Dancers with cerebral palsy to grace stage in Joffrey Ballet's 'Nutcracker'

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker" is coming back to a Chicago stage. This year, the legendary dance company is adding a new role for children with physical challenges in one of its iconic scenes.

Two young women with cerebral palsy, Emma Lookatch and Larke Johnson, are overjoyed to perform in the holiday classic.

"Ahh! I couldn't believe it! I thought, it could be a dream come true for me!" Emma said.

"It's an honor," Larke said.

Emma and Larke are friends and fellow dancers. And now, they will share the "Worker Girl" role in The Joffrey Ballet's reimagined classic of "The Nutcracker."

"We are so proud of her," said Angela Johnson, Larke's mother. "She has put a lot of work and dedication into this role."

"I joke with her that I've never sat in front of 3,000 people doing anything," said Bryan Lookatch, Emma's father. "The fact she does it with so much poise and a big smile on her face is amazing!"

Emma and Larke are part of The Joffrey's Adaptive Dance Program. This year will be the first time The Joffrey's new production of "The Nutcracker" will include artists of all abilities.

"We want people in the audience to feel represented, and this is just another way to represent everybody," said Suzanne Lopez, ballet master for "The Nutcracker."

Dance has been a part of girls' lives since childhood. Now, both teens are blossoming into so much more. And while it may be a performance for them, it could also serve as a lesson for all of us.

"It's an outlet to say, hey, you know, I have a physical disability. I am more than just a person in a wheelchair," Larke said.

"I feel like it's kind of cool!" Emma said.

"Just because we have a disability doesn't mean we can't be a normal kid," Larke said.

Normal kids, but also dancers and performers at heart.

The Joffrey's "Nutcracker" returns to the Auditorium Theatre on Saturday and runs through December 29.
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