Local ballet companies adjust Nutcracker performances due to COVID

Missouri
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CHESTERFIELD, Mo. – Many local ballet companies and ballet schools are changing their annual Nutcracker performances to ensure guests and dancers are kept safe due to COVID. So for now, the show must go online!

Inside Alexandra School of Ballet in Chesterfield, 91-year-old Alexandra Zaharais, or “Ms. A” as she’s known, is getting ready to put on her 51st Nutcracker performance.

Growing up in St. Louis, Zaharais began taking ballet during the Great Depression for $1 a week. She went off to New York to learn how to teach ballet, then came back to St. Louis and opened up her first ballet school in 1947 near Olive and Boyd. Now, her school is located in Chesterfield, where she’s trained dozens of professional dancers for 50 years.

And over the last five decades, she’s also put on a Nutcracker performance every Christmas. It’s a holiday tradition no one wanted to get rid of in 2020.

“You put up your Christmas tree, you go to the ballet to see ‘The Nutcracker,'” Zaharais said. “It’s just part of Christmas; without it, it really wouldn’t be complete.”

To complete the holiday season, Ms. A and her staff decided to make the tradition available in a shortened version online with seven performers instead of 30.

St. Louis Ballot is also adapting and moving its annual Nutcracker performance online, calling it The Nutcracker Extravaganza. Streaming begins for free on Dec. 12. There are also packages you can purchase that allow dancers to deliver goodies to your home, hoping to bring The Nutcracker experience to your living room.

“This year, I hope we will have just as many viewers. We obviously won’t get the thunderous applause we’re used to but it is nice to have a sense of community that we can all share in this experience in online,” Lauren Christensen, a St. Louis Ballet dancer of eight years. “The Nutcracker is such a staple of the holiday season, it really don’t feel like Christmas unless you have The Nutcracker. The music, the dancing, the costumes, the people, and the feeling, it’s something you need to have to get through the holiday season.”

Alexandra School of Ballet’s performance will available online for less than the price of one ticket, which means they are expecting a loss in revenue, bringing another challenge to a recorded performance. Their Nutcracker performance will be released on the school’s Facebook page.

In the meantime, a GoFundMe has been created to help the studio with a decline in enrollment, canceled performances, and unforeseen repairs in the studio. 

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