The Nevada Ballet Theatre has performed a version of The Nutcracker for the past 40 years, but as NBT faces an estimated $2.6 million loss in revenue due to the pandemic, the company is bringing the holiday tradition into homes across the state in a new form.
Nevada Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Roy Kaiser, who oversees every performance the company produces throughout the year, says creating a Nutcracker program during the COVID-19 pandemic required creative thinking. “I specifically did not want to just broadcast an archival performance that was shot last season or three seasons ago,” Kaiser says. “I wanted to try and offer up something a little different for people that have been coming to see the ballet for many years.”
The Nutcracker: Home for the Holidays program will provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the hard work and preparation that goes into each performance, using footage from previous seasons. Kaiser says this approach should bring fans new perspective on The Nutcracker. “I wanted to have programs that would have a broader reach, that may catch the eye of people out there that have not come to see the company perform The Nutcracker live and pique their curiosity,” Kaiser says.
Home for the Holidays airs on Cox Cable Channel 14 over the course of three half-hour episodes. The first, which premiered December 1, re-airs December 3 at 6 p.m. and December 5 at 2 p.m. Episode 2 (December 8 and 10, 6 p.m.; December 12, 2 p.m.) and Episode 3 (December 15 and 17, 6 p.m.; December 19, 2 p.m.) round out the program, with the trio running again December 22-24 at 5:30 p.m. each day. All three episodes will also be available online at nevadaballet.org.
Each episode highlights a different aspect of NBT’s holiday production, starting with the history of The Nutcracker and the state’s ballet company. For the second episode, Kaiser says, “We did a lot of interviews with the choreographer and technical director about how this production came to be.” The third episode will look at The Nutcracker through the eyes of a child.
Still, without a live version of The Nutcracker, NBT will be left with a huge hole in its budget for 2021. On average, the troupe earns $1.5 million a year from its Nutcracker performances alone.
“Obviously, it’s a big number for us,” Kaiser says. As a result, NBT has started a new fundraising platform called Dance On With NBT, which includes a twice-monthly newspaper and behind-the-scenes materials to keep up engagement with the public and the ballet’s donors.
Even when the pandemic eventually ends, Kaiser says, the new NBT element will likely continue. “[COVID-19] has forced all of us in the arts to reimagine how we work and how we create and how we maintain a connection to our public,” Kaiser says. “So I think things like these broadcasts will continue. Even once we’re back, full force onstage, a lot of the efforts that we’ve made during this time will continue, because it gives us another touch point and opportunity to be connected to our audience.”
NBT will also present a close-up look at the holiday production with the exhibit The Nutcracker Extravaganza: Behind the Scenes at Discovery Children’s Museum. “Since we’re not using our sets and costumes [this year], we put together an exhibit that will allow people to see a lot of the scenic elements up close and show them how the ballet is brought to the stage,” Kaiser says.
As for an in-person Nutcracker in 2021, Kaiser says he’s hoping that by this time next year, we’re “looking at something that looks close to what normal was.”
The Nutcracker: Home for the Holidays Through December 24, Channel 14, dates & times vary. Also streaming at nevadaballet.org.