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Svalander: 35 Years on Her Toes

Judith Svalander and her dancers twirl their way into the holiday season with yet another fine production of “The Nutcracker.”

It’s more than a tradition; it’s an institution. For 35 years, the renowned Judith Svalander School of Ballet in Crystal Lake has created and evolved a holiday spectacular.

“The Nutcracker” at the Woodstock Opera House is a special time for family and visiting friends every holiday season, and this anniversary year is no exception. The Judith Svalander Dance Theatre’s performance of “The Nutcracker” is no simple event. Through the years of evolution, it has become one of the premier presentations in the area.

With more than 175 performers, “The Nutcracker” has been a right of passage for thousands of dancers throughout 35 years of mentorship on behalf of Svalander and her faculty.

Through “The Nutcracker” and other performances, Svalander has produced a legion of not only 46 professional dancers who have trained and evolved through her program, but also the admiration and respect of hundreds of students who have come to fully appreciate what participating in her school has provided.

More than 400 students annually enroll in the Judith Svalander School of Ballet and most have participated in “The Nutcracker” at the Woodstock Opera House.

Part of the philosophy of the dance studio, simply put, is to pay respect to each and every child who enrolls. This has been a legacy of Svalander, to help support each student in attaining not only dance skills but life skills: emotional strength and self-expression as well as physical strength, flexibility and stamina.

The dancers’ talents and skills are reflected in “The Nutcracker.” Year after year, the performances reflect the dancers’ individuality as well as the founder’s vision.

Judith Svalander grew up in McHenry; she was born in Woodstock, started dancing in Chicago and eventually danced with the Lyric Opera and internationally renowned Ruth Page.

Since Svalander started the school in 1972, the original “Nutcracker” has evolved from a series of “Nutcracker” highlights over the years. The popularity of these vignettes gradually gave way to a full-length production. New costumes were produced and, ultimately, a permanent home was found at the Woodstock Opera House.

A few years back, performances were held at the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin, and a few performances were in Barrington. Presently, 12 to 14 shows are performed annually to sold-out houses at the Woodstock Opera House.

The Judith Svalander Dance Theatre is the opera house’s resident dance company. The school gains availability of the space and the help that they need while, in turn, participating and providing fundraisers to help support the venue.

Svalander focuses on the techniques of the 185 dancers. Because of the unique size of the Woodstock Opera House stage, choreography must be precise.

“The Nutcracker” plays a large role in the lives of the dancers who take classes at the school, those who participate in the performance and the families of those dancers.

There is an on-going mutual respect and admiration that the Svalander faculty has for its students and the students have for the faculty. They play a large role in the dancers’ lives. The dancers combine the performance skills with their own true styles and personalities. This innovation shines during the performances of “The Nutcracker.”

Come see the magic for yourself December 7-9 and December 14-16. Contact The Woodstock Opera House for tickets at, or call 815-338-5300.

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