Monday, December 12, 2011

"The Nutcracker"

We enjoyed a very beautiful performance of The Nutcracker at the Elgin Community College (ECC) Arts Center this past Saturday.

The holiday classic was divided into two acts, the first where the celebrations are on at the Stahlbaum's on Christmas eve as adults and children dance to merry tunes, run around and wait eagerly for the Stahlbaum kids' Godfather and the talented toymaker Drosselmeyer. Among other things what striked us was the simple yet elegant setting of a 19th century household on the eve of the grand holiday. The set seemed to come alive with the vibrant Christmas tree in the background as also the people in lovely costumes who surrounded it. The children were immensely talented, as one being a mom of two young kids is bound to notice :)  They acted so well, danced in perfect rhythm and co-ordination and seemed to be enjoying themselves so much. It all looked like one big happy family. The expressions were so real and natural, I almost felt like a part of the party myself.

I and my 4 year old daughter waited for the second act with a lot of anticipation to look at all the different dances we had only read about in the kids' books and looked at pictures. What we didn't know was that the act is going to be all dance without a single word being spoken. If you are familiar with the story, in the second act, in honor of the young heroine Clara who has saved the Nutcracker from the Mouse King and helped him turn back into a prince, a celebration of sweets from around the world is produced: chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, and tea from China all dance for their amusement; candy canes from Russia perform a Trepak; Danish marzipan shepherdesses perform on their flutes; Mother Ginger has her children emerge from under her enormous skirt to dance; a string of beautiful flowers perform a waltz. To conclude the night, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier perform a Pas de Deux. Each one of the dances was more fascinating than the other. Even my 6 year old son who is not easy to impress sat mesmerized. My daughter can't wait to learn ballet herself. It was the first time we saw ballet live on stage and to say that we were in awe is an understatement.

The ECC Arts Center had secured the services of the ECC Culinary Arts and Hospitality program to prepare a delightful selection of gourmet treats for a pre-show Clara's Christmas Tea Party in the Spartan Terrace dining room, just down the hall from the theater. Fare included delicious hot chocolate and festive pomegranate cranberry "mimosas;" a mouth watering selection of tea sandwiches including peanut butter and jelly, turkey and cranberry, smoked salmon and chive cream, roast beef and horseradish cream and sundried tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil pesto; plus assorted scones and Christmas cookies.

 The ECC Arts Center has a diverse line up of events, both touring artists as well as their own college/in-residence ensembles. You can check out the interesting 2011-12 season here.

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