Each season, ballet fans are whisked through a journey that starts in the warmth of a Victorian Age mansion for what has since become a holiday tradition, but circumstances have changed that. Virus-related shutdowns have stunted the arts throughout 2020. However, through an act of providence and a flash of serendipity, BalletCollective’s Troy Shumacher might have struck a virtual show against the reigning virus.
BalletCollective premiered its Nutcracker to rave reviews earlier this month to intimate crowds of underwriters who helped fund the $400,000 production. This week, a free, streamed performance will run from Wednesday, Dec. 23 to Saturday, Dec. 26, at http://bit.ly/mouseking.
Schumacher, director of BalletCollective, told Pointe Magazine he took in a tour of Wethersfield Estate in Dutchess County when he was struck with the idea of a Nutcracker performance. The neo-Georgian manor home in Amenia is a quiet getaway that features a formal garden and carriage house museum. It was once the family home of Chauncey Stillman, grandson of James Stillman, who was Chairman of the National Bank. Chauncey, a strong advocate for the arts and an avid sportsman who was first lured to the area for its fox hunting, preserved the estate as an escape. The Wethersfield Foundation, which maintains and manages the Estate, focuses on access to the arts, culture and land conservation.
Schumacher said he was inspired by the architecture of the manor home and the sprawling grounds of the estate. Having already tackled a successful premier of a full ballet performance this summer, he started choreographing a Nutcracker within the rooms and gardens of the estate.
Schumacher, is already an established young choreographer in the ballet world. He is also a soloist for the New York City Ballet, which draws droves of fans each holiday for its performance of the Nutcracker. COVID-19, however, has clamped down performances by the dance company – first felt by upstate fans when its summer residency at Saratoga Performing Arts Center was canceled.
BalletCollective’s Nutcracker features 22 dancers from both the City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, including alternating casts of Sugarplum Fairies and Cavaliers: Sara Mearns and Taylor Stanley in one, and Ashley Laracey (Schumacher’s real-life partner) and Tyler Angle in the other.
The Nutcracker at Wethersfield paid attention to safety precautions throughout production, having quarantined dancers and staff for 4 weeks, and requiring them all to live and work in a “quarantine pod.” Forced into what they’ve all taken to call a podlife experience on social media, it’s meant that those who spend time with each other on stage often share sleeping arrangements, too.
The cast is to include Sara Mearns, Tyler Angle, Ashley Laracey, Taylor Stanley, Mira Nadon, Erica Pereira, Ralph Ippolito, Eliza Blutt, Gabriella Domini, Savannah Durham, Claire Von Enck, Emma Von Enck, Malorie Lundgren, Mary Thomas MacKinnon, Miriam Miller, Davide Riccardo, Kristen Segin, Mary Elizabeth Sell, Mimi Staker, KJ Takashi and Cainan Weber.
Special Music was created and provided by Grammy-nominated Metropolis Ensemble, and Andrew Cyr, founder and artistic director of Metropolis Ensemble. The composition will feature musical performances from violinist and composer Darian Donovan Thomas, and violin soloist Lauren Cauley.