February is the month of love and we love our Nutcracker family!
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Community Nutcracker means Family!

     The word “family” can be taken literally or figuratively. With Community Nutcracker, it can be both. The experience of producing the Nutcracker Ballet each year draws people together like a family. What sets Community Nutcracker apart is that actual families have the opportunity to perform in a wonderful ballet together. But we don't mean just siblings; we mean parents and their children! There are few other opportunities for parents to perform with their children in a full length ballet. We love to see families experiencing the excitement, nerves and success of the ballet. This month, we celebrate family with stories from some of our "real" Nutcracker families who have performed with us during the past 24 years. Be sure to click the links where indicated to read the entire piece shared. 

The Henderson Family
The 2015 production was the first year participating for my wife and I. My daughters Julia and Kayla had each been in the performance before.What an amazing experience to be in the performance with them! As parents, we spend so much time and energy bringing them to rehearsals and making sure they enjoy the experience but this year we got to be a part of it with them. This experience has truly been a benefit as a family for us to be around our kids, and for them to see how much we love being around them.  The girls said: “It was really fun to have Mom & Dad with us backstage and to see them dancing, they were really funny.” --Erik Henderson.

The Para Family
The Para family’s experiences with the Community Nutcracker spanned several holiday seasons. Kimberly performed five years and I performed three. Kimberly’s roles included Page, Chinese, Arabian, Merliton, Snow and Flower.   I was a party guest, Clara’s mother, and the sinister woman guest.   It was especially fun when Kimberly was one of the mechanical dolls and we were on stage at the same time. When given the opportunity, our youngest daughter, Miles Laura, sat on the stage to listen to Clara’s father (Gary Walo) read the synopsis of the story; so in those years there were three Paras on stage during the course of the performance. Click here for the rest of the Para Family's story by Kathy Para.

The Jarnutowski Family

In the age of modern communications, emails, texts messages, Snap Chat, Facebook, etc., it is a constant challenge to find time and ways to communicate in person with your children. Finding quality and rewarding “mommy/daughter” time is always a daunting challenge that is forever on my “to do” list. It was several years ago while watching my excited nine year old perform as a solder in her very first Nutcracker performance that I watched the adults dance in the party scene and thought, “I can do that.” After watching and wondering from the audience for several more years, I finally took the plunge. I auditioned. That day marked the first of four wonderful years participating with my daughter in Community Nutcracker’s production of The Nutcracker Ballet. Click here for the rest of the Jarnutowski Family's story by Sherrie Jarnutowski.

The Pitts Family

    The Pitts family has been involved with Community Nutcracker since 1998 because our daughter, Erin had always danced. That year, Erin’s first role was a Party Girl. The following year, Eddie was cast as a Party Adult and younger brother, Evan was cast as a Party Boy. Not wanting to be left out, I was cast as a Party Adult in 2000, and the rest is history. In 2002, Erin was cast as the Rat Queen and has continued in that role ever since. Erin also had several roles in the second act, but Arabian seemed to be the one most suited for her. After 15 years performing in the corps, the pas de deux, and as lead, she took her final bow as Arabian in 2015.
      Evan grew up in the Party Scene under Miss Debbie’s patient direction. He was, of course a Party Boy, but was fortunate to be cast as Fritz twice. He was the Soldier Doll and Russian, and finally the Nutcracker Prince. In 2009, Evan left to pursue a professional dance career, and now dances in his own company’s productions. We still miss him. Click here for the rest of the Pitts Family's story by Becki Pitts.

The Hackney Family

Hope and I have performed together in two Community Nutcracker seasons and really enjoyed being part of the production and doing something we both love – dance.  For Hope it’s been the start of a new experience – being a part of a large community production, making new friends and dancing in a beautiful ballet.  For me it’s been a return to the stage in a performance that has always been a huge part of my life.
I danced in Nutcracker Jacksonville from the mid ‘70s through 1984 with a return in 1988 following college.  During those years I enjoyed just about every role in the ballet starting as a Mouse and finishing as a Snowflake and a Flower.  There was only one Nutcracker production in town in “my day” but the instruction, friendships and tradition was a priceless experience.  It has been a delight to watch Hope grow as a dancer, enjoy being a part of such a production and connect with new friends.
Traveling back and forth to rehearsals gave us the opportunity to discuss the differences and similarities between this Nutcracker and when I was performing at her age but mostly we’ve enjoyed the time together to catch up on day-to-day happenings.  Ironically, I also danced for or with the current Community Nutcracker directors so I have enjoyed reconnecting with them and Hope thinks “it’s pretty neat that Ms. Beth was your dance teacher and now I get to dance with her, too!” --Sharon and Hope Hackney

Hopefully you read each story (and had tissues handy!). The most common themes throughout all these wonderful stories are how performing together strengthened connections with each other, created lasting traditions and memories and how their shared experiences were enhanced through service to our community. There is no better way to celebrate family! 

You can be a part of Community Nutcracker by sharing your time, talent and treasure. Volunteer on one of our committees or join the Nutcracker's Army. You may even consider auditioning later this year! Thank you for your support of Community Nutcracker.

Next month: Learn about how Community Nutcracker gives back with your help!

Copyright © 2016 Community Nutcracker, Inc., All rights reserved.

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