TOLEDO, Ohio — The Valentine Theatre plans to come back stronger than ever and once again bring the holiday cheer.
Things will be different because of safety precautions, but it's not letting that stop them.
Ballet dancers are putting in numerous hours to perform for the upcoming performance of "The Nutcracker."
"Ballet is my life. It always has been. I've been dancing since I've been three, so I grew up doing it. It's one of the most important things in my life for sure. So to get to be here every day is really special," said Molly Boros, a performer for the Ballet Theatre of Toledo.
Matthew Lentz, the Director of Marketing and Programming for the Valentine Theatre, says it's been more than a year since the pandemic shut down all theatres and performances had to go virtual.
"The Valentine Theatre in downtown Toledo: it's like every theatre, every venue across the country. Across the world. We shut down in March when the pandemic hit and we were closed. We're going on our 21st month. We're a not-for-profit theatre and it's been a great struggle," Lentz said.
The performers also struggled as they had to practice at home.
"During the pandemic, what we actually did was virtual classes from home. And we taught from our home and all of the dancers worked in their basements, in their corridors, everywhere," explained Nigel Burgoine, the Artistic Director for the Ballet Theatre of Toledo. "I mean, they really worked hard. And it was so difficult."
Last year, "The Nutcracker" was filmed and presented at a drive-in movie theatre.
But this year, they're back at the Valentine; ready and eager to once again perform in person.
Jack Cygnor, who is performing as the Prince in "The Nutcracker," describes it as, "Amazing. I like being back on stage. I like being back in the studio. It's very nice to be back in here."
"I always love being on stage," agreed Isabella Bockert, who is performing as Clara in the show. "I've always liked big audiences so it will be really exciting for me."
It's not only boosting the morale of the performers but also the audience, who have missed seeing the live shows.
"Everyone loves that communal experience of being at the theatre together, enjoying the arts and enjoying wonderful talent on the stage in front of you, and being motivated. Being moved to tears. Being moved to laughter," Lentz said. "And there's nothing like it when you can all come together."
Plus, with the knowledge of what technology can do now, "The Nutcracker" will be taken outside the theatre.
"I worked hard to get this. So exciting. We are going to live stream our 'Nutcracker' into the children's hospitals here in Toledo. So they're going to have double the audience," Burgoine said.
If you've never visited the Valentine Theatre or watched a live performance, Lentz says it's a must.
"There's so much that can be dark in our lives and dark in the world," Lentz said. "Theatre, the arts - whether it's the art museum or a live presentation, or opera or ballet - can lighten your world and make you feel better, feel connected."
Only about 650 people will be allowed into "The Nutcracker" performances and must wear a mask the entire time.
That number is 419-861-0895.