A Taste of the Nutcracker

Interview with August Tye, Founder & Artistic Director of the Hyde Park School of Dance

Nutcracker Ballet imageAugust Tye has been dancing and creating dance since she was a little girl. For the past twenty years she has shared that love of dance with hundreds of other young children and their families. Founded in 1993 by August, the Hyde Park School of Dance (HPSD), formerly the Hyde Park School of Ballet, has been an integral part of the cultural fabric of Hyde Park and the larger Chicago dance community. I talked with her about her journey with dance and HPSD.

FOB: I read that you began your career as a dancer. Can you tell us more about the start of your dancing career?

AUGUST: I began creating dances when I was a little girl. By the time I was a teen, I was a teaching assistant. I studied and performed with the Kalamazoo Ballet where I remained for twelve (12) years. In 1992 I came to Chicago. I became the Ballet Mistress at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2005. I manage the dancers during a production, taking them through their daily practice and assisting the choreographer. I learn his work in order to continue it once he leaves. My job is to maintain the integrity of his choreography throughout the production. I’m also starting to do choreography for the Lyric. I worked on Carmen and more recently the production of Elektra.

FOB: What are you currently working on?

AUGUST: I’ll be working on “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg” at Lyric this coming January. Right now I’m able to focus on The Nutcracker at HPSD.

FOB: So, why did you start HPSD?

AUGUST: I came to Chicago to train at the School of Chicago Ballet. When the owner decided to close, the board asked me to step in.  I was glad to do it but also nervous because I was so young. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at the time but I made the commitment.

FOB: As a trained dancer, I know you’re very excited when alums of the program succeed on a professional level. Is that the focus of HPSD, to build a pipeline of professional dancers?

AUGUST: At the time we started, the board and I agreed that we really wanted anyone who wanted to dance, to have the opportunity. We don’t just produce professional dancers. Students develop life skills, discipline, friendships, and self-confidence. It was important to me to give back to others in ways that will build their future. That’s the kind of giving I experienced as a young child whose family couldn’t afford lessons.

FOB: When was the first HPSD production of The Nutcracker? How has it changed over the years? What draws so many to your production?

AUGUST: The first production in 1994 wasn’t a complete one but excerpts from it. Our first full production at Mandel Hall was in 1998 and this is our 14th season. Our production is special because people have become so involved in its making. There’s a great team of volunteers who work on all facets of the production including making costumes for hundreds of cast members. There are whole families who are part of the onstage production especially the party scene. Parents of former students still participate!

FOB: Next year (2013) will be HPSD’s 20th Anniversary. As you look back, what most amazes you about that longevity?

AUGUST: How fast 20 years go by! I’m proud of the steady growth and community support that we receive. At times fast growth has brought on its own growing pains but strong community and board support has helped us through it. A special celebration, “En Avant”, is scheduled for June 2013 at the Logan Center. Watch for the announcement of some very special guests.

Chicago Public Library and the Friends of Blackstone Library present “A Taste of the Nutcracker” featuring the Hyde Park School of Dance, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 at 10:30 am. Blackstone Library is located at 4904 S. Lake Park Ave.

HPSD’s 2012 production of “The Nutcracker” is Saturday, December 15th, 2pm & 7pm and Sunday, December 16th, 2pm. Visit the HPSD website for ticket information.

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