The Nutcracker at UNCSA
The timeless tale of "The Nutcracker" steps into the present in the world premiere of the popular holiday tradition newly created for film by the schools of Dance, Design & Production, Filmmaking, & Music. With all-new choreography, & costumes, & a revised score, the production honors the beloved story while reflecting modern sensibilities.
[gentle orchestral fanfare]
- I'm Brian Cole,
Chancellor of the University of North Carolina,
School of the Arts.
UNCSA is a highly ranked performing arts conservatory,
that brings five artistic disciplines together
on one campus.
Our alumni makeup the talented workforce
that leads the arts and entertainment industry worldwide.
This is the 55th year,
we have presented the beloved holiday tradition
of the Nutcracker ballet to our audiences.
But this is the first time it's been premiered as a film.
As you know, the arts industry is facing a new paradigm
due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Despite these immense challenges,
UNCSA has adapted to the new reality
and continues providing gifted young artists
with the experience, knowledge and skills,
needed to excel in their disciplines and their lives.
This production is just one example
of how the arts thrive despite difficult circumstances
and how UNCSA is preparing artists for an evolving industry
and shaping the generation that will define
the future of the arts.
I am proud of the work of the more than 300 people
that put together this groundbreaking collaborative
and hope it brings some hope and light to you
in this holiday season.
I'm Jared Redick,
the Interim Dean of Dance and a UNCSA alumnus
of the high school ballet program.
I'm an executive producer and co-director
of the first ever UNCSA Nutcracker
that has been completely re-imagined for film.
Our highly ranked school of dance
has a long standing reputation of developing talented dancers
into successful professionals,
through our conservatory approach to training.
We are also the exclusive educational affiliate
of American ballet theater.
To create this original film,
we collaborated with the schools of filmmaking,
design and production and music.
Our top ranked film school brought together
their cinematography, visual effects
and producing faculty and students
to oversee the transformation of this classic ballet
into a breathtaking film.
Students from design and production design and lighting,
produced the sets and provided essential support
for the entire production.
Talented musicians from the school of music
recorded an abridged version of Tchaikovsky's iconic score
and our dancers brought to life a stunning new choreography.
Following safety restrictions,
due to the COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge
but we still came together to create this exciting new work.
We are artists and innovators.
That is what we do.
We create, we imagine, we innovate and we dream.
Without further ado,
please enjoy our production of the Nutcracker.
- [Narrator] It was a big Christmas party
on Christmas Eve night.
Tender hearted young Clara waited hushed with delight.
Her godfather Drosselmeyer clockmaker by trade
with his presence in tow came around traveling late.
His keen clock making skills were used to that fine eve.
He built a Nutcracker doll for the girl to receive.
Clara cherished the Nutcracker,
sat him on her lap till her naughty young brother,
the doll did kidnap,
running him off with the soldier dressed toy in his grip
rudely broke the door's head with a tumble and slip.
To sweet Clara's heart sickness,
her godfather said,
"Your poor toy seems to have a great crack in his head.
When you wake from your slumbers, he should be all right.
So run off you to sleep,
have sweet dreams and good night."
[classical music playing]
- Hey you. - Hey.
- How are you?
- I'm good.
- Are you going for a break?
- I am.
- Hey Emma,
- We found ourselves in extraordinary circumstances
Yet, despite the immense challenges before us,
we created a new and inspiring work of art.
You've just seen the film
and now let me pull back the curtain
and give you a glimpse behind the scenes
of creating this year's production of the Nutcracker.
The biggest challenge we faced
in this production of the Nutcracker,
was creating an all-school production,
in such a limited timeframe,
with all the restrictions we were operating under.
It was quite the challenge, but just like at UNCSA
we always find a way to make it happen.
We innovate and we create.
- My name is Jared Redick.
I'm the Interim Dean of Dance
and for this year's production of the Nutcracker,
I am the executive producer and co-director.
Back in June,
when we knew that restrictions were going to be in place
and live performance was not going to be a possibility,
we started looking at what was going to be possible.
We looked at the restrictions, not as a hindrance
but as an opportunity for us to put together
this all-school production
and involve the school of filmmaking for the first time
in the history of Nutcracker at UNCSA.
We had a very intentional viewpoint about
what this production needed to look like.
We wanted it to keep it traditional
and yet we knew we couldn't do partnering.
We needed to keep the dancers separated
and that really informed a lot of the process.
One of the first pieces that we had to put into place was,
we need the soundtrack.
And so we started there with the school of music
and that happened in late September
to the first week in October.
Right after that,
we imported and loaded in
our Steven center opera house stage,
this flooring there, we put it into sound stage six.
We created a lighting plot there.
