The sugarplums’ show to go on(line)

A beloved Vermont holiday tradition will live on despite COVID-19 restrictions, taking things to a different medium with “Vermont’s Own (virtual) Nutcracker.”

Vermont Ballet Theater School closed shop in March as the COVID-19 pandemic reached Vermont, but the group has worked to keep its students dancing, providing 10 weeks of online courses in the spring — with dancers practicing in their own homes.

In-person training resumed in July, according to a press release, and the question on everyone’s mind was, “What about the Nutcracker?”

Every December since 2005, Vermont Ballet Theater has brought “Vermont’s Own Nutcracker” to the stage, often selling out the 1,400-seat Flynn Center for the Performing Arts.

That, of course, couldn’t happen this year.

Artistic director Alexander Nagiba decided to hold Nutcracker auditions and rehearsals.

He said, “We formed the VBT Company in 2002 to provide dancers with opportunities to gain real performance experience as well as a practical understanding of the type of work and commitment needed to pursue a career in dance. Even though we won’t be in the theater this year, it is important to keep the dancers rehearsing and progressing, so they’ll be ready to get back on stage next year.”

Now, “Vermont’s Own (virtual) Nutcracker,” will give at-home audiences a bit of comfort and joy on Dec. 20 at noon.

Videos of two casts performing selected pieces from the Nutcracker will be viewable, filmed and produced by Liam Kinney, a sophomore film major at the University of Vermont, who performed the role of Nutcracker Prince in “Vermont’s Own Nutcracker” in 2017 and 2018.

Parent Christine Dunbar said, “The VBT Nutcracker has been a tradition in our family since Marina was a baby sitting on my lap watching. Our connection and traditions surrounding that weekend have grown so deep over the years, and now watching Marina on that stage is honestly one of the biggest joys of my life.”

This year’s virtual event is free, though the press release said ticket sales at the Flynn and the group’s Holiday Boutique there support the studio’s operating budget and scholarships for dancers and donations will be accepted.

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