Window shopping for the Nutcracker

It’s a holiday tradition: heading downtown to see the beautiful, department store window displays, then taking in a performance of The Nutcracker. In a new twist, The Stork’s Cradle store in Wheaton is combining both, producing a shortened version of The Nutcracker… in the window displays. And the ballerinas will be live, not mannequins.

This is the fifth year the store owners, Julie Reinhardt and her mom Bonnie Rae, are hosting performers from The Academy of Dance Arts. The ballerinas dance Nutcracker vignettes in large windows that go almost to the ground, giving even little visitors a close-up view of the action.

The performances originated with Reinhardt’s children decked out in Nutcracker costumes. “As we got more experienced, we decided to hook up with a dance company and knock everyone’s socks off,” Reinhardt says.

The production begins every evening at 6:30 p.m., when the window featuring Clara lights up. After Clara dances, her window goes dark and the action moves on to the swan, Spanish dancer and finally the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“Once kids figure out the windows will be lit up and start dancing, they run back and forth and it’s hard for parents to drag them away,” Reinhardt says. The show only lasts about 10 minutes, but runs repeatedly for an hour.

Reinhardt likens the dancing, which takes places in an area about six feet by six feet, to watching a music box ballerina. The academy’s dancers are pre-professionals who perform vignettes choreographed by their instructor, Sherry Moray.

The performances will delight visitors of all ages, Reinhardt says. “We just thought it should be magical to have the windows – like they do in the big cities.”

Performances run from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 12-17 at 210 W. Wesley, Wheaton, (630) 752-1584.

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