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Beacon-News/Sun-Times Media
November 27, 2009


Not only is Jack Gerling of Sugar Grove dancing in the Salt Creek Ballet’s version of “The Nutcracker,” he IS the Nutcracker.

“It is a different type of ballet — acting like a doll,” said 11-year-old Jack. “It is not as flowing as some other dances. It is a big step for me.”

Set to Tchaikovsky’s classic score, “The Nutcracker” tells the whimsical tale of young Clara and her magical Christmas Eve journey to a land where she encounters swirling snowflakes, sugar plum fairies, waltzing flowers and giant mice. This staging of “The Nutcracker” features a cast of 100 dancers including children and young adults, ages 8 to 17, from the school of the Salt Creek Ballet. The Salt Creek Ballet, based in Westmont, has been presenting an annual production of “The Nutcracker” at the Paramount Theatre since 1990.

Although this is Jack’s first time dancing the Nutcracker role, he has been in the ballet on two other occasions. “I was in ‘The Nutcracker’ with other dance studios,” Jack said. “Once I was a party boy and a soldier and another time I was the nephew.”

This is Jack’s first season with the Salt Creek Ballet, but in addition to stints with other dance companies, Jack has been dancing in one form or another since he was very young. “I have been dancing since I could walk,” he said. “My parents would play music and I would move around. I have been in various dance studios since I was 4 years old.”

Jack believes his dance experience and roles in community theater productions has paid off in playing the Nutcracker role. “I have been involved in dancing for a long time,” he said. “The role is not too difficult. It is a combination of ballet and acting as a character.”

When it came time to cast the roles in “The Nutcracker,” the decision to cast Jack as the Nutcracker was not too difficult. “There is only one other boy and me in the dance company,” said Jack, who is a fifth-grader at Kaneland John Shields Elementary School in Sugar Grove. “I was the older one, so we tried it and it was OK.”

Christina Salerno, the executive director of Salt Creek Ballet, concurred. “The younger boy is playing Fritz, Clara’s brother, so that worked out well,” she said.

Despite his experience, Jack still gets a little anxious before a performance. “I get nervous usually right before I go on; when I am in the wings, getting ready to go on,” he said. “But as soon as I get out there on stage, the nerves are pretty much gone.”

And he is especially pleased at the end of a show. “I like knowing that I accomplished something,” Jack said. “At the end of a show, I am glad it is over, but I also like it. I feel pretty good about myself.”


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