Sand Creek Country Club transformed into a magical land with the stunning work of Eclipse Performing Arts in Chesterton, as they performed a special Christmas ballet Sunday afternoon. The Sugar Plum Fairy, candy canes, and flowers flitted gracefully along The Land of Sweets, enchanting the audience with the child-like excitement of the holidays.
“A lot of people have never seen professional ballet or the Nutcracker and it’s been around for 100 years,” said Michele Brown, owner of Eclipse Performing Arts. “The level of dancing at Eclipse is above and beyond. One ballet dancer was in the Olympics for ballet, another was on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ and we had another student who performs at the Nashville Ballet. We have all levels of dance.”
They performed the “Sugar Plum Dance Suite,” a condensed version of “The Nutcracker,” featuring beloved characters and performances that so many have come to know and love. Out of the total of 200 students at Eclipse, 58 dancers were selected to be in the Christmas performance.
Amy Cushway, Director of Food and Beverage, said the dance troop had performed a decade ago and the club is more than happy to have them back.
“This gets people into the mood of the Christmas spirit; it’s a fun performance,” Cushway said.
The audience enjoyed a dessert buffet complete with a chocolate fondue fountain before the first performance and the evening performance included dinner.
“No other studio has dinner in a dance show, and we want to bring that to the community,” Brown said.
Brown went on to explain that this was a special time for the studio, as they celebrated their 10th year of dance.
“It’s come a ways,” Brown said. “We had 43 kids in our Spring Show the first year we began, now we have 200 in the show. We’re growing, and every year it gets bigger and bigger. We give people the best education they can get without having to go to Chicago.”
Many of the dancers said they trained for this performance harder than ever before. While the dance students perform multiple times throughout the year, Brown said 90 percent of their time is honing their craft and training.
“They have spent hundreds of hours getting ready for this, studying and learning the dances,” Brown said. “Some of the dancers in key roles tonight have been with me since they were three years old, a lot of them have been with me since the beginning. The level of talent they have is amazing. I am very blessed to have them.”
Holly Heldt, 14, was a sugar plum fairy. This is the fifth time she has performed in The Nutcracker and has been with Eclipse since it opened 10 years ago.
“I like being able to play a different role every time,” Heldt said. “It’s neat as I grow up and see the progress over the years. It’s cool to be able to do an iconic show like the Nutcracker because everyone knows it.”
For 13-year-old Connor O’Dell, it was exciting to play the role as “Prince,” a stand-out character in The Nutcracker.
“I like it because it’s a character that everyone knows,” O’Dell said. “It’s cool that people see you and say, ‘I know that character!’ And to be able to play someone different than yourself.”
Eclipse offers classes to students in ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, hip-hop, lyrical, acrobatics, and contemporary, starting as early as 18 months old. Brown said ballet is the biggest program at Eclipse.
“It’s the foundation of every form of dance,” Brown said. “It’s all derivative of ballet, and that’s our strength. And I’m really blessed with my staff.”
Carolyn Boxum, 11, played the role of Clara and enjoyed being in a group of peers and mentors who share her affinity for dance.
“I just like that I get to dance with people who love the same thing I do,” Boxum said. “Everyone’s really passionate about what they do.”
And just as Eclipse Performing Arts is passionate about their craft, Sand Creek Country Club is dedicated to providing a fun and festive atmosphere for all of its members. To learn more about Eclipse Performing Arts, visit their page at www.eclipseperformingarts.com and keep updated on more fun events at Sand Creek Country Club at www.sandcreek.com.