MISSOULA — The Garden City Ballet’s Nutcracker brings an iconic Christmas ballet to Missoula with dancers from all over the Valley.
Organizers say canceling the show this year due to COVID-19 just didn’t seem like an option for the hundreds of community members who look forward to the performance each year.
For many, watching The Nutcracker is a beloved Christmas tradition so, they’re forging ahead, but not without major adjustments.
In years past, the show would sell out six performances to audiences seating nearly 500. This year they’ll go virtual, offering a professionally filmed video of The Nutcracker for purchase, allowing them to share the performance with, perhaps, even more people.
In the weeks leading up to this weekend’s virtual performance, Artistic Director Michele Antonioli described scaled back rehearsals with minimal dancers.
“We did small little chunks of The Nutcracker every weekend in little hour segments, and those were small, there were maybe at the most 10 to 12 dancers in the studio with us, and we had marks on the floor -- six-foot marks -- so we knew where they were supposed to stand,” said Antonioli.
Dancers, by nature, understand spacing, but according to Antonioli, spacing as precise as six feet would be challenging for anyone to follow at all times.
“When you go off stage, your rule is to get off stage. Do it with conviction and run fast, and that's hard to stay six feet away from the person in front of you and run like you're really exitting.”
From rehearsals to the finale, the dancers also wore masks.
“I read somewhere that it's like dancing at sea level, to dancing at 5,000 feet, that oxygen deprivation is something similar, but you build up an ability to do that, and they’re doing it,” said Antonioli.
With protocols perfected, the Garden City Ballet spent their performance weekend coming and going from the theater in groups, only performing one number at a time.
Professional videographers replaced the audience as they filmed each individual sequence.
The circumstances weren’t ideal, but at a time when live theater is barely holding on, Garden City Ballet was just grateful to dance.
“I was telling the kids,” said Antonioli, “Just being on the stage and doing what they do is joyful in and of itself.”
Antonioli also recognized the board of Garden City Ballet, thanking them for all of the support, financial support included, in making their 36th annual Nutcracker possible.
You can learn more about the Garden City Ballet and purchase your 2020 copy of the performance here.
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