The Nutcracker returns to Madison for 44th year

A staple of the holiday season for many southern Wisconsin families is coming back to the Wisconsin Union Theater.
Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 11:36 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 26, 2021 at 5:57 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A staple of the holiday season for many southern Wisconsin families is coming back to the Wisconsin Union Theater.

After being canceled last year to help stop the spread of COVID-19, Dance Wisconsin is putting on its 44th performance of The Nutcracker on December 18 and 19. The theme this year is “Marching Forward” which, in part, symbolizes recovering from the pandemic.

“I think everyone is really ready to get out there and support their friends, their neighbors and family and come and see you know the children back on the stage,” said JoJean Retrum, the Artistic Director of Dane Wisconsin.

Retrum said the theme also reflects the changes she has made to much of the choreography and costumes this year. She said The Nutcracker has been widely criticized for portraying negative and harmful stereotypes of certain cultures. In Retrum’s new rendition, Clara visits the Land of Sweets.

Children and teens from various studios across the area make up the cast, plus professional guest dancers and a live orchestra and choir.

Three of the more seasoned dancers are 16-year-old dancer Ana Velazquez, 15-year-old Reese Longhini and 17-year-old Madi Ladron. The girls are all good friends and have danced in The Nutcracker under Retrum’s guidance for several years.

“The Nutcracker means a lot to me, because it was like the first real ballet that I had ever been a part of and it’s like what I’ve looked up to since I was little, I’ve been watching it since I started dancing,” said Longhini, who is a Madison native and sophomore at La Follette High School.

“It’s been one of the consistencies of dance that I’ve done my whole life. It’s a family tradition,” echoed Ladron.

This is Ladron’s senior year at Beaver Dam High School and she drives to Madison every day to rehearse for the show. All she wanted was a live audience for her last Nutcracker with this group.

“I know many people don’t like to look at the audience, but I love looking at the audience and just seeing everybody there and just like knowing that I’m bringing joy to them too and that it’s something that’s making me happy,” said Ladron.

Velazquez just recently choreographed a piece for Dance Wisconsin’s “Dancing Forward” show in October. The show sold out and she is hopeful that this year’s Nutcracker will be met with the same enthusiasm from the community.

All three young women aspire to continue dancing in their futures and hopefully become professional performers.

“You just can’t contain them. They’re just excited and just having so much fun with it,” said Retrum.

Both shows are at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on the Wisconsin Union Theater’s website.

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