It has been 30 years since Lisa Gold first brought The Nutcracker to the North Shore School of Dance, a Highland Park institution founded by Carol Walker in 1971. “I’ve truly grown up here,” says Gold, who was handed the reins in 1989 by her mentor Rory Foster, and who has herself been a part of the school since she first began attending classes at age 11.
“The year I took over, I decided we should put together a winter show. It was a fluke idea!” Gold shares. “I’d only been running things since that summer! But I knew we just had to do The Nutcracker.” The result was a small production, a modified version from the full-length production, with simple costumes, held at the old church location in Highwood.
After that first year, Gold realized how important staging The Nutcracker was to the training of her students. It soon moved to her alma mater, Barat Conservatory of Dance in Lake Forest, which helped to develop the production, incorporating the college students as performers and as tech support. The sets just kept getting bigger, and the costumes more elaborate. Gold brought in professionals to do the choreography, fine tuning everything as they went along, and watching it all grow.
This concept of growth is crucial to the mission and philosophy of the school: “We value where our training comes from, starting at age two through adulthood. We aren’t competitive—we train for the stage and we help our dancers become the very best they can be.”
“There have been so many generations that have come through the school,” she adds. “We have former students now bringing their children and grandchildren. It’s a warm history.”
And to this new generation of dancers, she has this piece of advice: “Take ballet. It is the foundation of all dance. Even if you don’t want to become a ballerina, ballet will help you build technique, strength, alignment, and placement. It is a tool for success.”
To learn more about NSSD, visit northshoredance.com.