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For only the second time in 61 years, the city will celebrate the holiday season without an Atlanta Ballet production of The Nutcracker.

The ballet announced late today that due to the uncertainty of Covid-19, it has canceled the December run of The Nutcracker that was scheduled for 30 shows at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. 

“We are devastated to have to share this news,” Arturo Jacobus, president and CEO of Atlanta Ballet, said in a press release. “When the required lead time to mount this highly technical and physically large production is coupled with the uncertainty surrounding public health come December, the obstacles are simply insurmountable.”

The annual Nutcracker is the ballet’s most financially lucrative production each year, and accounts for a high percentage of its annual box office income. The ballet had anticipated selling 52,000 tickets, with a total revenue of $3.6 million and a $1.6 million profit. 

Elizabeth Adams, chair of the ballet’s board of trustees, said anything less than a full run with unlimited seating makes the production not feasible financially. “While The Nutcracker sells more tickets and generates more revenue for Atlanta Ballet than any other program, it is also the most costly production to present,” she said in the press release. “Even if the venue were open and patrons were to feel confident about gathering indoors in large numbers — which is an unlikely scenario — for Atlanta Ballet to prepare, market and perform The Nutcracker with the measures required to keep its artists and audiences safe would result in a huge financial loss for the organization.”

Gennadi Nedvigin

Nedvigin says the ballet will explore alternatives to showcase “The Nutcracker” this fall.

The production includes 39 Atlanta Ballet company dancers, 19 dancers from Atlanta Ballet 2, 168 students from the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education, more than 40 musicians in the orchestra and 35 crew members. Eleven stagehands are required just to move a 30-foot toy cabinet across the stage during the battle scene

“We are honored to know that The Nutcracker is a beloved holiday tradition for so many families in our community, but we have to make the decision that is in the best interest of our artists, staff and audiences,” said Gennadi Nedvigin, Atlanta Ballet’s artistic director. “While we won’t be able to gather together in the theater, we are in the process of developing new approaches for audiences to experience the magic of The Nutcracker in a new, perhaps virtual, way.”

The ballet also announced that it will push back the start of its 2020–21 season to February with a performance of Yuri Possokhov’s Firebird and a world premiere by Claudia Schreier, the company’s new choreographer-in-residence. That will be followed by Giselle in March and then George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes in May.

The ballet had to cancel and reschedule two productions from its 2019–20 season when the pandemic hit in March, and said then it had sustained a $1.5 million loss.

This high-tech version of The Nutcracker, a commissioned work by Possokhov, debuted in 2018 to critical acclaim. After two years at the Fox Theatre, it was supposed to debut at Cobb Energy in December. That now will not happen until 2021. Aside from 1968, when the ballet subbed in a performance of Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker has been an annual Atlanta Ballet tradition for 61 years.

“The terrible impact that Covid-19 has had on the performing arts cannot be underestimated, and during these challenging times of unpredictability and isolation, we need the benefits of art more than ever,” Adams said. “Atlanta Ballet’s cancellation of this beloved holiday ballet is certainly a blow to our organization and a disappointment for children, families and ballet lovers through the metro area.”

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