“After a year and a half of lockdown, Oakland dance students are excited, and nervous, to finally be able to perform the yearly tradition of the Nutcracker again.” -- Holly Young, 8th Grade
The Nutcracker is a yearly tradition for many, one that the pandemic unfortunately put on hold last year. But, with cases dropping in the Bay Area and vaccines being available, local dancers are excited, and apprehensive, to finally perform again.
Chiara Kovac is a student at Berkeley Ballet Theatre, who recently performed in BBT’s nutcracker, and is starting rehearsals for Oakland Ballet’s production soon. “I missed being backstage with my friends and bonding with them,” Kovac said. “I also missed being nervous before going on stage. I love costumes and rehearsals, as well as the rush of a performance.”
“I have missed performing for people in an audience,” said Alexander Pers, a dancer at Oakland School for the Arts. He is performing as Fritz and as part of the Russian Licorice in the Oakland Ballet Company’s production of the Nutcracker. “ It's a great feeling to get reactions out of people by dancing, so hearing and seeing those reactions and emotions will be great.”
Whitney Borovicka is a student at Danspace and a rat in the OBC Nutcracker. “I just miss getting to dance on a stage but also I miss the costumes, that audience, being backstage, the stage makeup, and just the excitement of getting to dance up there.” Borovicka reminisced, “Also, I miss the stress and the nerves a little too. I am excited about all of those things happening and actually being able to be in the theater.”
“Of course the nerves will be greater because I haven't performed in a while but I'm just very excited!” said Pers.
“This is not my first performance since lockdown. I performed in Available Light, and BBT's spring showcase,” clarified Kovac. But for Pers and Borovicka, this is the first one in two years.
Many dancers have found difficulty in performing and rehearsing in a mask. “Dancing with a mask is what I am used to in my ballet classes, it makes me feel secure, but it also makes you really hot and it gets hard to breathe. I would like to perform unmasked if possible so I can use my facial expressions,” Kovac said.
“Dancing with a mask is not ideal, but if it means I get to perform again, then so be it,” added Pers.
“Dancing with a mask is definitely harder than without one but I think that if at this time wearing a mask is a necessity to being safe then I am fine with wearing one,” agreed Borovicka.
Oakland Ballet Company performs at the Paramount, who has recently mandated vaccines, meaning that many younger dancers cannot take part. “I feel better that the Paramount has mandated vaccines and that makes me feel the risk of covid is less,” said Kovac.
Pers agreed, saying, “The mandated vaccines have taken a lot of the stress out of the process because the risk of infection will be so much lower.”
Not having the reward of performing had affected many people’s dancing during lockdown. “I know that my dancing has improved in the more than a year since lockdown but I think I probably could have improved more if I was able to perform in an in-person nutcracker,” said Borovicka.
For Kovac, being able to perform again has brought up many memories. “It was really great to remember what it was like to be on stage and remember what it was like to be backstage,” she said. “I was reminded of when I was five years old looking at my dad dancing Snow King or Arabian or in the Grand Pas with the Sugar Plum Fairy. There is something incredible when you perform and you really do bond with your fellow dancers in a way it is hard to recreate.”
Borovicka added, “It is really exciting to be returning to performing after learning a lot more about dance since the last time I performed. It has reminded me of how much I missed getting to perform, learn, and rehearse new parts. I can't wait for all the rehearsals and shows!”
Tickets for Oakland Ballet’s Nutcracker are up on the Paramount’s website: https://www.paramountoakland.org/events/detail/oakland-ballet-graham-lustigs-the-nutcracker, with 3 performances in total on December 18th and 19th.
Dancers from all over the Bay Area are ready to feel the thrill of performing, as well as the jitters that come with it. For many, this is a landmark they have reached in the recovery from the pandemic we are living in.