‘Nutcracker’ performances scheduled Saturday, Sunday at Keppel Auditorium

Published 3:12 pm Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Winter’s here. The colorful leaves have fallen, frost can be seen in the fields and dancers and musicians are preparing for a holiday tradition. 

The Salisbury Symphony and Piedmont School of Music and Dance are once again collaborating to bring Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” back to Salisbury. The performances will be on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in Keppel Auditorium on the campus of Catawba College

Last season, the Piedmont School of Music and Dance video-taped their work and aired it at the Charlotte Motor Speedway — without live orchestra. Executive Director Hunter Scott Safrit said he’s happy the groups are performing together and live again. Steps have been taken to ensure a safe performance for the musicians, dancers, staff and audience, Safrit said.

“We feel more comfortable performing ‘Nutcracker’ now that we know more about COVID-19 and with the accessibility to vaccines and rapid testing,” he said. “We are also keeping our performers in exposure bubbles to help mitigate any COVID spread and will be rapid testing the performers at the beginning of our work together. Our goal for performing has always been the safety of our performers and audiences, and we are so excited to finally re-start our annual tradition of this memorable ballet.” 

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet is based on the story “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” written by E.T.A. Hoffman. The story follows the young Clara who is given a toy nutcracker for Christmas by her magical uncle. She becomes enamored with the toy, and on Christmas Eve, Clara’s wooden friend comes to life and wages a battle against an evil mouse king. 

Meanwhile, the audience is introduced to a wide variety of characters, including toy soldiers, dancing dolls and the sugar plum fairy.

In a non-pandemic year, the production creates a variety of challenges. Music Director David Hagy said it’s an intricate production. 

“Combining over 100 dancers, an orchestra of over 50, and a large production crew guiding all the mechanisms of the stage — sets, curtains, lights, and even snow and fog — can be a daunting task,” Hagy said. “Fortunately, Tchaikovsky makes it easier by writing such descriptive music. You can hear the boys playing as soldiers at the party; the mysterious entrance of Uncle Drosselmeyer; the Christmas tree ‘growing,’ or Clara ‘shrinking’ to the size of the Nutcracker; and even the fairy-like quality of the sugar plum fairy when the celeste plays.

“Thanks to Tchaikovsky’s remarkable ability to tell a story in music, the music coordinates everyone. All I have to do is make sure each moment comes together between the aural and the visual. If everyone listens, plays, dances, acts, moves with and follows the music, the production becomes a beautiful work of art. I just keep everything going.” 

This is the 19th production of “the Nutcracker” done by the Piedmont School of Music and Dance and the 14th done together with the Salisbury Symphony. To make sure the audience is safe, each audience member is asked to wear a mask during the entire performance and maintain  appropriate social distance at intermission and the after-show reception. 

Tickets are available at salisburysymphony.org or at piedmontdancetheatre.com