Saying goodbye is never easy. We can’t know for sure what happens to a person when they leave this earth, but we do know that the things we remember about them can stay in our mind forever. We all have memories of people and things that we’ve lost, and those memories make us feel happy or sad, angry or nostalgic.
The same goes for art. Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker, the final creation of founder Robert Joffrey, is in its final season of the show after a 28-year run. Next year the holiday classic will be transformed by renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.
This year’s Nutcracker is, as always, a mastered piece of entertainment. Opening night featured new dancers in the leading roles of Sugar Plum Fairy (Amanda Assucena) and Snow Queen (Mahallia Ward), while veterans Christine Rocas and Victoria Jaiani took on those roles in the opening Saturday performance. How fitting for the transition – an ode to old and new.
Since moving to Chicago in 2009, I’ve seen the Joffrey perform this Nutcracker every year. This year’s performance was not the best I’d seen – outstanding, of course, but still not the best. But the lights, the music, the “snow” swirling around the stage, the adorable gingerbread man, the wind-up dolls coming to life, the feeling of Christmas and the holidays and the joy and warmth it brings – those are the things I will remember about Joffrey’s Nutcracker.
Seeing the Nutcracker at Auditorium Theatre each year is, for so many people, a piece of the holiday puzzle: shopping for gifts, decorating your home, spending time with family, giving back to your community, drinking cocoa by a fire, and going to see the Nutcracker. We’ll just have to wait until next year to see if Christopher Wheeldon’s piece of work fits into our puzzle. My own personal prediction? I’d be shocked if it’s anything less than a spectacular fit.