EDMONDS — Olympic Ballet Theatre had to cancel this year’s production of “The Nutcracker” because of COVID-19, but you can still watch the Christmas ballet from the comfort of your own home.
Olympic Ballet is presenting performances of last year’s “Nutcracker” via Vimeo through Dec. 31. Choose to watch the show recorded Dec. 14 at the Everett Performing Arts Center or the Dec. 21 show recorded at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. Or don’t choose and watch both the Everett and Edmonds performances.
“It doesn’t feel like Christmas without it, because we’ve been doing it for so long,” said Mara Vinson of Olympic Ballet. “It’s sad it’s not happening this year.”
The two-act ballet is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” and is set to Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite.”
Each production of “The Nutcracker” features a cast of more than 100 performers from the Olympic Ballet Theatre and Olympic Ballet School. The performances are choreographed by co-artistic directors Vinson and Oleg Gorboulev.
In 2019’s “Nutcracker,” Young Clara is played by Shoshana Scott (Edmonds) and Kaeli Pierce (Everett), Frank Borg portrays Herr Drosselmeyer, Mara Vinson is Adult Clara, and the Nutcracker Prince is played by Alberto Gaspar (Edmonds) and Jose Iglesias (Everett).
Three Olympic Ballet performances have been canceled because of the pandemic. This includes all performances of “The Sleeping Beauty” in March and April, “Summer Performance” in August and, of course, “The Nutcracker” in December. The Dinner and Auction also had to be put on hold.
Perhaps more painful than canceled shows, Vinson and Gorboulev have had to lay off or furlough 10 dancers and one administrator because of COVID-19. School admissions also had to be limited to 50% capacity.
This the first time in its 40-year history that Olympic Ballet Theatre has had to cut staff.
“For sure, ‘The Nutcracker’ is very important to every ballet company,” Vinson said. “It’s been a struggle.”
“We have lots of performances of ‘The Nutcracker,’ so it’s more like 12 to 14 events per season, and pretty much all of them are sold out,” Gorboulev said. “Not having that is a huge void in our season.”
Vinson and Gorboulev said the staffing cuts were made so the ballet company can be viable when it’s safe to start producing again. They said they’re all thankful to the 15,000 or so in the audience per season who continue to offer their support — and are banking on the fact that Olympic Ballet performances will return.
Since COVID-19 hit, the Olympic Ballet School has offered hybrid classes — either online or in the studio — following health and safety guidelines. About 150 students either log in to class via Webex or, when restrictions allow it, practice in shifts in the studio wearing masks and staying at least 6 feet apart.
“We’re in the studio — with Oleg and I teaching the classes — and our students log in from home, and we’re watching the screen, and giving them corrections. Our kids, they’re amazing, they set up home studios, they have marley (dance flooring), they have bars, I mean as much as they can.”
“They’re so dedicated,” Gorboulev said. “They haven’t stopped.”
Vinson and Gorboulev are also saddened by the fact that some of their students will have aged out of certain “Nutcracker” roles. For example, two student dancers who might have played Young Clara in the Everett and Edmonds performances this year may not get the opportunity again.
“Next year, they’ll be too tall or too old,” Gorboulev said. “That’s unfortunate.”
Alberto Gaspar, who portrayed the Nutcracker Prince at the Edmonds Center for the Arts last year, has been with Olympic Ballet Theatre for three years. Since he was hired, Gaspar has played OBT’s Nutcracker Prince each year.
He said the pandemic has helped him realize just how important ballet is to him. Gaspar is surprised at how much he misses it, how much he needs it.
“We never thought it was going to be this long,” Gaspar said, admitting he’s out of shape because of COVID-19. “One more month, one more month, one more month, became a year almost.
“Now that we’re not doing ‘The Nutcracker,’ I feel a little melancholy or nostalgic,” added Gaspar, who teaches for the Olympic Ballet School. “But I’m just happy that I’m healthy, I still have a job, and I’m training online.”
Gaspar, of Edmonds, has performed in a production of “The Nutcracker” every year for 15 years. Before the Olympic Ballet, Gaspar danced for the Miami City Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Horiuchi Ballet in Japan, St. Louis Ballet and Ballet Memphis.
Vinson and Gorboulev recently reopened Olympic Ballet’s four rehearsal studios to the company dancers to work on a virtual performance tentatively set for February. Each dancer gets his or her own studio. If they must practice together, the dancers follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. Whenever they can, however, they rehearse from home via Webex.
“Don’t forget about us,” Gaspar said. “We’ll be back soon.”
Don’t have time to watch the ballet on Christmas? No problem. As long as you purchase at ticket by Dec. 31, you get a week to watch 2019’s “The Nutcracker” as many times as you want.
If you stream
Olympic Ballet Theatre presents last year’s production of “The Nutcracker” via Vimeo. One recording is a performance at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, and the other is a performance at the Everett Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $25 for each show. Deadline to order tickets is Dec. 31. A Vimeo link will be emailed to you with registration. Go to www.olympicballet.org/digital-nutcracker for more information.