The Nutcracker with a Ballet 5:8 Twist Returns to New Lenox this December

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FRANKFORT, IL – Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts, the dance education center of professional performing company Ballet 5:8, will bring its signature rendition of The Nutcracker to Lincoln Way West High School on December 15-16.  Ballet 5:8, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Frankfort, is dedicated to engaging communities in Chicago, the Midwest and across the nation in conversation of life and faith through innovative storytelling and breathtaking dance. The company’s Beyond the Nutcracker features 150 local cast members from its nationally-recognized classical ballet training programs, all custom-designed costumes and sets, and lead roles danced by guest artists from the Ballet 5:8 professional company including Lead Artists Antonio Rosario and Brette Benedict, and Company Artist Sam Opsal. This Ballet 5:8 twist on the classic Nutcracker invites audiences to join Emma for a magical adventure that leads from World War II London to the very first Christmas. Performances are at 2pm & 7pm on Saturday, December 15, and at 3pm on Sunday, December 16 at Lincoln Way West High School Performing Arts Center. An additional performance this year will be held on Saturday, December 1 at 4pm at Valparaiso High School in Valparaiso, Indiana. Tickets are $18 for adults, and $10 for children 12 and under, and are available at ballet58.org or by calling 708-329-8773.

Last year, three New Lenox performances attracted a record 1,600 audience members. The production is a highly accessible alternative to attending a performance downtown Chicago, thanks to affordable tickets ($18), free parking, and a short drive for most from across the South Suburban area. The story of Beyond the Nutcracker - set in the 1940’s - follows Emma as she wonders whether the story of the first Christmas is real, and invites attendees to journey with her Uncle Abrahms and the angel Anastasis as they travel across space and time to find out. The production offers audiences the same basic format and music as the traditional Nutcracker, but the refreshing variety of a new story and setting that invites reflection on the story of the first Christmas - the nativity - and its impact on our world today. In Beyond the Nutcracker, Uncle Abrahms, returning from World War II, makes it home just in time for the Cooper family’s annual Christmas party. Later, he takes Emma to countries all across the world in a hot air balloon, on an adventure that forever changes Emma’s perspective on the story of the first Christmas.

The professional Ballet 5:8 artists featured in the production and choreographer Julianna Rubio Slager (Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director) have received national recognition through Ballet 5:8 professional performances in Chicagoland and across the nation. Ballet 5:8 has been called “spectacular and mature” by the Elgin Review’s Jeffrey Pierce, and Slager’s choreography “consistently imaginative” and “does not disappoint” by Ken Norris of WKTV Journal in Grand Rapids. In Chicago, Kristi Licera of Dancermusic.com called Ballet 5:8’s Compass “an evening of inspired choreography and thought-provoking performance,” and Kristian Jamie of March Magazine, San Antonio, called Ballet 5:8’s Scarlet an “effortless” adaptation of classic literature. In Beyond the Nutcracker, Slager’s choreography and performances by Benedict, Rosario and Opsal are the perfect addition to the Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts talented cast that make the production a favorite holiday destination for area families.

Notably, the Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts cast for Beyond the Nutcracker in New Lenox features local dancers from 25+ area communities, including those who attend classes at the company’s main location in Frankfort, and at satellite campuses in Beverly (South Chicago) and at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights. Communities represented by student cast members include Frankfort, New Lenox, Mokena, Tinley Park, Orland Park, Palos Heights, Kankakee, Manhattan, Matteson, Oak Forest, Crestwood, Bolingbrook, Naperville, Park Forest, Stickney, Coal City, Country Club Hills, Plainfield, Posen, Flossmoor, Monee, Oswego, Bradley, Homer Glen, Aurora, Chicago, and more. Conservatory student Eva Sernas, 14, of Homewood will be dancing the lead role of Emma in the production. Another featured character, the angel Anastasis, will be performed by New Lenox resident and Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts graduate Daria Caravette, 18, currently studying as a Trainee with the Ballet 5:8 professional company. Additional cast members from the Ballet 5:8 Conservatory & Studio Company include dancers who have moved from other states to train with the company, including Tennessee, Oregon, Iowa, Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio.

The creator and choreographer behind Beyond the Nutcracker, Artistic Director Julianna Slager, is one of the co-founders of seven-year-old Ballet 5:8. Slager brings a wealth of experience to her work with both the School of the Arts and the 13-member Ballet 5:8 professional company. The professional company tours nationally in addition to performing in Chicagoland and the Midwest. A Michigan native, Slager enjoyed dancing under Barbara Smith at Greater Lansing Ballet, and also under Kathy Thibodeaux and Sol Maisonet at Ballet Magnificat during her performing career. Beginning in 2014, Ballet 5:8 began touring nationally, bringing Slager's critically acclaimed ballets such as Scarlet, The Stor(ies) of You and Me, Compass, and The Space in Between to audiences across the nation. Slager is also a groundbreaking figure within the field, as one of the few Mexican-American Artistic Directors and Resident Choreographers of professional ballet companies in the world. She hopes that her leadership and creative work at Ballet 5:8 will pave the way for other women and minorities in professional ballet.

ABOUT BALLET 5:8 - Founded in 2012, Ballet 5:8 a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization based just outside of Chicago, IL. The mission of Ballet 5:8 is to engage communities in Chicago, the Midwest and across the nation in conversation of life and faith through innovative storytelling and breathtaking dance. Ballet 5:8 performs over 40 times throughout Chicago and across the nation each year, in settings ranging from school gyms and professional theaters. Ballet 5:8’s dance education center, Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts, serves over 250 students and 3,000+ audience members each year through a wide range of dance classes, a nationally-recognized advanced classical ballet training program, and professional-quality student performances.