The show must not go on

Community Ballet cancels annual production of ‘Nutcracker’ due to COVID-19

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Photo by Abby Elliott

photo illustration.

Story by Reese Langdon, staff writer

Snow Queens, Rat Kings, Flower Princesses and visions of Sugarplums will not be dancing in heads this year. The Texarkana Community Ballet announced that they will not be holding the 13th annual performance this year due to COVID-19. 

“Bringing ‘The Nutcracker’ to life requires large numbers of dancers, crew and staff to be in close proximity with each other as early as September, which causes serious concerns amid our public health landscape,” Executive Director Vanessa Logan said in a news release.

Each year, eight local dance studios, members of the Texarkana Community Ballet, participate in the audition process, rehearsals and performance of “The Nutcracker.” Ann Nicholas, a teacher and choreographer at Judith McCarty School of Dance, normally one of the participating dance studios, believes “The Nutcracker” is vital in order to make her young dancers develop in their ballet skills.

“Our recitals are fabulous and wonderful and give performance opportunities to all of our students,” Nicholas said. “But the classical ballet that’s required of our students to perform for ‘The Nutcracker” is just integral to their training and to their future as dancers.”

Though Nicholas has been involved in the ballet community for many decades, she has never seen anything like a pandemic cause such an upheaval, but she understands why the show must be nixed. 

“Under these circumstances, with the Center for Disease Control’s requirements for masking and social distancing [and] the concern for the spread of specifically the COVID-19 virus, I really don’t think that the company had any other choice to have tried to do a modified version,” Nicholas said. “I’m not sure it would have met with success. It certainly would not have been up to the standards Texarkana Community Ballet is used to with its performances.”

The dancers and dance studios involved are not the only people negatively affected by the cancellation. When the Perot Theatre hosts “The Nutcracker” each year, they create profit for the Texarkana Regional Arts & Humanities Council and the city of Texarkana, Texas. 

“When you say the ‘Perot,’ you are actually talking about two entities, the City of Texarkana, Texas, who owns the building and receives most of the rent paid to use it, and the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council, TRAHC, who manage the building for them,” TRAHC  Operations Director Randal Conry said. “‘The Nutcracker’ benefits both entities financially. And we all benefit from the thousands of people who come into town, eat at the restaurants, stay in our hotels and perhaps do a bit of Christmas shopping while they are here.”

Conry, like Nicholas, admires the dedication put into creating this yearly triumph. He knows almost all the music by heart, the lighting, sound and flying scenery cues, and how to prepare for such a challenge. 

“We start getting geared up in October preparing for the onslaught of ticket sales to dancer’s families and friends as well as the public in early November,” Conry said. “The excitement carries us on into Thanksgiving week when we begin to prepare the Perot for the season with decorations and lighting, getting the stage ready for rehearsals, making arrangements for scenery and props so we can take a short break for Thanksgiving and be ready for rehearsals to begin on Sunday after Thanksgiving.”

“The Nutcracker” has been more than a moneymaker for the community and an outlet to hone young dancers’ talents, it’s an integral part of Texarkana tradition. A tradition which, post pandemic, can hopefully return to its former glory.

“Nothing can take the place of enjoying live performances like ‘The Nutcracker,’” Conry said.