Performing arts groups are finding new ways to offer holiday season programs this year due to the coronavirus. In Renton, Evergreen City Ballet is reimagining “The Nutcracker” with a series of films starting Friday.
Evergreen’s production includes three films. But it won’t be a linear storytelling of the ballet. Artistic Director Bennyroyce Royon calls it a “docu-dance” film.
“Interviews, archives, recorded performances, behind-the-scenes footage of how we’re making it,” Royon said.
A former Evergreen student himself, Royon said it also includes some nods to his Filipino heritage.
“I’ve included the parol, which is a traditional Filipino lantern that symbolizes the holiday spirit and, specifically, the Christmas spirit in the Philippines. We celebrate Christmas like crazy,” Royon said. “And also some Filipino desserts.”
"The Nutcracker" is a big production for the ballet school. Royon said it provided nearly 70 percent of Evergreen’s revenue last year. But he said being able to reconfigure the ballet is big for students, who’ve had few opportunities to perform this year.
“This is what we do. This is what we do. It’s all about the kids, and really, that’s the takeaway. We’re doing this for them,” Royon said.
The production features 70 musicians from the Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra performing “Waltz of the Flowers” in a virtual orchestra pit.
“It’s a perfect way for the kids to get an experience that they would never have any other way,” said Barney Blough, Evergreen's music director and the orchestra's conductor. “They wouldn’t have a chance to be in the pit orchestra for a 'Nutcracker' in any other time, so what a unique experience for them.”
Blough said he hopes the experience won’t be a one-time event for students.
“It’s something that I would definitely like to see us continue to explore,” Blough said. “I envision it as a side-by-side approach, where we have the professional musicians in the pit and then we could also have youth symphony members playing side-by-side along with the professional musicians.”
Royon said he'll keep delivering dance in new ways. But he says nothing will ever replace live performances.
Evergreen City Ballet’s “Nutcracker Suites” take place over three weekends between Dec. 11 and Dec. 27.