Behind the scenes: ‘The Nutcracker’ returns to Popejoy Hall

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – For the first time in 18 months, the New Mexico Ballet Company will take center stage at Popejoy Hall in front of a live audience. The dancers are returning with a holiday favorite, "The Nutcracker."

"It is so exciting to be able to perform for live audiences again, in a theater again,” said Kira Petersen, who will be performing as the Snow Queen Thanksgiving weekend. “We’ve waited so long and we’ve been missing that opportunity, so we’re over the moon about this chance to come back.”

Anna Bridge is the artistic director and school director for NMBC. She told KOB 4 the company’s performance is going to be a big one.

"Our production of The Nutcracker this year is the first local production of this size and this magnitude to happen in front of an audience in a theater in Albuquerque, since the pandemic started," she said.

The theater can safely seat up to 2,000 people. Seating will not be limited, but audience members are asked to wear masks and scan a QR code for a digital program.

"That will be kind of an easier way hopefully moving forward to promote our sponsors of the show and to have a program that we hand out and have all that contact in the lobby," Bridge said.

The company has been adjusting to Covid precautions of its own. Dancers have been wearing masks during rehearsals and only recently returned to the studio.

"We went through a long period of dancers dancing from home on zoom, taking pre-recorded classes,” Bridge said. “Eventually we got to be back in the studio, kind of half hybrid zoom and in-person."

During a normal year, Bridge says The Nutcracker cast includes more than 80 dancers, some as young as eight years old. “This year we have about 60 dancers and they’re ages 12 and up,” she added. “Our entire cast is fully vaccinated, and they will be able to perform without masks but with lots of Covid restrictions."

In addition to health precautions, the company is introducing new choreography and costumes.

"Nutcracker never gets old,” Petersen said. “Some of us have been doing this for decades and each year, with those little changes, we’re able to make it more exciting and new and fresh for us.”

The first show is Saturday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. Click here for more information on tickets and other performance times.