Toledo Ballet debuting inclusive “Nutcracker”: One of the only programs in the country to put on such a show - WTVG
"We are using dance as a unifying force."
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - A classic, holiday tradition is being reimagined by the Toledo Ballet this year. In an effort to better represent modern-day society

“Clara’s dream is expressed in every Nutcracker you see in the world,” said Toledo Ballet Faculty member Ann Heckler. “Our dream here for Clara has a more inclusive population.”

10-year-old Avin Hatch was chosen as a party girl for this year’s Nutcracker performance. Avin has Down-Syndrome.

“This is the first time in 82 years that somebody with a disability will be in their program,” said Avin’s mother Donna Hatch.

Avin has been developing her skills for a couple of years now, through an adaptive dance class taught by Heckler. “It’s a curriculum for dancers that don’t fit into typical ballet classes.”

Heckler added “all the children in the cast, from our 16-year-old Clara who is the oldest in the party-scene cast on down to the other 10-year-olds, were all in a party-scene together. They didn’t need to be coaxed to include people, and I think that is what’s so important that we are using dance as a unifying force.”

Avin’s parents tell 13abc that they are excited to watch their daughter shine on stage next weekend.

“She catches on really quickly and the beauty of her and our kiddos are they just need extra repetition,” Hatch said.

Professional dancers for Cleveland based company Dancing Wheels, McKenzie Beaverson and Demarco Sleeper will also be a part of this year’s show. Demarco happens to be in a wheelchair.

“I know there’s one thing of just putting someone with a disability on stage, but Demarco kind of defies those expectations,” said Beaverson. “Regardless of his body type, he is able to dance and he is a dancer, and I think that is what we want to get across is that no matter what your body type is or what you look like, or if you’re in a wheelchair or you’re not, that everyone in the show is a dancer and we want to really show that.”

Performances will take place at the Stranahan Theater December 10 through December 11. You can purchase tickets here.

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