There's a sense of homecoming as Tchaikovsky's famous ballet “The Nutcracker” returns to the newly restored Carpenter Theatre after five years of exile in the Landmark. Sugarplum fairies and dancing toys soldiers will shine in a new light when Richmond Ballet's performance of a favorite holiday chestnut plays out on a larger stage.
Stoner Winslett, Richmond Ballet's artistic director, recalls presenting “The Nutcracker” at the original Carpenter Center. She says that one of the problems was that the stage often proved too shallow and left no room for crossovers
“Dancers literally had to slip tennis shoes over their ballet slippers and pointed shoes at the stage door and run through the alley to get to the other side of the stage,” Winslett says. “On rainy days, stage hands, or dancers who weren't performing that day, would actually carry the dancers through the alley so that they wouldn't get their feet wet. One of the dancers remembers standing onstage in ‘Swan Lake' after such a crossover, watching raindrops dripping off her tutu.”
The renovated 1,800-seat Carpenter Theatre has an expanded stage house and a true backstage area, plus redesigned acoustic tuning and newly installed fiber-optic stars that twinkle on the midnight sky ceiling.
It's better for ballet because the live symphony sounds better in the acoustically tuned hall and the seats are closer to the stage, says Aaron Sutten, the ballet's director of marketing and communications. “Even the farthest seats in that theater are much closer to the stage than the average seats in the Landmark Theater,” he says. “So it's a more intimate setting.”
The Concert Ballet of Virginia will also present a variety of versions of “The Nutcracker,” from full-length performances to shortened variations that cater to children (“The Nutcracker Suite”). The Concert Ballet's shows will take place in three different locations: Goochland, Chesterfield and Hanover counties, which will also benefit Goochland Middle School, Monacan High School Chorus and the Atlee PTA. — Alexander Chang
Richmond Ballet's “The Nutcracker” runs Dec. 11-23 at the Carpenter Theatre at CenterStage. For information visit www.richmondballet.com or 800-982-2787.
The Concert Ballet of Virginia's “The Nutcracker” runs from Dec. 4-20 at various locations. For performance and ticket information visit www.concertballet.com or call 798-0945.