‘NUTCRACKER’ DANC­ING ONTO SCREENS

The Bal­let Theatre of Scran­ton’s an­nual free Christ­mas tra­di­tion will go on, though in a slightly dif­fer­ent for­mat.

The Times-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - BY CAITLIN HEANEY WEST STAFF WRITER

A Christ­mas tra­di­tion will con­tinue this year de­spite the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, though fans will ex­pe­ri­ence it in a new way.

Bal­let Theatre of Scran­ton will present its 45th an­nual pro­duc­tion of “The Nutcracker” as a recorded per­for­mance, re­plac­ing the free live shows it presents as a “gift to the com­mu­nity” each De­cem­ber.

“I’m just ex­cited that we can do it and that we can cel­e­brate the hol­i­day this way … be­cause it’s a tra­di­tion for not only us but for so many in the com­mu­nity,” Artis­tic Direc­tor Joanne

Ar­duino said.

In part­ner­ship with Good­will In­dus­tries of NEPA and the Theater at North, the dance com­pany will film the bal­let at the theater and then show it on the big screen at Cir­cle Drive-in, 1911 Scran­ton-car­bon­dale High­way, Dick­son City, on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 at 5 and 8 p.m. Ad­mis­sion will be free.

Ad­di­tion­ally, WOLF/ WSWB/WQMY tele­vi­sion sta­tions will broad­cast the per­for­mance four times from Dec. 23 to Dec. 26.

The troupe tra­di­tion­ally per­forms its “Pa­rade of the Wooden Sol­diers” at the Santa Pa­rade in down­town

Scran­ton, which hap­pens an­nu­ally on the week­end be­fore Thanks­giv­ing. With that pa­rade not hap­pen­ing this year, Ar­duino noted, Bal­let Theater de­cided to “kick off the hol­i­day sea­son with our pro­duc­tion” by tak­ing it to the drive-in.

“I’m hope­ful that … it will also con­trib­ute to the fri­vol­ity of (the public’s) hol­i­day sea­son be­cause this will be a very dif­fer­ent hol­i­day sea­son, in that so many events are can­celed be­cause they can­not be done in­doors,” she said. “I think it will give them the op­por­tu­nity to go out­doors to an event and sit

in the com­fort of their own cars, drink hot choco­late, stay warm with their whole fam­ily and en­joy the pro­duc­tion.”

Then, dur­ing the week of Christ­mas when the show typ­i­cally takes place, the public can watch the show at home.

“Al­though Bal­let Theatre of Scran­ton has been pre­sent­ing the Nutcracker as a gift to the com­mu­nity for 45 years, I feel this year, the gift means so much more,” said Ja­nine Baux, Bal­let Theatre of Scran­ton’s coun­cil pres­i­dent. “It serves as a sign of hope, a source of in­spi­ra­tion, a les­son in re­siliency and a re­minder to be grate­ful for all that we once took for granted. I am both proud and grate­ful to be part of an or­ga­ni­za­tion that is do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble in these chal­leng­ing times to pro­vide joy to oth­ers. This year, the pack­ag­ing will be dif­fer­ent, but the gift of the Nutcracker re­mains. I look for­ward to en­joy­ing this unique ex­pe­ri­ence with my own fam­ily and hope it makes ev­ery­one’s spir­its bright!”

The new ap­proach does present some chal­lenges, though. Ar­duino had to ap­proach cast­ing know­ing that she could only have 25 peo­ple in­doors for the record­ing at a time, in­clud­ing the light­ing, cam­era op­er­a­tors and other be­hind-the-scenes folks. Ar­duino will use some footage from the larger, more grandiose scenes from last year’s pro­duc­tion to keep the spirit of “The Nutcracker” alive in the fi­nal film.

Ar­duino sees main­tain­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing in the chore­og­ra­phy as the big­gest chal­lenge. The dancers won’t hold hands or touch each other un­less they wear gloves, and she is con­sid­er­ing hav­ing face masks made to match cos­tumes for more pop­u­lous dance num­bers. Oth­er­wise, dancers will per­form sans masks.

And while the troupe usu­ally au­di­tions for the show in early Oc­to­ber and has un­til the end of De­cem­ber to ready the pro­duc­tion, this year, Ar­duino held au­di­tions in Septem­ber to make sure they’d be ready to record the show in early Novem­ber. That will give Bal­let Theatre time to edit the footage to­gether.

“It’s taken a lot of co­or­di­na­tion be­tween not only the drive-in but the nor­mal co­or­di­na­tion of putting on a pro­duc­tion … but add on top of that the video­tape and edit­ing,” Ar­duino said. “It has com­pli­cated it some­what, so it will take more time, more fi­nances. So I think that’s been a chal­lenge.”

Nev­er­the­less, she noted, this new pre­sen­ta­tion is “go­ing to give it a new look and be very in­ter­est­ing — a dif­fer­ent look than it would be on stage but just as beau­ti­ful.”

“I think the par­ents and the fam­i­lies of the pro­duc­tion are so ex­cited to just be keep­ing the nor­malcy in their lives,” Ar­duino said. “And of course, the dance, this is such a tra­di­tion for them that they were go­ing to miss it ter­ri­bly. And for the or­ga­ni­za­tion, in gen­eral, to have pre­sented this for 44 years free to the public and then with the pan­demic, con­sid­er­ing that pos­si­bly it wouldn’t hap­pen, we wanted to be sure to of­fer this to the com­mu­nity.”

For in­for­ma­tion, call 5703472867 or visit bal­letscran ton.org.

‘I think the par­ents and the fam­i­lies of the pro­duc­tion are so ex­cited to just be keep­ing the nor­malcy in their lives. And of course, the dance, this is such a tra­di­tion for them that they were go­ing to miss it ter­ri­bly.’

Joanne Ar­duino

Artis­tic direc­tor, Bal­let Theatre of Scran­ton

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