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CHICAGO, IL: A&A Ballet’s Art Deco Nutcracker 2023

CHICAGO, IL: A&A Ballet’s Art Deco Nutcracker 2023


A&A Ballet


Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport, Avenue, Chicago, IL


Saturday, December 2, 2023 - 2:00pm, 7:00pm



A&A Ballet

In the most original reimaginations, The Art Deco Nutcracker shines using the exuberance of the 1920’s to tell the classic ballet story in a new way that entertains audiences of all ages, making it a Chicago holiday favorite.

The vibrant “roaring” era costumes and stunning choreography directed by the acclaimed Alexei Kremnev offers a new approach to the beloved story with the historic Tchaikovsky score known around the world. “The original Nutcracker is known and loved for its costumes, global influence and display of cultures – their music and related dances, so it makes sense that we highlight the diversity of our dancers in the Art Deco Nutcracker,” says Kremnev Creative Director of A&A Ballet.

The ballet world continues to make an effort to improve diversity in ballet. A&A Ballet Chicago Center for Dance is making it a priority to give dancers from all backgrounds and from around the world the opportunity to perform and thrive, including scholarships.

Diversity issues in ballet include economic and affordable accessibility. Classes, training, leotards and pointe shoes are an investment limiting access to many who wish to study. In turn, this hinders other young people from seeing role models on stage to encourage them to explore ballet. While other forms of dance and performing arts have seen jumps in diversity, ballet is still catching up. Thanks to initiatives by many including Misty Copeland, the first African American principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre it is getting more attention.

“For us diversity is core to ballet. It’s an international performance art and there is so much untapped talent,” Alexei Kremnev. “We have really focused on ensuring that our dancers have access and support whether they can afford it or not through scholarships, housing and rooms for education.”

Kremnev and his wife Anna Reznik have been equally committed to bringing diverse, female choreographers to the stage as well. The pair was in charge of the selective process at the Joffrey Ballet starting in 2009 after creating the Young Choreographers program in 2010 which became the Winning Works: Choreographers of Color in 2011. “From 2010-2016 we brought countless diverse choreographers to create their works at the Joffrey. We are keeping the same approach at A&A Ballet by giving young choreographers and teachers their chance to display their talent. The question I always ask is why many current directors and dance leaders didn't do much 10 years ago and then suddenly totally changed their focus on diversity and inclusion.”

The answer is likely that the concept of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) suddenly became the hottest topic in hiring and then translated across the board, touching almost every profession. Although DEI has roots in the 1960s civil rights movement, it wasn’t until businesses realized embracing DEI could lead to more success, trickling down to businesses and organizations of all sizes.

In the 2023 performance of the acclaimed Art Deco Nutcracker, the roles of Clara will be performed by an African-America and Persian American, while the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy will be performed by an Asian American, making it one of the most diverse ballet performance casts on stage in Chicago.

Tatiana Chen (Sugar Plum Fairy), 16, was born in the U.S. but her father is from Fujian, China. She will perform the role of Sugar Plum Fairy in one of the two Art Deco Nutcracker performances in December.

“It is important to me to be part of a diverse cast for The Art Deco Nutcracker because in order for ballet to survive, it must continue to attract younger generations and reflect their diverse communities. The Art Deco Nutcracker is a must see; with inclusions of so many diverse, talented dancers.” Chen adds that because of the training at A&A Ballet she believes more diverse dancers will be prepared for professional companies.

Shania Cook (Clara), 19 of Schaumburg, IL will perform the role of Clara in one of the two performances. A promising African American dancer, Shania received the First Place in Classical at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) international competition in 2022. She hopes that a ballet company will recognize her deep love for the art, rigorous discipline, and honed skills, and provide her an opportunity to perform and be an integral part of their company.

“I need to be part of a diverse cast in the world of ballet because I want to send a powerful message to little girls and boys, as well as to the ballet community as a whole,” said Cook. “I believe in showcasing that there's a unique and captivating beauty that we all bring to ballet. Our skin colors may vary, and our body types might differ, but the true beauty of ballet lies in its diversity.”

Rozhan Shabahang (Clara), 20 and a remote student at Northeastern University in Boston, is a promising Persian/Iranian dancer whose family immigrated to Milwaukee from Esfahan, Iran. For her, the opportunity to perform in a lead role is her opportunity to contribute to the diversity of talent within the ballet community. Rozhan will complement Shania in the role of Clara as well.

“Western forms of dance, including ballet, are forbidden in Iran, and in the U.S. I haven’t seen or heard of any Iranian American professional dancers. This feels particularly relevant now, with the ongoing protests in Iran, Iranian women are bravely fighting for their rights, lives, and freedom,” says Rozhan. “By becoming a professional dancer, I hope to use that platform to amplify the Iranian voices and bring attention to their struggle for a better life.” 

Cook adds “When the world of ballet becomes more open and inclusive to people of different ethnic backgrounds, it's an opportunity for everyone to witness that ballet is not the exclusive domain of one particular segment of the world. Instead, it's an art form where each of us can contribute something extraordinary and beautiful.”

The best young talent is on display with an international, multicultural cast, and international competition and award winners.

Renowned dancer Alexei Kremnev is at the helm as Drosselmeyer.


Performance Dates:

Saturday December 2, 2023 2:00 & 7:00 p.m.

Where: Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport, Avenue, Chicago, IL

Tickets: $18.00-55.00 available

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