Sarasota Ballet in John Ringling's Circus Nutcracker. Photo by Frank Atura, courtesy Sarasota Ballet.

The Circus Gets Nutty at Sarasota Ballet

What do the Nutcracker and the circus have in common? A whole lot if you're a dancer at Sarasota Ballet, where Matthew Hart has reimagined the holiday classic as John Ringling's Circus Nutcracker. The whimsical production, which honors Sarasota as the longtime winter home of the circus, is complete with acrobats, clowns and a tightrope and runs Dec. 18-19. For Pointe's biweekly newsletter, we spoke with corps member Jessica Cohen, who plays Clara.

What makes this Nutcracker unique?

Nutcracker is mainly seen with the Land of Sweets, but because we're in Sarasota and the circus has such a big history here, the story is based around Clara's dream of running away to the circus. All the diverts are related to that.
How so?
Spanish is an equestrian act with three zebras, and Arabian has an enormous elephant that about eight dancers move. Sugar Plum and the Prince are actually world-renowned trapeze artists. Before their pas de deux, they come down on a trapeze.
What happens with Clara?
Clara is usually a bit of a bystander when it comes to the second act. But in this, she's really exploring the circus and is involved with all of the diverts. For example, the Chinese dance has acrobats, and at the end she's in a pyramid standing on their shoulders. I'm constantly a part of the action--or orchestrating it--and that's really fun.

Is it funny?

Definitely. The battle scene is very comedic. Instead of soldiers, we have clowns, and all of the rats are doing a take on the "Thriller" dance.

Jessica Cohen as Clara. Photo by Frank Atura, courtesy Sarasota Ballet.

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