Salt Creek Ballet has staged the longest running production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker in the Chicago area—and nothing—not even a pandemic, will interrupt this achievement.
“At Salt Creek Ballet, the love of the art form of dance is present in all of our students, and that love has transferred from generation to generation and culture to culture,” says Kathy Hamilton, a Salt Creek Ballet board member since 2012, as well as a classically trained violinist. “In this tumultuous year, Salt Creek Ballet has rededicated itself to training its students in the classical ballet tradition. It’s because of the continued support of our community that we’ve been able to flourish and make productions like The Nutcracker accessible to families throughout the region and make it their holiday tradition.”
Eddy Ocampo is Salt Creek Ballet’s new Interim School Director, after being a part of Salt Creek Ballet first as a guest artist, and then joining the faculty in 2015. Salt Creek Ballet offers classes for students of all levels, from ages 2 1/2 through adult. By taking the proper and necessary precautions for COVID-19, they are offering socially distanced in-studio classes, as well as virtual classes for students who are more comfortable learning from home.
“I take pride in knowing that I am partially responsible for moving Salt Creek Ballet in a new direction,” Ocampo explains. “As we navigate through this ever-changing time, I’m confident that Salt Creek Ballet will continue to flourish and grow as we look to a time when we can return to enjoying live performances and dance training without restriction.”
Salt Creek Ballet has been a premier pre-professional training ground for the young and aspiring ballet dancer in Chicago for 35 years. “I feel a huge sense of pride to have been charged with moving an already well-established program into a new direction,” says Ocampo. “As we navigate through this pandemic, we’ve created two innovative programs that will allow us to stay in line with our mission.”
First, Salt Creek Ballet’s adaptive and responsive learning program creates an environment in which everyone can feel safe to dance. Whether they choose to train from home or in-studio, all the necessary precautions and online platform upgrades have been implemented to ensure that a student’s love of dance can still be nurtured during the current pandemic.
And second, with no live theater performances expected in the near future, Salt Creek Ballet has created a virtual performance season to encourage the appreciation and awareness of dance in our communities and families. With Salt Creek Ballet’s upcoming virtual performance of The Nutcracker in December and a contemporary ballet program to be presented in March, Salt Creek Ballet is innovating and adapting to allow audiences to experience professional quality dance programming and provide high-level training opportunities for its dancers.
“This year’s production of The Nutcracker will definitely be a new experience for both the dancers and the audience,” says Kyle Seguin, Salt Creek Ballet’s Ballet Master. “The format is different. We will be presenting a filmed version of Act II of the ballet rather than our usual live full-length production. Dancing for film is both challenging and exciting for the dancers, and audiences will be able to experience the film in a variety of formats, from online streaming and viewing parties to drive-in movie theater showings.”
But the health and safety of all involved is center stage of this year’s performance. “Our class sizes have been reduced to 20 percent in-studio capacity, with a hybrid learning platform implemented for those who choose to learn at home,” Ocampo says. “We’ve separated the spaces in the classrooms to be at least 8-feet apart at both the ballet barres and the center of the classrooms. Rest assured that we are taking every precaution.”
Seguin often hears from parents about the positive impact all the work they’re doing in the studios has had on their dancers’ overall energy and mood. “While our daily operations have adapted to ensure dancer and staff safety, our foundation has remained the same—providing high-quality dance training to students of all ages,” he says. “Being in the studio provides dancers with a sense of normalcy and the opportunity to focus on technique and artistry, which can be therapeutic during tough times.”
Although this year’s version of The Nutcracker will be unlike any other, audiences can still look forward to an up-close view of the dancers. “Sets, costumes, and the storyline will remain the same,” Seguin says. “The film will be elegant, traditional, and a reflection of the rich history of Salt Creek Ballet’s beloved production of The Nutcracker.”
If you would like to sponsor or attend—virtually or in person—SCB’s Act II production of The Nutcracker on December 5, visit saltcreekballet.org, follow them on Facebook (Salt Creek Ballet) and Instagram (@ saltcreekballet), or call 630-769-1199 for more information. Salt Creek Ballet, 98 E. Chicago Avenue, Westmont