COVID-19 forces Charlotte Ballet to cancel ‘Nutcracker’ for first time, new option found

COVID-19 forces Charlotte Ballet to cancel ‘Nutcracker’ for first time, new option found
Mark Diamond holds the Nutcracker aloft, as Drosselmeyer, in Charlotte Ballet’s annual Nutcracker. This year, the Nutcracker, which was supposed to take place Dec. 4-27, has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns, according to the ballet. (Source: Photo by Jeff Cravotta; courtesy of Charlotte Ballet)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sonia Rao/Charlotte Observer) - For the first time in 28 years, the Charlotte Ballet will not hold its annual seasonal performance of “Nutcracker.”

Nutcracker, which was supposed to run Dec. 4-27 at Belk Theater, has been canceled due to novel coronavirus concerns, according to the ballet. The show had been performed in consecutive years since it debuted in 1992.

“This was not an easy decision,” said Doug Singleton, the Charlotte Ballet’s executive director. “It really came down to the safety of the dancers.”

Singleton said the Nutcracker is a large production, and it would not have been possible to comply with social distancing and safety requirements due to the coronavirus.

In a typical year, producing the Nutcracker requires four casts, a large orchestra and the participation of 150 children who are part of the Charlotte Ballet Academy, he said.

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“I have so much empathy for all of the kids in the cast, you know, who was going to get to play Clara this year, who was having that opportunity?” Singleton said.

The production will be replaced by “Sleeping Beauty: A Fairy-Tailored Classic”, which was postponed on its opening night of March 13 due to COVID-19. Choreographed by Matthew Hart, this Sleeping Beauty is making its world premiere in Charlotte.

Sleeping Beauty is now set to run Dec. 10-20 at Belk Theater.

Singleton said Sleeping Beauty requires a smaller ensemble, which will allow for social distancing among the cast and audience. As of now, he said audience members can expect temperature checks, mask policies and reduced seating capacities.

Sleeping Beauty will be the Charlotte Ballet’s first production since cancellations started in March, Singleton said.

‘EXTERNAL FORCES’

But a lot of issues remain unresolved.

In order for dancers to be ready to perform, they need to start training as soon as possible. Singleton said he hopes dancers are able to return to the studio by the beginning of October, but that depends on when Gov. Roy Cooper allows such places to reopen.

“Can we get to a place where they are going to allow people in a theater?” he said. “There are still a lot of external forces at play.”

Other changes to the ballet’s 2020-21 season include the cancellation of “The Most Incredible Thing” in September, a revised “Innovative Works” that will run in January and February, and the cancellation of “Cinderella: A Fairy-Tailored Classic,” which was scheduled for next March.

For now, the ballet said it still is proceeding with plans to present a special 50th anniversary celebration in collaboration with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra at Belk Theater next April.