Summon the holiday mood and picture “The Nutcracker.” Sugarplum fairies awash in gossamer, dolls twirl, soldiers march and mice leap to Tchaikovsky’s classical score. Straight from the cultural archetype of winter magic, right?
Now, add a new costume element: face masks on the performers. Just another sign of the times for Mobile Ballet’s next production in their “reimagined” 2020-21 season.
“The dancers are getting used to it,” Mobile Ballet office manager Kendra Utsey said, chuckling.
When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020, the performing arts organization adjusted on the fly like everyone else. They canceled the March production of “Beauty and the Beast” — patrons were leery of crowded interiors — and classes fell off.
Appropriately enough for a topsy-turvy locale where oak leaves shed in springtime, Mobile’s arts world is now reviving in late fall. While Mobile Ballet didn’t stage an autumn production, they focused on the Dec. 18-20 staging of their Christmas tradition.
They whetted appetites with a short performance in front of the Larkins Center at a recent LoDa ArtWalk. Utsey described it as “well received.”
Naturally, there’s added measures for current concerns. They’re limited to 25 percent capacity in the Civic Center Theater, roughly 500 attendees. They’ve also condensed the standard, two-act show to a single act with no intermission and offered more performances, five total over the weekend.
“The audience will, of course, be socially distanced. There won’t be any lobby activity, which cuts down on income from our boutique,” Utsey noted.
Tickets go on sale in the coming weeks. Normally a quick sell-out, they should go faster due to audience limits.
In previous years, the Mobile Ballet would hold multiple “The Nutcracker” performances for area schools. That’s been dropped since so many schools have stopped field trips.
“We’re going to do an all-for-one for homeschoolers, maybe a couple hundred kids in there. Then we’ll have a video for them to download for all the kids and offer that one to all the schools,” Utsey said.
More online content in the form of a behind-the-scenes video is promised for those who can’t make it to the theater.
Classes and enrollment have risen, a relief, since Utsey called it Mobile Ballet’s primary income. It’s especially vital since canceling their chief fundraiser, the Nutcracker Charity Ball. Precautions still rule with students safely distanced, temperatures taken upon entrance and Zoom participation available for those who can’t be there in person.
“We have waiting lists for several classes because we limited how many kids we could have in each studio,” Utsey said.
Those classes are essential to Mobile Ballet’s future. The company will be put together from their ranks for years down the line.
Adult classes begin again in the next term, January through May. Former Sway Downtown proprietor and principal dancer Noel Hanley is said to be itching for a return to the classroom.
Hope buds for springtime. Last year’s “Beauty and The Beast” show will finally be staged, making use of the new choreography and costumes from the creative minds of Mobile Ballet Artistic Director Katia Garza and Ballet Master Israel Rodriguez. Frequent guest dancer Paul Branco will return for both “The Nutcracker” and the spring show.
“We love Paul. We want to adopt him and keep him here, but he works out in Las Vegas,” Utsey said.
More public engagement is being stressed. They’ve reached out to other arts entities about collaborating on outreach performances.
According to Mobile Ballet Development Director Amanda Napper, the aim is to stage a free event at the Pavilion in Langan Park in April 2021. She’s met with various city personnel and arts organizations in hopes of getting everyone on the same page.
“Mobile Opera mentioned something about ‘Carmina Burana.’ Since this has been such a traumatic year, we really want to reach out and show everyone the arts are vibrant and unified,” Napper said.
The History Museum of Mobile (111 S. Royal St.) will host Colonial Christmas at Fort Conde, starting with a wreath-making workshop on Dec. 5, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., wherein participants will work with natural, colonial-inspired materials.
Workshops are limited in size. Participants are socially distanced. Cost is $45 and covers all materials.
On Dec. 6, 1-5 p.m., there will be a holiday market in Fort Conde. The cost is free. If you are interested in being a vendor, or have questions about the wreath workshop, contact Marketing and Events Manager Stephanie Evans at 251-301-0273 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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