High stakes on the dance floor: Making Joffrey's new 'Nutcracker' a compelling TV drama

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 05:30:37 AM. WTTW-Ch. 11's documenatry 'Making a New American Nutcracker' tells the fascinating story of a ballet company taking on a reimagining of the classic ballet.
“Making a New American Nutcracker” will accomplish something that’s incredibly tough to do: Get nondance people excited about a ballet. Those of us in the ballet-averse or ballet-ignorant community can go months if not years without thinking of the Joffrey Ballet, the world-class troupe headquartered in the Loop. Shame on us. This new documentary from local PBS outlet WTTW-Ch. 11 makes a compelling case for the vitality of what goes on at State and Randolph and for paying close attention to the characters who put it together. The film, which will air at 8 p.m. Thursday and on PBS outlets nationwide in December, has humor, romance, struggles against adversity and some of the biggest names in the dance and theater world, from choreographer Christopher Wheeldon to MacArthur “genius grant”-winning puppeteer Basil Twist. Not to give too much away, but this story does include dancing walnuts. “We just felt like you can’t have a ‘Nutcracker’ without having some children dressed as dancing walnuts,” Wheeldon says. It might teach you a thing or two about how many dancers wear gym shorts in rehearsal (a lot). And it also features, on almost the eve of the new production’s premiere, the choreographer falling into the orchestra pit and fracturing his ankle, a bit of high drama that produced many comments about the “break a leg” theatrical cliche and a low, but excusable, pun. “Oh, look,” scenic designer Julian Crouch recalls a colleague saying at the sight of the choreographer using a...Read more
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