This holiday season, viewers will once again follow Clara Stahlbaum on her journey to the magical Land of Sweets and meet the Sugar Plum Fairy, but from the comfort of their own homes.
Fairmount Center for the Arts plans to present “Nutcracker at Home’’ this Sunday, where faculty and student dancers will perform scenes from the beloved ballet, Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” While gathering restrictions and precautions in place due to the novel coronavirus will prevent an in-person viewing of the holiday classic, the show will certainly go on via a free livestreamed event on Zoom.
“Generally each fall we have had a Nutcracker tea, kind of a Nutcracker program that hasn’t been the traditional Nutcracker performance, but definitely has celebrated and highlighted some of the excerpts from that beloved production,” said Jeannie Fleming-Gifford, executive director of Fairmount Center for the Arts, explaining that the program ties in other holiday elements.
Traditionally, the program takes place at the end of November at the Chagrin Falls High School Performing Arts Center. This year, Fairmount worked to maintain its commitment to providing performing opportunities for its students and its connection to the community by going virtual. The program will stream from the Fairmount’s main studio, beginning at 3 p.m.
This year’s performance, while free, includes two packages available for purchase to expand upon the Nutcracker experience, Ms. Fleming-Gifford said.
Packages include the Sugar Plum Fun package at $50, which includes a Nutcracker cookie decorating kit made by D is for Delicious, a local cookie company in Chardon, and a 30-minute Zoom meeting with the performers of the program, and the Dance of the Toy Soldier package at $75, which includes the cookie decorating kit and Zoom meeting along with a holiday ornament craft kit designed by Fairmount artists.
“We want to really be able to extend that Nutcracker performance and have people connect with loved ones no matter where they’re at,” Ms. Fleming-Gifford said, “so we thought we would add these packages, which also act as a way to support Fairmount Center for the Arts during this time as a fundraising opportunity as well.”
It was important for the art center to continue this holiday tradition, Ms. Fleming-Gifford said, knowing that people are seeking a sense of normalcy in the chaos of COVID-19 and to give students the reward and benefits of performing.
“Fairmount, through all of this, has moved forward with the basic thought that the arts are more important now than ever,” Ms. Fleming-Gifford said. “The arts is a form of self-expression, the arts is a form of joy, the arts is a form of connection.”
Kate Webb, director of the Fairmount Dance Company and dance faculty, explained that the performance will be a more “pared down” version of the Nutcracker ballet, with emphasis on “the best of the best.”
With the challenges of a virtual performance, Ms. Webb, who is directing this year’s performance, said the program needed to consider the ease of holding the attention of its viewers in a nontraditional setting.
“It’s really different than when you’re fully committed sitting in your seat in a theater,” she said. While the performance may be a “pared down” version of the show, “everyone’s just kind of fighting to do whatever they can to keep going with their art and their craft.
“It’s much better than the alternative,” she said of the show not happening at all, “and we’re really excited to be able to give even a taste of that tradition to people this holiday season.”
Many dancers’ love for ballet, both professionals and students, can be traced back to the Nutcracker one way or another, Ms. Webb said, which is why it’s important to continue the holiday tradition.
“It’s the one that pretty much every company does,” she said, pointing out that because of the inclusion of children in the performance alongside professional dancers, it acts as a rite of passage for many as they move through the different roles over the years.
Anna Gracon, 13, of Chester Township is looking forward to performing in the virtual program.
“It’s been kind of uncertain with the [COVID-19] cases rising,” Anna said, adding that she likes being a part of providing a little bit of normal “when stuff’s not quite so normal.” She added that it’s important to “share the joy” of the show.
The Notre Dame Elementary School eighth-grader will play the lead protagonist role of Clara this weekend. Anna said this will be her 10th year in ballet, having started when she was in preschool.
“I’m happy to be able to see her perform,” Anna’s mother, Laura, said, noting that due to the initial shutdowns in the spring as a result of COVID-19, it’s been about a year since she has had the opportunity to watch her daughter perform in a formal program.
“This program was important for us to create, both for our current students, for them to continue their work and their effort and their commitment and their passion for learning and growing through the arts, but also for us to provide opportunities for people, whether they’re family or friends or total strangers, to connect with each other on something that we all value and enjoy,” Ms. Fleming-Gifford said. “Maybe some things have changed this year, but there [are] things that we can hold onto, traditions that are meaningful and impactful, that we’re working hard as a community-based organization to be part of creating those traditions and that feeling of normalcy.”
The free broadcast of Nutcracker at Home is from 3-4 p.m. on Dec. 6 and includes sing-alongs led by professional musicians and a visit from a surprise guest from the North Pole. Donations are also encouraged. For more information on the upcoming performance and to register for the Zoom access, visit fairmountcenter.org/performances.