The Joffrey Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ at Chicago’s Art on theMART. (Photo: Cheryl Mann)
With the cancellation of The Joffrey Ballet’s annual engagement of Christopher Wheeldon’s critically acclaimed version of The Nutcracker in 2020, the ballet company has announced a myriad of festive, interactive virtual offerings throughout the holiday season, including the debut of a newly animated digital display as part of Chicago’s Art on theMART — the largest permanent digital art projection in the world.
The Nutcracker presentation for Art on theMART, set to the music of Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, runs nightly from November 12 through December 30, at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in partnership with Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The projections — displayed on theMART’s 2.5-acre river-façade — can be viewed for free from the jetty section of the Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells Street and Franklin Street. The “opening night” projection will also be livestreamed on Facebook, Thursday, November 12.
“Art on theMART is the perfect opportunity to bring The Nutcracker to the city of Chicago,” said Ashley Wheater MBE, The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet. “We see this presentation as a tribute to the city, and a celebration of the optimistic spirit that allowed Chicago to rise from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire and produce the World’s Columbian Exposition 127 years ago. The Nutcracker is a unifying experience, and we are grateful that Art on theMART gives us an opportunity to celebrate one of the world’s most beloved holiday traditions and the tenacity that enables Chicagoans to overcome even the most extraordinary challenges.”
“This November, The Nutcracker was slated to debut for the first time at the exquisite Lyric Opera House of Chicago. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to cancel those plans,” said Greg Cameron, Joffrey Ballet President and Chief Executive Officer. “Though the holiday season will look a lot different this year, we are thrilled that The Nutcracker will be presented on one of the largest public canvases in the world, and we look forward to offering virtual ways for families to enjoy the hope, optimism, and joy that this wonderful holiday tradition represents.”
“The Nutcracker is arguably one the most well-known stories in the world,” added former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, an advocate and primary supporter of the Joffrey’s Art on theMART presentation. “What makes the Joffrey’s version so special is that it’s also the story of Chicago. As a Chicagoan, I was proud to see the world premiere in 2016. Four years later, I’m even more proud that it continues to bring people together, especially now, at a time when we need it most. This underscores the importance of public art and why we need to keep it thriving.”
Art on theMART’s presentation of The Nutcracker conjures a larger-than-life experience of the Joffrey’s magical holiday tradition, set during Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. The story follows young Marie on a magical Christmas Eve journey through the iconic World’s Fair. The nightly projection lasts 30 minutes, with a program that also features iconic paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as Arts of Life’s City Circle Heart, presenting works from artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Pulling Back the Curtain
A new family-friendly virtual fundraiser, Pulling Back the Curtain, taking place on Saturday afternoon, November 7, from 3:00-4:00 PM, highlights The Nutcracker from a unique perspective, sharing everything that happens behind-the-scenes to bring the magic to life. Presented by The Joffrey Ballet Women’s Board, the virtual program features never-before-seen footage of rehearsals and costume construction, plus artist interviews about the production evolution since its debut in 2016. Guests can add to their viewing ticket party packs that include themed treats, Nutcracker merchandise, and event keepsakes. A silent auction also features a variety of items, from custom jewelry to priceless Joffrey memorabilia. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased at joffrey.org.
Making a New American Nutcracker
From December 1- 31, visitors can stream the Emmy-winning PBS documentary Making a New American Nutcracker on the Joffrey’s website. The 2017 documentary, narrated by actress Neve Campbell, reveals the Joffrey creative team’s inner workings—from rewriting the story to the making of elaborate puppets to the choreographic process.
The Joffrey Crisis Stabilization Fund
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of the Joffrey’s 2020 Spring production of Yuri Possokhov’s Don Quixote and all 2020-2021 season performances — an estimated earned revenue loss of more than $9 million. The Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, and Joffrey Community Engagement have moved to virtual programming and limited in-person classes indefinitely.
This coming season, the Joffrey will rely almost entirely on contributed revenue to meet its financial commitments. The establishment of the Joffrey Crisis Stabilization Fund attempts to recoup lost funds stemming from COVID-19 and maintain basic operations through October 2021. To date, the Joffrey has raised $7.2 million of its $12 million goal.
About The Joffrey Ballet
The Joffrey Ballet is one of the world’s premier dance companies today, with a reputation for boundary-breaking performances for more than 60 years. The Joffrey repertoire is an extensive collection of all-time classics, modern masterpieces, and original works.
Founded in 1956 by pioneers Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey remains dedicated to artistic expression, innovation, and first-rate education and engagement programming. The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director Ashley Wheater MBE and President and CEO Greg Cameron.