Ballet West's traditional and magical performances of "The Nutcracker" will return to live performances this holiday season with purchased tickets approaching record numbers.
The ballet company tentatively entered its 58th season this year with the production of "Dracula." Like many art-based organizations, Ballet West faced restrictions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with performances at one point shut down completely.
Last year, the annual production of “The Nutcracker” was broadcast instead of performed live. With the rollout and expansion of vaccines, theaters across the world began to stage their return, and Ballet West is on the same track.
"As we were planning for this season in the spring, there were still a lot of question marks around what would be permitted from a health and safety standpoint for live performances and live gatherings. All of us in the entertainment industry were asking these questions," Andrew Goldberg, senior director for external affairs at Ballet West, said Tuesday.
The decision of whether to return was marked with conversations regarding the safety of Ballet West staff and the management of protocols. The previous season and its performances were heavily influenced by COVID-19 restrictions, such as dancers unable to touch each other.
Ultimately, the decision was made to return for a full season.
"We saw the tide turning — we felt in a positive way — and decided to go forward with a full season," Goldberg said. "If we needed to make a change, we would pivot as needed."
The season's opening production, "Dracula," sold over 10,000 tickets. The momentum from that has carried into the preparation and anticipation of The Nutcracker, which premiers in front of a live audience on Dec. 4.
The production has sold over 16,000 tickets already and is on track to outperform previous production numbers in the last 25 years, Goldberg said. The feat is notable as Ballet West enters its 76th year of "The Nutcracker," the longest-running production in the country.
"'The Nutcracker' for many people means the same thing as Christmas, means the same thing as the holidays, means family. It's a tradition for so many that not having had it last year, there was an empty feeling," Goldberg said. "Having this back is just, it's like the world is back."
And although the production is traditional, the seasonal classic remains fresh in its performances, with a total of eight casts consisting of 24 principal and soloist roles, plus a corps de ballet of over 30.
“‘The Nutcracker’ for many people means the same thing as Christmas, means the same thing as the holidays, means family.” — Andrew Goldberg, senior director for external affairs at Ballet West
It also features 82 children's costumes, 76 adult costumes with 34 pointe shoes worn in each performance. To achieve its magical experience the production uses 7,000 pounds of dry ice each year to create the fog effect, 1,000 pounds of plastic snow to create the snow effect and approximately 350 lighting instruments.
But some of the greatest magic comes from the Ballet West Orchestra, Goldberg said.
"You hear the strings, you hear the brass and the vibrations of that music gets into the theater — and then comes over to you and actually enters your body. You feel it. While you see this world-class ballet company performing this timeless classic. It's this recipe for such a special magical experience," he said.
"The Nutcracker" will run for 23 matinee and evening performances from Dec. 4 to Dec. 26 at the Capitol Theatre. The production will also return to Ogden on Nov. 26. and Nov. 27 at the Val A. Browning Center at Weber State University.