Youth Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”: COVID-19 Style


Dancing up a storm!

The Dubuque City Youth Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is an annual holiday tradition for dancers and their fans. Christmas would not feel the same without the whimsical storytelling, beautiful dancing, colorful costumes, and familiar melodies.

This year, the high number of COVID cases in the Dubuque community created fear that the ballet would be cancelled.

However, the company’s directors were committed to giving their dancers a performance opportunity. They implemented precautions to keep dancers safe, such as requiring face masks when rehearsing, social distancing during classes and in choreography, and double casting the ballet to limit cast sizes.

Through it all – the show goes on! Tessa Berning, ‘22, Clara in this year’s production, is thankful to still have the opportunity to dance on stage. 

“I’m looking forward to showing everyone what we have worked so hard on,” said Berning. “I’m also glad we can provide many people with a Christmas tradition they thought might not happen this year.” 

To ensure audience members’ safety, only 200 of the Grand Opera House’s 650-plus seats will be available for each performance this year, and attendees will be arranged in small socially distanced groups. 

In years past, a typical Nutcracker performance has sold out. Berning noted that though it will feel different to perform for a much smaller audience, she feels lucky that they are still able to perform at all. 

For audience safety, masks will be required at all times and the ballet will be abbreviated, with no intermission. Live streaming from the Grand Opera House is also an option for those who prefer not to attend in person.

Many members of the DCYB have fond memories of their Nutcracker experiences and are grateful that the tradition continues this year. Senior Emilia Harris said that watching dancers perform The Nutcracker as a child prompted her to begin ballet.

Harris explained, “I would watch the performances and think, this is what I want to do. Seeing all the dancers on stage made me dream of being up there performing, too.” She began ballet at age 6, and this year is performing her dream role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. 

The dancers have certainly felt the effects of COVID this Nutcracker season. Noah Ripperger, ‘23, dancing the role of the Nutcracker, said, “The quality of the show will be different; that’s not because of the dancers’ talents. It’s simply because we are in a pandemic and have had a hard time working with restrictions.”

Though the company typically has a strict one-miss policy for rehearsals, that has been altered this year to allow for proper quarantines. Often multiple dancers are missing from each rehearsal, which has made it difficult for the company to properly space and rehearse group scenes. However, the company has kept high spirits and believes the show can come together nicely.

Cast One performances are Dec. 10, 11, 12 and 13; Cast Two performances are Dec. 17, 18, 19 and 20. Members of the DCYB will appreciate your support during this altered Nutcracker season.