Visions of Sugarplums
A new kind of Nutcracker
What: Virtual Nutcracker with Northwest Ballet Theater
WHEN: 6pm Dec. 16-18 and 21-24; 2pm Dec. 19-20 and Fri., Dec. 25
Cost: Free; donations to NBT are appreciated
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
In order for the Northwest Ballet Theater to be able to present a virtual version of its annual production of The Nutcracker, the stars needed to align just so.
Typically, NBT artistic director, dancer and choreographer John Bishop would’ve spent much of the fall working with as many as 50 students and guest artists to produce Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet in advance of full-blown productions at the Mount Baker Theatre and McIntyre Hall. Along with a crew of staffers and volunteers, they would’ve rehearsed tirelessly in order to be able to tell the tale of a pre-teen girl who befriends a nutcracker that magically comes to life on Christmas Eve, wages a battle against an evil Mouse King, and eventually breaks a sinister spell that transforms him back into a handsome prince.
But much like the vermin-adjacent antagonist who attempts to keep the title character from a quest to regain his humanity, 2020 did its level best to thwart NBT’s Nutcracker plans. Coronavirus concerns caused the longtime dance company to shutter its studio space in downtown Bellingham in March, and it wasn’t until September that they were able to resume holding a limited number of classes at Fairhaven’s Firehouse Performing Arts Center.
In November, a day before new COVID-19 restrictions suspended creative collaborations at the Firehouse for the time being, Bishop’s filmmaker daughter Yukimi was able to finish shooting 15 solos from the renowned ballet that, starting this week, can be viewed online along with footage from the company’s 2019 performances in both Bellingham and Mount Vernon.
“My wish was to enlist a few students from our classes that we were able to conduct at the Firehouse and bring the community a little joy and cheer with this virtual production,” Bishop says. “I realize it isn’t like some of the big virtual productions like New York City Ballet and Royal Ballet, but it is ‘ours.’”
From Dec. 16-25, fans and friends of the longtime dance company can access the action on Northwest Ballet Theater’s Facebook page, where they’ll also find a link to Yukimi Bishop’s YouTube channel. The links won’t go live until showtime, but with both evening and matinee performances on the roster through Christmas Day, viewers should be able to schedule time to watch Clara, Uncle Drosselmeyer, the Sugarplum Fairy and her entourage, the Cavalier, the Nutcracker, and the Mouse King tell a seasonal story where good eventually triumphs over evil.
While it’s true this year’s performances of The Nutcracker will be different than what NBT has offered to the community every December for more than 20 years, that doesn’t make them any less special. Attendees can still get dressed up in holiday finery and watch in anticipation as a new kind of Nutcracker is presented to the public.
Bishop allows that he doesn’t know what challenges 2021 will bring, but he’s confident his life’s work and his commitment to the power of dance hasn’t been in vain.
“Everything that the pandemic has had an effect on has changed, altered and inconvenienced our lives,” he says. “I am not sure about what the future holds at this point and I don’t know if anyone does. But I do know that my decision to going into ballet was the right one for me. I have enjoyed the joy it has given me as much as the pain and sacrifices it took to keep me in this world for over 50 years.”
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