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Spreading Holiday Cheer to Schools and Hospitals

Act 1 of The Nutcracker playing on a TV hanging above a fireplace

By Mary Ashley Ray

Each January, we at Texas Ballet Theater reflect on our holiday season, usually filled with performances of The Nutcracker. Without live performances in 2020, dancers and staff missed seeing excited patrons in the theater. There was still plenty of holiday cheer to go around, however, as many tuned in to watch TBT’s first-ever digital presentation of The Nutcracker. Among these patrons were more than 33,000 local students, who enjoyed the beloved ballet through TBT’s work with Dallas-Fort Worth schools and school districts.

During a typical holiday season, thousands of students visit Winspear Opera House in Dallas and Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth to see The Nutcracker. This year, TBT flipped the script and brought ballet straight to the classroom by working with programs and districts such as Performing Arts Fort Worth’s Children’s Education Program (CEP) and Dallas ISD.

“It is heartbreaking to not bring students into Bass Performance Hall this season for our Children’s Education Program, due to COVID-19,” Dione Kennedy, President and CEO of Performing Arts Fort Worth, said. “Therefore, we were thrilled to work with Texas Ballet Theater to offer the online version of Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker to our CEP participants in Fort Worth ISD and other surrounding districts. TBT is an incredible partner and a Resident Company at Bass Hall and we are incredibly grateful for their collaborative spirit during this pandemic.”

Using a new platform to present The Nutcracker also enabled TBT to share the performance with new audiences – including healthcare workers. In a year of COVID-19 and its challenges, we were reminded of the strength, passion, and perseverance of these local heroes. As a thank you after this uncertain year, TBT sent The Nutcracker to more than 85 hospitals and healthcare facilities in North Texas. Healthcare professionals and patients alike enjoyed the performance in an experience like none before.

“At a time when it is easy to feel helpless, sharing The Nutcracker was an opportunity for TBT to tell our healthcare community thank you and that we appreciate their fortitude, sacrifice, and commitment,” Claire Hicks, Director of Development at TBT, said. “It was special for both those who received this outreach and staff alike to share in holiday cheer the best way TBT knows how – through the joy of ballet.”

While nothing replicates the experience of seeing live ballet in a theater, we at TBT are grateful for the new opportunities of the 2020 holiday season. We look forward to sharing two more digital productions this spring as part of our reimagined 2020-2021 season and hope you will join us for these innovative ballets.