A long wait: Charlotte Ballet returning to stage in front of live crowd

These dancers have both have been waiting all pandemic to be in front of a live Charlotte crowd
These dancers have both have been waiting all pandemic to be in front of a live Charlotte audience.
Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 9:51 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s been a long 18 months for Juan Castellanos and Meredith Hwang. These dancers have both have been waiting all pandemic to be in front of a live Charlotte audience. They finally get to next week, when the Charlotte Ballet returns to the stage. It’ll be a celebration of being able to make it, not just the last 18 months, but 50 years.

Meredith: There’s gonna be so much adrenaline.

Juan: I’ll be pretty emotional just to be back on stage with live music and an actual audience clapping.

Jamie: When you’re doing virtual events, does it almost feel more like practice and rehearsals versus a performance?

Meredith: It’s definitely different. I still tried to treat both as a performance because it was our only performing opportunity at the time, but it was definitely different doing it for a camera versus a real audience.

Juan: With a live audience, there’s an aspect of realness and a connection that you can really have, like a personal connection with the audience member who’s sitting right across from you. I think that’s something that I definitely missed.

Jamie: Obviously, you have to be in incredible physical shape to do this sort of thing. Was it hard to stay in shape for all these months when you couldn’t put on live performances?

Meredith: Yeah, I think the hardest was just keeping like, ballet shape. It was easier to do workouts and cardio at home, but doing point work in my basement wasn’t the easiest.

Juan: It’s definitely much different than taking class in a studio where you’re surrounded by so many other talented dancers that push you.

Jamie: What do we lose as a community when we can’t have these kinds of events?

Meredith: I think just the appreciation for all the different art forms, and we have so much to offer, and the community doesn’t get to see that and now they finally can.

Juan: Yeah, just the awareness of the arts in total. And I think it’s also drained the community too. So now with the flush of art culture coming back to Charlotte, I think it’s got something the community can be excited about. The 50th-anniversary show is going to be a great one to reengage the ballet community.

Rehearsals have been ongoing for weeks for next week’s 50th-anniversary performance. One of the pieces will be “Then, Now, Forever.” It’s choreographed by Christopher Stuart.

Jamie: Tell me about that process of putting that together and what you were thinking as you were doing it.

Christopher: We’ve had so many people come in and out of these doors over that time, whether it was dancers, teachers, board members, directors. There’s so much history and I wanted to basically pay homage to them for all the work that they’ve done over the years.

Jamie: As you’re putting together this performance that’s coming up, and the choreography you’re putting together, and then you actually have a vision, and then you see it on the stage. What’s that like for you to actually see it?

Christopher: For me, as a choreographer, especially, you have all these ideas in your head, and you don’t know if it’s going to come out the way that you want it. I helped design the costumes for my ballet, which actually is based off of the city landscape of Charlotte. I didn’t know how that was going to come out and I drew it out. But then our wonderful wardrobe team, they’re putting the costumes together and I can see my vision in it. And it’s exciting. It’s really exciting.

Jamie: Is that stressful to put this together? Because you know so many people are gonna be watching it?

Christopher: It’s been stressful, but it’s been so enjoyable. The dancers are so ready. I told them, that opening night, the curtain goes up. There’s so much built up emotion from the past 18 months. And I just told them, just let that all go. And then just enjoy the moment.

Jamie: Talking about the emotions of the dancers, what’s it gonna be like for you?

Christopher: There’s nothing like live theater. One of my favorite moments is sitting down in a theater, the lights dim down, there’s that quietness, you hear the musicians tuning, and then all of a sudden the curtain rises up. I’m getting goosebumps right now. I think it’s gonna be wonderful.

Tickets for the ballet are on sale now. You can find more information by going to WBTV.com/webextras.

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