Jean Cobelli, director of Dance at Enchanted Garden Studios and creator, director, and choreographer of the “Nuts about the Nutcracker” ballet, is preparing to stage another artistic performance of the classic ballet on Dec. 15 at East Ridge Middle School.  This year, there will be two performances: one at noon and one at 5 p.m.. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at nuts-about-the-nutcracker-tickets.eventbrite.com

Cobelli has produced the show annually for 17 years.  She loves the collaboration behind the show, starting with teaching over 100 dancers the choreography and ending with donating the show’s proceeds to a worthy charity.  For the first time in history and to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Special Olympics Connecticut will be the lucky recipient of the show’s proceeds. Special Olympics Ridgefield – also in its 17th year - has over 50 athletes on 4 teams who are active throughout the year.  If you or someone you know would like to learn more about the program or join the bowling, swimming, cycling, and/or track & field teams, please contact Jeanne Lanzetta at Jeannelanz@yahoo.com or ridgefieldso@gmail.com

“Being a teacher for over 30 years, I have seen children who are different shapes and sizes and have all sorts of abilities.  It is my hope that this Nutcracker is a platform that includes all abilities, helps set goals, builds teamwork, and simply allows dreams to come true!” says Cobelli.

“The show truly is a journey for the dancers.  All dancers who make it to the high school level take their turn in being featured.  Everyone gets their turn to hear great applause and feel that they have made it to the finish line.  In training my girls, my wish is to make them believe that they are special, that they are loved, and that they are important.

“Dance and sports share so many things in common. It is important to feel included, coached to be better, and to know your efforts are acknowledged. Physical activity is part of living and breathing and the benefits produce so much good health.  I believe that is why this Nutcracker and all the dancers want to support the very special athletes that live in our town. Physical activity and emotional confidence do not come easy to all, and therefore to have the support of a team can help make dreams come true.  We applaud our special athletes and want to help celebrate this 50th anniversary of Special Olympics Connecticut with them!” says Cobelli.

The original Nutcracker ballet is a rendition of the classic story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” written in 1816, by E. T. A. Hoffmann, in which young Marie Stahlbaum's favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive. Vsevolozhsky and Petipa adapted the story for the ballet and Tchaikovsky wrote the music.  The “Nutcracker” was first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 18, 1892.

Cobelli’s version, “Nuts about the Nutcracker” features Ridgefield.  It is based in Ridgefield. It features local businesses and events in Ridgefield.  And, it is performed by dancers who train with Cobelli, at the Enchanted Garden in Ridgefield.  

“The show is magical,” says Cobelli.  “I made it all take place in the town of Ridgefield. Having grown up here, I 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. Other stages produce beautiful renditions, but I needed to make something a bit more comfortable. I created a Main Street setting with the main character "Clara" visiting The Ridgefield Toy shop, Ridgefield Hat shop, Book shop, Sweet Shop, Dress Shop and so on!  Act 2 is Clara's bedroom scene where all the magic happens, Visitors from land of the Sweets and special places all dance as Clara imagines her Nutcracker story come to life.

“The magic really happens with the beginning of my dancers life - watching my youngest dancers in Kindergarten who laugh more than dance to my teens who make this their biggest priority. I see children grow, develop, and give back. When show time hits-I tell my girls that my job is now over. It's all theirs, it is meant not to be perfect, just dance!”

The show will feature the studio’s 8 senior dancers who have been with Cobelli since they started dancing.  This year’s seniors are Elizabeth Lang, Avery Buckanavage, Leah Moroknek, Kenley Kegler, Kayla Morales Thomason, Mackenzi Macko, Sophia Maiolo and Lauren Maiolo.

“It takes a village to produce this show!” says Cobelli.  Dancers start training for the 30 original dances during the summer and work tirelessly until the show goes on each December.  An extensive wardrobe, props and scenery get warehoused and moved to the stage each year, and the families of the dancers and some regulars (including Cobelli’s husband and sons and dance alumni) make sure the dancers have everything they need when the show goes on.  Local sponsors support the production, and one worthy charity gets a boost they so desperately need to keep their organization running throughout the year.

Cobelli has no plans to slow down.  

“It’s a good thing for our town, and for everyone who participates in and benefits from the performance.  And, it’s a good thing for me, too!”

Special Olympics Connecticut is excited and proud to celebrate 50 years of history and launch the next 50 years of our global movement.  To learn more about Special Olympics Connecticut visit https://www.soct.org

To learn more about Jean Cobelli and her dance production of “Nuts about the Nutcracker,” visit www.enchantedgardenarts.com