Berks Ballet Theatre opens its 45th season on Dec. 19 with a new take on its annual production of “The Nutcracker.”

The company is adopting what ballet companies across the country are doing and entering the world of digital performances. In these unprecedented times, where performing arts organizations cannot host live productions with a full house, directors and choreographers are forced to come up with safe alternatives to keep the arts alive.

This winter season, due to COVID-19, BBT is unable to continue the tradition of three live performances of the holiday classic, “The Nutcracker,” with its cast of 75 dancers and a live orchestra. Instead, BBT has taken this full length ballet and pared it down to a shortened version which will be broadcast virtually, to still give its dancers the opportunity to perform and to bring the ballet to the community and beyond.

According to Artistic Director Kelly Barber, she and Ballet Master/Resident Choreographer Nathan Bland started thinking about how to approach this season’s production of “The Nutcracker” last summer. A few different options were discussed and they finally decided on presenting a virtual performance.

“After having to cancel last season’s spring performance, we couldn’t imagine also losing ‘The Nutcracker,’ which is loved by all of our dancers, but also such a part of the holidays in our community,” said Barber.

“We started to see that professional ballet companies were presenting live streams or showing previous performances digitally, so we decided to embrace that platform.”

The BBT dancers along with five students from its Conservatory of Dance will make up the cast of the modified ballet, entitled “The Nutcracker Suite.” Incorporating a narration of the story, the ballet will open with Clara’s Godfather Herr Drosselmeyer presenting her with the Nutcracker followed by the magical Snow scene. Next will be Act 2, The Land of the Sweets in its entirety.

No guest professional dancers were hired this year; instead all the principle roles will be danced by the BBT dancers. Returning as Clara this season is Faith Hartman of Birdsboro. Emily Brossman, a senior at Conrad Weiser High School, will be dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Gretchen Kimmel of Fleetwood will be the Snow Queen and Lorelei Obst of Fleetwood will be the Dew Drop Fairy. The role of Herr Drosselmeyer will be danced this year by Nathan Bland, incorporating more dancing between his character and Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“Our mission is to always give our dancers as many performing opportunities as we can and even under the circumstances, we didn’t want to take anything away from them. We’re safely keeping our dancers on their toes while also giving our audience a safe way to still go to the ballet, from the comfort of their homes,” said Barber.

The Nutcracker Suite will be presented one night only on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. To purchase a ticket for the virtual event visit BerksBalletTheatre.com/tickets or call 610-373-7577 for further information.

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