grand rapids ballet nutcracker experience

Grand Rapids Ballet School Director Attila Mosolygo and student Maya Olthouse; photo by Scott Rasmussen

By John Ferraro, Company & Facilities Manager

With our theaters dark this year, we needed to find another way to bring the holiday magic of The Nutcracker to the families of West Michigan. To paraphrase Nelson Mandela: “We never fail; we either succeed or we learn.”

This year we did both.

First, we established protocols for safety and we instituted cleaning and sanitizing regimens for our facilities at Peter Martin Wege Theatre and Meijer-Royce Center for Dance.

We divided the dancers into small, exclusive groups of two to five people and we began to rehearse, in separate studios, via Zoom throughout the day. It was beginning to come together. The dancers learned to perform the beloved choreography of Val Caniparoli wearing masks and everyone was admirably diligent maintaining safety and sanitization protocols.

When it finally came the time to film this unique production with our amazingly talented video partners at SALT Creative Production Studio, it may not have been the same energy that normally accompanies the opening of The Nutcracker, but it was most certainly exciting.

We laid out nearly 1,000 feet of cable connecting computers, four cameras, switchers, and audio. We designed lighting specifically for filming which is very different than lighting for a live performance.

Company dancer Sarah Marley; photo by Scott Rasmussen

The dancers learned how to put themselves in the story and stay in the moment even though the choreography may have been out of order and broken into short little sections they did over and over. As I sat behind a camera for a week of filming, I watched the dancers adapt, adjust, and rise to the challenge—as dancers do—to make the best production possible. Their commitment and determination was inspiring.

With a skeleton film crew, masked and distanced from the dancers, they were able to perform on stage with their pod mates without masks so we could capture all the emotion in their faces. Movie magic brings the scale and splendor of The Nutcracker Experience to life on our small stage.

Through all the trials and challenges, we learned new ways to do things, new techniques, and technologies that will undoubtedly serve us well in the future even when things are ‘”back to normal.” That is the gift of The Nutcracker Experience this year. The things we are learning and the skills we are developing as a company and individually so we can continue to bring ballet, our passion and our mission, to the people who support Grand Rapids Ballet. Enjoy and happy holidays!

“Tickets” are only $15 and you can watch the performance online as many times as you like December 18-27. Purchase access today here

Presented by Meijer  |  Hosted by WOOD-TV eightWest’s Rachael Ruiz & Jordan Carson  |  Choreography by Val Caniparoli  |  Set and production design by Chris Van Allsburg & Eugene Lee  |  Music composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky  |  Music performed by Grand Rapids Symphony

© Copyright - Grand Rapids Ballet 2021