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If you go
What: Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s “Nuts and Crackers”
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: South Side High School auditorium, 3601 S. Calhoun St.
Admission: $13 adults, $11 children 12 and younger; additional ArtsTix fees; go to or call 422-4226
Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Dancers strike a pose during a dress rehearsal of “Marvelous Toys” for the Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s show “Nuts and Crackers.”

Fort Wayne Dance Collective presents ‘Nuts and Crackers’

Eryn Lynn performs with precision in the piece “One Toy Soldier.”
Sophia Malmquist reaches out during rehearsal of “Harbinger,” one of 20 pieces in Sunday’s show.

Dance instructor Becca Wegner had not attended a dance class since childhood, when she began taking classes at Fort Wayne Dance Collective in her late 20s.

She now instructs her own students, from toddlers to adults, to believe that anyone who chooses to dance should have a chance to perform for an audience.

“I think it’s almost like giving someone something to look forward to. It’s like giving a gift to people,” she says. “It’s so much fun to create and perform.”

Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s annual “Nuts and Crackers” this year allows 130 students, ages 3 to 55, to perform for family and the community.

For the first time, the group will also feature students from its community outreach programs at Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities, Easter Seals ARC and the Children’s Autism Center.

“It’s kind of exciting because it’s going to be one of those things where we’re testing the waters,” says Wegner, who has taught on-site classes for 12 years. She also has served as an outreach dance instructor for the Children’s Autism Center for two years.

“It makes me happy giving them the opportunity to do something fun. Not every one has the opportunity.”

Dance Collective co-founder and artistic director Liz Monnier says that since the organization does not participate in dance competitions, the staff and instructors come together to offer students two performances during the year. “Nuts and Crackers” takes place in the winter, and a spring performance, which involves students contributing to a single piece, will take place in June.

“It’s a time for them to use what they have learned in class and gain experience,” she says. “It’s just fun – we don’t buy expensive costumes, we reuse things from year to year. It’s interesting how we come up with holiday themes that are fresh every year.”

“Nuts and Crackers” will feature 20 pieces inspired by the holidays. The younger children will perform “Santa on the Run,” a humorous depiction of Santa Claus attempting to lose weight, while the hip-hop class will perform a piece about elves in Santa’s Workshop.

The adult ballet and modern dance classes will perform pieces inspired by winter weather. One piece, “Twisted Christmas,” is based on the music from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Besides the organization’s traditional styles, Monnier says the belly dancing class and taiko drummers will also perform holiday pieces.

“The more students we have, the more dances we have and the more audiences we have,” she says. “It continues to grow every year.

“When we first started, we didn’t have an intermission because the program would be so small. Last year was the first time we had an intermission.”

Besides the Dance Collective’s on-site classes, instructors host classes at five area schools, offering part-time and full-time classes. South Side High School has the largest participation with 155 students taking a dance class five days a week this past fall.

Its work with outreach programs has helped the Dance Collective form a partnership with Parkview Hospital and affiliates for a new Healing Arts Program. The organization brings in artists, dancers and musicians to offer an outlet for patients; the program began in November.

“Our studio has its own niche. There are dance studios that teach dancing as a series of steps without considering the artistry and creativity,” Monnier says. “We value our dancers, and we just do dance differently.”

Wegner, who has choreographed seven pieces for the show, says she is looking forward to seeing all of her students receive a deserved boost in confidence.

“I want (the audience) to think that they were awesome. I want them to take away that this is something that’s special for Fort Wayne,” she says. “It’s not going to be something they are going to see all the time.”