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The Nutcracker: a virtual dance performance

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram

Steps Dance School's The Garden City Nutcracker performance has gone virtual this year.

This is the dance school's 10th biennial Garden City Nutcracker performance and the recorded performance is available until Jan. 4. A link to the performance can be found via Steps Dance School's Facebook page.

There is a $15 viewing fee, but the video can be watched as many times as you want from the IP address it was opened up in until Jan. 4.

Sabrina Rishel, owner of Steps Dance School, said the organization began planning for a recorded performance in July after COVID-19 shut everything down in spring, when they ended up postponing their spring production.

"We knew that the live stage performance was not feasible, so we rewrote the script and found new music to where it would work with a movie story line," she said.

Rishel said a general plan was outlined fairly quickly. The filming timeline allowed them to prioritize preparation for each scene and the choreographers planned for the needs of the scenes based on the locations.

"In a typical stage production we organize all through the fall months. With filming beginning in September, we were in constant motion," she said. "We tackled it one scene at a time. While we planned a lot of things ahead of time, the week leading up to the filming of that scene was very focused on that specific scene."

Rehearsals began at the beginning of August and the first day of filming was in mid-September, Rishel said. Filming took place almost every weekend until Dec. 4, the final day of filming.

The dancers had to learn their moves in a much shorter timer frame this year because filming started in September, Rishel said. In a normal year, rehearsals run from August to mid-December.

A total of 70 dancers participated in this production, Rishel said. They knew not all families would participate this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they wanted to give everyone the option if they wanted to or not, while still taking dance classes.

They also only had one cast this year, Rishel said. Normally they have two, so all of the dancers could participate.

Slight changes were made to the story of The Nutcracker in order to include local sites such as Sunnyland Bed and Breakfast and the Windsor and Buffalo Hotels and to highlight bits of Garden City history, Rishel said. However, it still follows the same sequence of events as the original Nutcracker, it just takes place in Garden City.

"One example is that the Nutcracker is transformed into the prince sooner than in past productions and the traditional fight scene between the Nutcracker and Mouse Queen is much more intense than in past years, in addition to traveling through the downtown streets of Garden City," she said. "We knew this would be difficult for our dancers, so the transformation happening sooner meant the dancers would not need the big dramatic character “heads” they usually wear during the fight scene that inhibits their vision." 

Rishel said the music was also changed slightly to make it feel more cinematic.

"We use music that has some of the same phrasing and familiar sounds from the original Nutcracker, but we really wanted a new sound," she said. "You can really see this in the Candy Castle scene where we found unique versions of each of the candy songs."

Some of the cast includes: Ethan Duncan as the  Nutcracker, Logann Williams as Clara, Allison Nieman as the Mouse Queen, Jessie Standley as the Snow Queen, Jessica Pammenter as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Brooke Seirer as the Rose Queen.

To view the production go to https://tinyurl.com/yc9uz75j or visit the Steps Dance School's Facebook page at facebook.com/SDSGC/.

Jessie Standley, left, Jessica Pammenter and Brooke Seirer dance as the Snow Queen, Sugar Plum Fairy and Rose Queen in Steps Dance School's production of The Garden City Nutcracker.
Logann Williams, left, and Ethan Duncan dance as Clara and Nutcracker in Steps Dance School's production of The Garden City Nutcracker.