National Ballet of Canada's 'The Nutcracker' adapted for screen as pandemic keeps dancers home
TORONTO -- While going to see "The Nutcracker" is a cherished tradition for many Canadians, the National Ballet of Canada has had to adapt this year’s performances amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This holiday season marks the first time since 1955 that audiences won't be able to attend the ballet company's Christmas classic in-person. Instead, the organization has partnered with Cineplex to screen a 2008 version of "The Nutcracker" at more than 50 cinemas across the country.
National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain said the company has been working to find different ways for Canadians to enjoy ballet and keep its dancers employed after the pandemic forced the cancellation of its entire season.
"Box office and subscribers are our main source of revenue, so to lose all of that, it was pretty terrifying for the organization," Kain explained in an interview with CTV News.
The ballet company has since turned to online projects such as giving viewers a glimpse of what it has been like to dance at home and collaborating with local filmmakers.
Heather Ogden, one of the National Ballet of Canada's principal dancers, recently starred in a film called "Lulu" as part of the company's virtual season.
"Lulu" follows a woman coming to terms with loss and finding the courage to move on. In the film, Ogden performs a ballet solo on a secluded road.
She told CTV News the experience almost made her feel as if she were back on stage.
"It was such a fun project to do, and even though it was on gravel… I almost felt that adrenaline of performing a little bit," Ogden said. "I was like, 'It doesn't matter, any condition is fine, let's just do this.'"
Still, Ogden says nothing beats the thrill of a live performance.
Much like elite athletes, Kain said every moment spent on stage and practicing is critical for budding young dancers who have been struggling to rehearse in their homes during the pandemic.
"I feel most badly for the young dancers of today whose careers are already so short," Kain said.
National Ballet of Canada dancer Alexander Skinner told CTV News that staying motivated while dancing from home has been one of the biggest challenges.
However, it also inspired him. Skinner said he and a fellow dancer decided to adapt a video rendition they choreographed of "Trio Sonata" from last November to their new reality during the lockdown.
"That experience specifically was really eye opening for me to see that [sic] dance can really be created anywhere and you can still have a meaningful experience as a dancer," Skinner said
While there is no timeline for when live performances will resume, the National Ballet of Canada hopes to return to the stage for the world premiere of Kain’s Swan Lake in 2021.