Performers, volunteers and staff, thank you for all your hard work and dedication. Aside from the amazing production, you made the news!!
It is Christmas Eve. In just a few hours, the clock will chime midnight - a time of magic, and of dreams. — Nutcracker
How will visions of sugarplums dance in more than just the heads of Nutcracker fans in this era of COVID-19? Since mid-March state mandated closures, made live performances nearly impossible. In the northwest, all performance venues are closed. However …
Northwest Performing Arts Alliance (NWPAA) local non-profit organization partnered with Vancouver’s Riverside Performing Arts (RPA) to safely produce a stunning updated performance of Tchaikovsky’s A Tale of the Nutcracker.
This year, this production is the only traditional ballet Nutcracker performance in the Portland / Vancouver metro area. Seasoned Nutcracker danseur and Director Josh Murry-Hawkins (Portland Festival Ballet, American Ballet Academy, Columbia Dance, RPA) worked alongside production staff, instructors, parents, and volunteers to shape the production. Local Vancouver dancers and Riverside Performing Arts students began rehearsing in September.
On Nov 14th, when additional Washington State restrictions were announced, effective Nov 16th, production plans were tossed out the window. The new restrictions would prevent any dance activity. The leadership teams at NWPAA and RPA called on the production staff, performers, parents and volunteers to do the impossible — compress an entire month of remaining rehearsals, costume preparation, production design and performances into a single day! In total, forty-eight performers along with the production staff, parents and volunteers made it happen. The resulting performance was then captured on video.
“I went right into panic mode when I found out we were filming Nutcracker so soon,” confessed RPA dancer Scarlett Reeder. “I ran around trying to find everything, making sure I had clean tights, and re-sewed my pointe shoes. Then I remembered everyone else was feeling the same way as I was, and we were all going to get through it and produce something wonderful! When I got to the studio, I saw how calm everyone was trying to be, and how focused we all were to do the best we possibly could. I felt happy and comforted, surrounded by so many loving people. I wouldn't want to have had it any other way.”
On November 15th at 6:00 am, the crew began constructing the set and dressing the stage in RPA’s black box theatre. Cameras and lighting were set, and the finishing touches on costumes and props made their way into dressing rooms. A schedule of call times and performances guided a tight timeline for the two-act performance late into the night. With over eighteen dances including ballet, tap and jazz along with several set changes, an exhausted team of dedicated dancers and crew members wrapped a half hour before the stroke of midnight.
Dedicated COVID-19 site supervisor Katherine Warf ensured RPA’s thorough COVID-19 guidelines were strictly followed throughout the entire production “RPA’s guidelines included pre-screening, social distancing at all times when off stage, dancing in masks, and stringent cleaning and sanitization protocols. During filming we shot one dance at a time. We limited the set to a small technical crew of two, the director and the dancers in that piece,” said Warf
NWPAA’s Executive Director Scott Craig added, “Our top priority was taking every possible precaution to keep RPA’s performers safe and healthy. We predict the new restrictions will continue past the original four weeks. Delaying the performance until mid-December, mid-January or later wasn’t a viable option for this seasonal classic. We didn’t want to take away the opportunity that these dancers worked so hard for. The spirit of the holiday season fosters hope, goodwill toward all, love, understanding and cheer. This year, NWPAA and RPA added perseverance to that list. In the spirit of the season, we believe our Tale of The Nutcracker is a community gift, a bright spot of seasonal joy in a dark year.”
A Tale of The Nutcracker makes its on-demand streaming debut this Saturday, December 5th through December 19th to multiple devices sharing an IP address for only $19.99. Once paid for online, the performance is accessible for 72 hours. After December 19th, the performance is downloadable for $35, or $15 if you have already paid for the on demand rental. NWPAA and RPA encourage community support of this small local miracle of holiday tradition by streaming or downloading the performance. Instead of paying at least $100 for a family of four to see a performance, they can enjoy watching it multiple times in their jammies in the comfort of their own home.
Streaming viewing and downloads as well as free behind-the-scenes footage, coloring sheets of scenes and other content, plus the chance to win a real autographed Nutcracker or A Tale of the Nutcracker show posters are accessible at www.northwestpaa.com.
“This year is NWPAA and RPA’s first Nutcraker production,” said Craig. “Our goal this year was simply to produce a well-done performance and give our community a beacon of hope. With so few choices of local performing arts this season, and with so many of our local dancers unable to perform this holiday, we hope that this gives them some joy. Next year, we hope to offer live Nutcracker performances.”
“Director Josh Murry-Hawkins and Autumn Andersen harmonious partnering of The Cavalier and Sugar Plum Fairy”
Provided courtesy of Julie G Photography 2020 (https://www.julieg.photography)
image owned by RPA LLC 2020.