Special Olympics Ridgefield has announced it has been chosen as the beneficiary of all proceeds from the upcoming December performances of “Nuts about the Nutcracker.”

The 18th annual local ballet performances will be held on Saturday, Dec. 14, at noon and 5 p.m., at East Ridge Middle School. Tickets may be purchased online or prior to the shows in the lobby of East Ridge Middle School.

Jean Cobelli, director of the school of dance at the Enchanted Garden Studios, has taught an abundance of talented young Ridgefield dancers, an announcement said. She is the creator, director and choreographer of “Nuts about the Nutcracker,” and cherishes the local community partnership behind the show.

The production starts with training more than 100 dancers each year. It ends with donating the show’s proceeds to a worthy charity.

Special Olympics Ridgefield, also in its 18th year, has more than 80 active participants including athletes, coaches, unified partners, and volunteers who train throughout the year. With the support of local sponsorships, donations, and ticket sales of the production, the proceeds will help fund costs for team uniforms, equipment, travel expenses and registration fees along with expansion of programming community-wide.

More about the Nutcracker

“Nuts about the Nutcracker” is adapted from the original 1892 fairy tale ballet set to music by Tchaikovsky. This version is characteristic of the original but offers a playful and imaginative twist.

The ballet takes place in Ridgefield.

Cobelli, who grew up in Ridgefield, wanted to bring a hometown storyline to the Nutcracker.

“I feel the Nutcracker Suite is a timeless work of art that would be very hard for me to replicate,” she said. “Other stages produce beautiful renditions, but I needed to create something a bit more charming. I designed the Main Street scenery to include ‘Clara’ visiting The Ridgefield Toy Shop, Book Shop, Sweet Shop, and a Dress Shop!” At the end of act one, The Holiday Stroll comes alive — a Ridgefield tradition — the athletes join the stage of dancers during this musical collaboration. The second act takes place in Clara’s bedroom where her magical fairy-tale dream begins.

Preparing and performing in “Nuts about the Nutcracker” is truly a journey, the announcement said. The dancers who make it to the high school level take their turns being featured. Everyone gets the opportunity to hear the applause and feel that they have made it to the finish line. “My wish as I train my girls is to make them feel that they are special and that they are important,” said Cobelli. “I have seen children who are different shapes and sizes with all sorts of abilities and challenges during my 30 years as a teacher. It is my hope that this Nutcracker is a platform that includes all abilities, helps set goals, builds team work, and simply allows dreams to come true!”

Athlete’s journey

The journey of the athlete preparing for competition is comparable. The Olympic athletes are the heart of Special Olympics Connecticut. Having access to be participants in the sports realm empowers them to realize their abilities and skills through extensive training, teamwork and practice. Each athlete develops confidence and self-determination as a result of their accomplishments. Winning the gold is not the objective in competing, it is the thrill of the applause, recognition, and celebrating the athlete!

“The magic really happens with the beginning of my dancer’s life — watching my youngest dancers in kindergarten who laugh more than dance to my teens who make this their biggest priority,” said Cobelli. “Just before the curtain opens — I tell my girls that my job is now over. It’s all theirs, it is meant not to be perfect, just dance!” The following performers, Kayley Decina, Kate Gallagher, Katherine Landler and Chelsea Schwartz, will be highlighted in “Nuts about the Nutcracker.”

Dance and sports share so many things in common. It is important to feel included, guided by coaches to be better, and to know your efforts are acknowledged. The benefits of physical activity and teamwork are extraordinary.

“Physical activity and emotional confidence do not come easy to all,” said Cobelli. “The support of a team can help make dreams come true. My dancers and I congratulate all of our Olympic athletes and want to share in their successes, joy and acceptance in our community.”

To learn more about Special Olympics Ridgefield, join the team as an athlete, coach or volunteer, contact Jeanne Lanzetta at Jeannelanz@yahoo.com or Sue Mulvaney at ridgefieldso@gmail.com. Ridgefield CT Special Olympic FB page can be found at facebook.com/RidgefieldSO.

To learn more about Cobelli and her dance productions, visit enchantedgardenarts.com.