Former State Street Dance director to helm a different 'Nutcracker'

  • Linda Cunningham

    Linda Cunningham

  • Linda Cunningham uses a microphone to direct a dress rehearsal of "The Nutcracker" at State Street Dance Studio in Geneva. State Street has closed, but Cunningham has been asked to direct a Bloomingdale dance company's production of the holiday favorite.

      Linda Cunningham uses a microphone to direct a dress rehearsal of "The Nutcracker" at State Street Dance Studio in Geneva. State Street has closed, but Cunningham has been asked to direct a Bloomingdale dance company's production of the holiday favorite. JOHN STARKS | Staff Photographer

Updated 8/18/2017 7:15 AM

Even though she'd been away from State Street Dance Studio in Geneva for more than two years, it hurt former artistic director Linda Cunningham to see her "baby" close its doors earlier this year.

After 16 years, she had turned the studio over to her operations manager, Ashlie Andersen. But for various reasons, it was too difficult to keep the studio moving forward.


It left Cunningham with memories gushing through her mind, many of which came from 13 years of directing the studio's showcase "Nutcracker" productions.

Even though she had remained active in dance with private teaching and contracted jobs, sitting in the director's chair for another "Nutcracker" never crossed her mind -- until it did.

"Another studio reached out to me when Mohler Dance Academy owner Tressa Mohler contacted me after watching some DVDs of my 'Nutcracker' shows that were given to her by one of my former students," Cunningham said.

During a two-hour meeting, Mohler, whose studio is in Bloomingdale, mentioned some key words about the production to be staged Dec. 2 and 3.

"She gave me her vision of the show and said she wanted something mystical and magical," Cunningham said. "I told her I could execute that vision."

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If passion for a job were something you could bottle, Linda Cunningham's face just might adorn that bottle.

To say she was thrilled at the chance to direct again -- especially at a place she was familiar with in the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin -- would be an understatement.

"I love creating, period," she said. "Being back in the director's chair is like using your gifts, and everything else in the universe falls in line."

She gets plenty of inspiration from cards she still receives from former students, many of which thank her for a love of dance and a direction in life they might not have found without her.

"When I think over the course of my career, teaching 40 years now, and about the lives I have touched, I fully understand that it is not all about me," Cunningham added. "It does take a village to help in the experience and the journey."


Cunningham will hold open auditions for this M3 Dance version of "The Nutcracker" on Aug. 27 at Mohler Dance Academy, 160 S. Bloomingdale Road in Bloomingdale. Rehearsals start Sept. 9.

As a motivation for any dancer, gymnast or actor of any skill level to give this a shot, Cunningham shared a quote from an anonymous source: "I dance because there is no greater feeling than moving to a piece of music and letting the rest of the world disappear."

For those who want that sort of feeling, information about the audition times for various age groups is available by calling (630) 893-1444 or emailing

A bigger Bien?:

We can categorize this as part of my "dream list," because none of it would be likely to unfold. But here it goes anyway.

In mentioning last week that the Juliette restaurant on West State Street in Geneva was closed, leaving open a spot that has had a few restaurants come and go in the past, an idea popped into my head.

In walking around downtown Naperville not long ago, I noticed the Quiubo restaurant recently opened by the Bien Trucha Group, which operates the popular Bien Trucha location a bit east on State Street from the Juliette location.

It was a much bigger operation in Naperville, it seemed, with a screened-in area for summer months that would be converted back to windows in the colder months.

If I could wave a magic wand, it would be for Bien Trucha to expand into the building and corner that Juliette just left, and make it a larger operation like this one in Naperville.

Empty -- but how long?:

This one might qualify as the best place for a restaurant that can't seem to establish a long-term tenant.

Charleston on the River restaurant in the Fox Island Square retail strip along Illinois Street in St. Charles has closed, but owner Marwin Talb has sold the location to a new owner. Talb also owns the Spotted Fox on the east side of the city.

That's all we know at this point, but it seemed like Talb had a good thing going at the Fox Island Square spot, which has had former tenants like Erik & Me, Sage Bistro and Top Table try to give it a go along the Fox River.

And that's the thing. This has a nice, outdoor dining setup along the river. Granted, there is not a lot of activity along the river at that spot, but it's a nice visual without a doubt.

Though I have often thought it might be time for a popular pizza place to give it a go there, we'll have to see how a new owner will rebrand and present the location, and when it might open again.

Of critical importance, of course, is offering excellent food with excellent customer service. Sometimes those two elements don't always mesh.

Paddling the Fox:

It sure seems like the paddlers of all ages navigating the Fox River in kayaks are always having a good time.

Those seeking that sort of fun, but aren't familiar with the kayaking process, are in luck.

The Kane County Forest Preserve District is offering a beginner's course from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 9 at the Glenwood Forest Preserve, 1644 S. River St. in Batavia.

A professional kayaker spends an hour on land teaching proper technique before taking students ages 12 and older off on a three-hour trip on the river, or maybe as Gilligan's crew called it, a three-hour tour.

The district has set a registration deadline of Aug. 25 for this class.

Those interested should call (630) 444-3190 or email to register.

The $79 per person fee includes the kayak, flotation device and paddle rentals.


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