Giving back to the community through the art of dance
By Mikayla Lindenfeld
Imagine: an elegant party, a battle with rats, and a dance of the Sugar Plum Family. Sound familiar? Now, visualize all of that paired with a service-based organization that supports the Jacksonville area. Sounds like a dream come true, right? You’re in luck, because that dream becomes a reality with the annual performance of The Community Nutcracker Jacksonville.
This December 13th and 14th, the dancers of the 28th performance of The Community Nutcracker will take the stage during their public performances at The Florida Theatre. Dancers, volunteers, and audience members in all walks of life will be able to enjoy the magic of the Nutcracker season. The Community Nutcracker is unique as it is the only nonprofit performance of the Nutcracker in the Jacksonville and surrounding areas. Its mission is to give back to the community, using the art of dance as a tool to fund donations to many local organizations. Before the public performances, the particular nighttime performance on December 12th is called “Community Service Night”, and all tickets to see the show are donated. These donations go to retirement homes and representatives from the organizations supported by The Community Nutcracker. Morning shows on the 12th and 13th are school shows, where local schools can purchase tickets at reduced prices to educate students on the art of ballet.
Dancers, directors, and supporting people that help run the show are all volunteers, but while they give their time and commitment to the organization, they also gain from the experience. I spoke with a few people involved in the production to find out just how it affects them.
Morgan Beyer is the lead in this year’s production, dancing the role of Clara. She is 14 years old and remarks on the magic of performing. She said, “While I’m on stage performing in the Nutcracker, I feel so happy. We work months and months before the show, and you feel like you finally get to bring joy to others. You feel like you’re really giving back to the community.”
Morgan is also thrilled that, as Clara, she is beginning to become more involved in the service side of the organization.
Kit Rossi is a volunteer who has recently become more involved. When explaining to me why she has chosen to dedicate so much of her time to the organization, she said, “It’s why I like The Community Nutcracker the best. It gives back to the community, so I feel like I am part of something bigger than myself, part of something bigger than my own studio, and I want my daughters to be involved in something like that.”
Debbie Rankin is one of the founding artistic directors and choreographers of the production. She has dedicated almost thirty years of her life to the service and art that The Community Nutcracker brings to the Jacksonville community.
Since 2005, the Community Nutcracker has sponsored 67 “dreams” of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses through donations to the local nonprofit Dreams Come True of Jacksonville. This could be a trip, new technology, or even a service project that a child has their heart set on. One Dreamer was a young girl named Savannah Goodman. I asked Mrs. Rankin to describe an impactful memory she has experienced with the production, and her response brought us both to the verge of tears.
“I think because we are community-based, and we are a nonprofit, one of my most outstanding memories is having Savannah Goodman as Clara. She was a Dream Child, and what we do benefited her. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
The Community Nutcracker has touched the hearts of many Jacksonville residents for almost thirty years. The beauty of the dancing, the magic of performing, and the giving nature of this particular production is one that makes the Nutcracker season the most wonderful time of the year.
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