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Audiences welcomed to Christmas classic

Fort Wayne Ballet will return to Arts United stage in December

Published November 24, 2021

After moving to a virtual format due to COVID-19 last year, Fort Wayne Ballet’s The Nutcracker performance will return in front of live audiences beginning on the evening of Friday, Dec. 3.

The 2021 performance will also feature an inaugural Kris Kringle Village Marketplace, a take on traditional German Christmas markets featuring food, gifts, and much more.

Professionals and Students

“Our performance of The Nutcracker features, of course, all of our professional dancers,” Chief Development Officer Clarissa Reis told Whatzup in an interview. “And then it also features students from our academy.”

Reis mentioned that the organization is “so incredibly excited” because, as of right now, the dancers will perform in person and without masks.

“Just being able to breathe freely without masks is very exciting.”

She also expressed excitement around sharing the joy of the season and being able to experience art in person.

“I think that you can still get a lot of that even through the virtual performances that we were able to do, but there’s nothing that quite matches being able to have that moment of awe when the snow starts in the Second Act — especially when audience members realize, ‘Oh! It’s falling on us, too!’”

“Having that moment,” she continued, “and especially being able to see everybody’s faces when that starts happening in person, you can’t get that virtually.”

MOre Single Tickets

Although subscription numbers have been different than in years past, Reis said that Fort Wayne Ballet has seen an increase in the number of single ticket sales.

“I think that Fort Wayne — already we knew — was a ‘last-minute’ community, but it seems even more so now coming out of the pandemic, or as we’re trying to come out of the pandemic, with the fact that people are really pushing that last-minute window,” she said. “What is nice for The Nutcracker is we are actually trending pretty on par with what we’ve seen in the past with 2019 [and] 2018.”

With nearly seven decades of history, the Fort Wayne Ballet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker is the longest-running rendition of the show in the city. Families have made it a part of their holiday tradition to see the ballet.

“We definitely have [what] I would call our ‘lifers,’ if you will, that they have been coming year over year, this is what their family does, and they’ve been coming since they were kids,” Reis said. “And now, several of them, they’re bringing their own children.”

The ballet, however, isn’t just for annual visitors.

“We are, thankfully, seeing a lot of new people get interested in it because Fort Wayne is continuously growing, as we know,” Reis said. “And so what’s nice is that we have people who are coming to experience the ballet for the first time.

“We have a lot of people who we’re seeing who are engaging with us that they came to the ballet years ago when they were younger and now they’re rediscovering us again as we are now more focused on being a professional company versus just having our academy, that there’s a new interest in, ‘Oh wow, what is this? I have never experienced The Nutcracker in this way before.’”

Sensory Friendly Shows

Grants from the AWS Foundation and a partnership with GiGi’s Playhouse will make possible a “sensory friendly” performance that takes place Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 6:30 p.m.

This special performance will feature low sound and lighting levels, designated quiet areas, and a location for remote viewing in the lobby. Trained staff will also be available to provide for families’ needs.

Reis mentioned that this event has limited capacity “so that audience members really have the ability and freedom to get up, move around as they might need to.”

Some members of the GiGi’s Playhouse community will also dance onstage with the performers.

This collaboration also produced a “touch and feel” book featuring a number of Nutcracker characters and samples of what the textures of their costumes feel like.

“Even snow that falls on the stage,” Reis said, “that is all on these pages.”

Kris Kringle Village

There will be a new, European-inspired aspect of the ballet experience for 2021.

“What will be exciting is out on the plaza of the Arts United Center, we’ll have our very first year of our Kris Kringle Village, which is a little holiday market,” Reis said.

Built to resemble German and Dutch-inspired Christmas villages in major U.S. cities, the aim of Kris Kringle Village is to create a more engaging experience for ballet goers.

“It was really an idea that came from our board members of wanting to be able to make The Nutcracker with the Fort Wayne Ballet like a special experience,” Reis said. “And, too, especially as we’re continuing to try to re-engage our audiences and get people back in person after the last almost two years. It was an idea to help bring attention to the arts campus and not only promote The Nutcracker performance, but also promote all of our arts partners that we get to share the campus with.

“Our hope is that this becomes a tradition — especially with the Kringle Market — that it becomes something that’s a tradition that is alongside The Nutcracker performance every year and that it continues to expand.”

The Fort Wayne Ballet performance of The Nutcracker runs from Dec. 3 to 12 at the Arts United Center, with several performances featuring live music from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

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