The Nutcracker Gets Personal

By Anna Yee

December 10, 2010 Updated Dec 10, 2010 at 6:04 PM CDT


Mary Reiter adds one more thing to her busy holiday list... dance rehearsals.

She's practicing for one of the world's best known ballets and a Central Illinois tradition.

It's a familiar face you may see this holiday season, but now more familiar faces will be in the Nutcracker this weekend, as three generations will grace the stage with their presence.

After years with the Peoria Ballet, Reiter has the ultimate advantage... Family support.

"It's something I never thought we would do. I never even imagined I'd be back doing the nutcracker, with not only my children but my grandchildren," said Mary Reiter, mother and Nutcracker performer.

Dancing runs in the family. Both daughters grew up with their mom in the Peoria Ballet studio and now each teach there.

Jennifer has even taken her talents to the big city, New York, but now she's back in Peoria, where she says, she feels at home.

"Oh, it's been the best part of this nutcracker," said Jennifer Reiter, daughter and Nutcracker performer. "It's the rehearsals I look forward to, and it's great to do it again with my mom and my sister and then to bring my niece and nephew into it just makes it... It's hard to find words. It's pretty cool."

This is the first Nutcracker for Presley, 2 years old, and Geneva, 4. 

The best part for Geneva...


Along with new performers and choreography, this year's show will also feature "walk-on" roles with more familiar faces.

"We have some radio personalities and some TV personalities and a lot of different people that the community would recognize, so it would definitely be a great show to check out this year," said Karie Bencz, Mary Reiter's daughter and Nutcracker "Party Mom."  

With several "Nutcrackers" under the family's belts, you may be thinking there's a bad case of 'stage mom' going on.

"Oh no, we've never ever gave that a thought, but I'm really pleased. It's been a wonderful Christmas tradition for us," said Mary Reiter. 

And a tradition for countless other families who will fill the seats of the Peoria Civic Center this weekend. 

There will be two performances of the Nutcracker this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

For tickets, visit

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