This December, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) will premiere an all new “Nutcracker” reimagined for film to raise money for student scholarships. Alumnus Anthony Santos of the Dance Theater of Harlem is special guest performer, dancing the role of Drosselmeyer in the holiday family favorite; Rosemary Harris, award-winning actor and widow of UNCSA founder John Ehle, narrates while a cast of student dancers interprets the classic tale with all-new choreography by faculty member Ilya Kozadayev.
Tickets are now on sale for the world premiere at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, offered as a virtual Opening Night Scholarship Benefit that will include live interaction with cast and creators, holiday treats mailed to your door, and more. Tickets to the benefit are available online.
Following the premiere, UNCSA will offer free on-demand access to the film beginning Thursday, Dec. 17.
The timeless tale of “The Nutcracker” steps into the present with the historic UNCSA reimagining of its treasured annual production, conceived and created safely for the COVID-19 era. Leveraging the institution’s unique position as a conservatory with five nationally recognized arts schools, the classic work has been adapted specifically for film through the imagination and expertise of the Schools of Dance, Design & Production, Filmmaking, and Music. Interim Dean of Dance Jared Redick directs with Kozadayev while acclaimed conductor Karin Hendrickson returns to conduct an abridged version of Tchaikovsky’s score performed by the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra, recorded on UNCSA’s film scoring stage in socially distanced sections and edited together by students and faculty in the film music composition program.
Condensed to 30 minutes, “The Nutcracker” film flows from our present time into the miraculous holiday realm of Godfather Drosselmeyer on Christmas Eve. Visual effects created by the nationally ranked School of Filmmaking, under the direction of faculty member Bob Keen (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Superman,” “Alien”), and with cinematography directed by faculty member Thomas Ackerman A.S.C. (“Beetlejuice,” “Christmas Vacation,” “Jumanji”) will bring the story to life and create a magical world only possible on the screen.
"This semester at UNCSA has been like no other in our history,” said Chancellor Brian Cole. “Despite the limitations we have had to face with the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been blown away by the creativity and innovation that our students and faculty have shown. This reimagined ‘Nutcracker’ project is an example of how our unique school, with its arts ecosystem of five disciplines on one campus, is continuing to bring art and creative expression into the world at a time when it is so desperately needed.”
Redick said, “It is critical during this unprecedented time that we teach our students how their industries have adapted to the pandemic. We have adopted industry standards in every aspect of this production, from socially distant performance by dancers and musicians, to health and safety protocols for filming and postproduction, to incorporating face coverings into costumes,” he said.
Though the film is a cinematic reimagining, Redick said audiences will find favorite scenes and characters from the traditional stage production. “Through the battle between the Nutcracker Prince and the Mouse King, across the Land of the Snowflakes, and into the Sugar Plum Fairy’s Kingdom of the Sweets, viewers are transported through this boundless story of optimism and revelry,” he said.
Santos (B.F.A. Dance ’17) performs a newly expanded role of the magical Drosselmeyer. Since graduating, the New York City native has performed with Zest Collective, Caitlin Trainor Dance in New York City, and Antonio Ciacci’s La Spezia Jazz Festival. While at UNCSA, he performed works by Doug Varone, Ton Simmons, Lucinda Childs, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, José Limón, Paul Taylor, Sasha Janes, former Dean of Dance Susan Jaffe and Associate Dean of Dance Brenda Daniels.
Headlining the student cast is Eleanor Broughton as the Sugar Plum Fairy. A high school junior, Broughton was recently accepted for the Prix de Lausanne 2021, a prestigious international ballet competition for dancers aged 14-19. In last year’s stage production of “The Nutcracker” she danced the role of Flower.
Traditionally, ticket sales for “The Nutcracker” provide major funding for student scholarships. Vice Chancellor for Advancement Edward J. Lewis III said this year’s Opening Night Scholarship Benefit is an effort to raise vital funding to recruit and retain outstanding students.
“In addition to being the first to experience the groundbreaking world premiere, opening night guests will have access to exclusive behind-the-scenes content, engage in meaningful connections with fellow patrons and be a critical part of an artistic experience that only UNCSA can provide,” Lewis said.
Two packages are available for the Opening Night Scholarship Benefit, with each receiving access to exclusive online content beginning Dec. 7, access to the world premiere on Dec. 12, and unlimited access to the on-demand film. In addition, those who select a “Land of the Sweets” VIP Experience Package by Nov. 20 will receive a “Nutcracker” Experience Package that includes holiday treats, “Nutcracker” coloring sheets and a “Nutcracker”-themed gift. For information about the benefit, contact the Office of Advancement at email@example.com or 336-770-1427.
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November 09, 2020