIN' FEATS Wheeldon preparing to unveil new 'Nutcracker' 2016-10-12 - In a few months, Christopher Wheeldon will be sunning on the beach with husband Ross Rayburn for Christmas in Acapulco. Meanwhile, in ...

Gay News

MOVIES Blond Ambition dancers strike a new pose 2016-10-12 - Strike a Pose—a new documentary featuring Madonna's Blond Ambition dancers—dares to tell the truth about the 1991 behind-the-scenes documentary, Truth or Dare, but ...

Gay News

'Big Orange Ball' returns Oct. 22 2016-10-12 - Howard Brown Health invites costume-clad Chicagoans back to its second annual spooktacular Halloween soiree, the "Big Orange Ball," which will take place at ...

Gay News

Dance collaborations to be held Oct. 8 2016-10-05 - The Chicago Dancemakers Forum and High Concept Labs have announced the first-ever, city-wide Artist-Presenter Collaborations for Dance symposium, to be held Saturday, Oct. ...

Gay News

Lin-Manuel Miranda visits dance company 2016-10-04 - On Sept. 26, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago welcomed Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and original star of Hamilton: An American Musical, to the Hubbard Street ...

Gay News

Joffrey Ballet launches 2016-2017 season with multimedia Romeo & Juliet 2016-09-22 - CHICAGO —The Joffrey Ballet launches its 2016-2017 season with the return of Polish National Ballet Director Krzysztof Pastor's popular Romeo & Juliet, which ...

Gay News

Joffrey starts Eatherly memorial scholarship 2016-09-21 - The partner of the late dance publicist Eric Eatherly, Jay Leibovitz, has joined Eatherly's mother, Nancy Follis, to launch a new scholarship for ...

Gay News

FALL DANCE SPECIAL Fall dance gives new life to old classics 2016-09-14 - Revisions, re-imaginations, reprises and revivals are on the bill for many of Chicago's dance companies this season, with a smattering of works that ...

Gay News

Eric B. Eatherly Memorial Scholarship established at Joffrey Ballet 2016-09-12 - September 12, 2016 — A true Southern gentleman, Eric B. Eatherly contributed to Chicago's dance image003.jpgcommunity extensively, passionately and always with great generosity ...


Copyright © 2016 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.
[email protected]  •  [email protected]  •  [email protected]

Website Powered by