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FSO, Canyon Dance Academy adapt annual 'Nutcracker' productions for pandemic

FSO, Canyon Dance Academy adapt annual 'Nutcracker' productions for pandemic

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As the holiday season sets its gears firmly into motion, people around the country and the world prepare to celebrate and maintain festive traditions with COVID-19 safety measures dictating new ways of doing so.

And Peter Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is nothing if not a tradition. Plop the kids (and adults, for that matter) in the car and whisk them off to Ardrey Auditorium to be mesmerized by spinning sugar plum fairies and the fantastical dreams of the famous ballet’s protagonist, Clara. Or watch the long-running Nutcracker Suite in Modern Bare Feet, a contemporary version that Canyon Dance brings to Flagstaff stages every winter. 

Because of how central these productions are within the community, both Canyon Dance Academy and Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra will continue with their productions this year. Clara can dream on and her prince can sweep her off her feet once more—just virtually this time.

“It’s an event that our students and dancers really look forward to, and a way to provide some sense of normalcy, and same for the audience,” Gina Darlington, Canyon Dance director and producer of the show, said. “The tradition for people to go to The Nutcracker, even though they can’t attend, they can still see it and be part of the community event.”

Canyon Dance—in collaboration with Velocity Dance Company, Momentum Aerial and TenOne Productions—has made its Nutcracker into a movie, following Clara in her home and around town with more than 40 local performers ages 6 and up dancing their way through the film. FSO turned its show into an equally glimmering and fantastical virtual treat, featuring the captivating dancing of the NAU Community Music and Dance Academy, choreographed by Andrew Needhammer.

Nutcracker Suite in Modern Bare Feet will come out as a film that viewers can see for free (something Darlington insisted upon as COVID-19 has put a strain on many a family’s finances) until Christmas day, and FSO’s will be viewable for a 72-hour period upon purchase of a ticket.

Director Cori Wall and videographer Sterling Smith made the Canyon Dance movie over the course of about three months, using various Flagstaff locations to reflect and showcase each scene. The Waltz of the Flowers takes place at Viola’s Flower Garden just off 89A, The Chinese Dance winds its way around the front of the Golden Dragon along Route 66 and the famous and beloved Mother Ginger dance and character—best known by her enormous hoop skirt from which her eight children emerge—was filmed at the Sweet Shoppe Candy Store in downtown Flagstaff.   

Those watching will recognize many a familiar local spot, something Darlington said was deliberate in showcasing different businesses, which have been struggling during the pandemic.  

The traditions continue as local arts programming gets creative in order to keep the holiday spirit alive while keeping everyone safe.

"The Nutcracker is a treasured tradition for so many good reasons—it's extraordinary music, the choreography is spectacular, and it's a wonderful holiday experience for the whole family,” FSO conductor Charles Latshaw said. “Talented dancers from Flagstaff's own Community Music and Dance Academy, along with the marvelous musicians of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, come together every year, even during a pandemic, to share this Christmas time classic with our community.” 

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