So we took the entire Steven center
and put it into soundstage six and filmmaking.
We were able to set up shop
and start filming beginning of October.
So we were there for about five weeks shooting.
The students invested so much of their artistic talent
in every facet of this production.
When I look back and I see every corner
is filled with something so imaginative and creative
and artistic is a testament to the strength of our students.
This was my first time directing the film
and having the opportunity to work with Tom Ackerman,
who has this huge history and experience
as a cinematographer.
I mean, absolutely we learned from the best
right here on our campus, right here on our faculty.
He saw things through his cinematographer's viewpoint
and it brought new dimension
to what we actually put on film.
An order of magnitude of dance on film
we're seeing in the professional world
is something very new.
And to give this opportunity to our students
and let them learn
by being in front of the camera on a soundstage
that's an invaluable experience that they've gotten.
So I'm so very proud of our dancers
and how they rose to the occasion
of being on the set for the first time.
We saw their artistry, their creativity
their training, and their dedication to their art form,
it was really gratifying to see.
I think about the children who will see this production
and this might be the very first time
they see production of the Nutcracker
and it's so visually appealing and so accessible
that it will inspire a whole new generations of dancers,
that is my hope.
And that is a very big and ambitious hope
but certainly it was part of the visioning.
And this was also to show our students
that even with all these restrictions,
we can create, we find ways to innovate,
we are artists that is we do,
we create and we imagine, and we dream.
A new artistic medium required, bold new choreography,
gain insight into the process of creating for camera
and enter the film sound stage to see it come together.
A lot of the movement itself,
a lot of our movement,
a lot of the angles that we're taking
with particularly only work in a film version
of this production is definitely been tailored to film.
- My name is Ilya Kozadayez.
I'm the Assistant Professor of ballet
at the University of North Carolina school of the Arts.
And I'm the choreographer for Nutcracker this year.
We're doing a collaboration, a collaborative production
between the school of dance, the school of music,
school of design and production,
as well as the school of film.
So this is the first time that we're doing a movie version
if you will.
It's a much shorter version,
so it's been condensed from a two-hour production
to a 30-minute production.
So that required really sitting down
and thinking through what seems neat to be shortened,
what scenes need to be completely emitted
and how we can create a through line
and not lose the essence of the production,
not lose the essence of the story,
but to try to keep it as "traditional" as possible,
but having it all very much condensed.
I've done some choreography for film
but it's been in a much smaller capacity.
I really had to consider what shots and what takes
and what angles we're actually taking
and creating choreography around that
has been challenging for me.
It's been the challenge, you know
with the way the world is now,
with the restrictions we have,
it's a big challenge choreographically
to create something this large, with this many dancers.
The challenge is really to keep everybody safe.
And the challenge is to keep everybody separated enough
yet maintain a level of choreography
and traditional classical language,
and that is difficult.
- He makes sure everything is just right,
he's specific, but he's also kind
he makes sure you're okay
especially with masks and social distancing.
He wants to make sure everyone's safe and comfortable.
So it's been an amazing experience.
I've enjoyed working with a different mindset, I think
rather than just going in thinking it's a rehearsal
for a piece,
it's more going in rehearsing and evolving as a character
while combining that with my dancing
because it is more important this year
to make sure that I am able to get the storyline across.
All of my teachers always tell me to be Clara first
and then a dancer.
So just being human, being myself really helps.
As dancers we train to emote our reactions
to an audience far away.
So I guess this year when putting a camera up close
to your face,
it's different to make the reaction more genuine.
- I'm excited about the fact that our students
are getting to have the Nutcracker experience
even in these difficult times where,
live performance is really, really difficult.
We're in a unique place on this campus
to have the opportunity to collaborate
with so many amazing artists here
and to be able to pull this off and put this together
in such a difficult and a strange time for everybody.
I'm hoping that the impact is gonna be a big for UNCSA.
I'm hoping that this is gonna reach a lot of eyes.
I'm excited about it.
I want to see what it finally looks like.
I want the movie to stop playing in my head
and I want to actually be able to see what we have.
Dancers costumes not only help establish their characters
but also define and accentuate the lines and movements
of their bodies.
On camera, these details are even more important.
Come with us inside the dance costume shop
and take a look at the alterations required
for this year's production.
- I am so fortunate to have Nutcracker
been a part of my entire life.
I really have a connection with every step
that our Nutcracker has evolved.
And I'm so excited to be a part of this
new crazy version that we're doing now.
I'm Marissa McCullough.
I'm the director of the dance costume shop.
This is my third year as the director.
This year's Nutcracker is on film,
which is so exciting.
And it's really been an interesting challenge
for the school of dance and for the whole school obviously.
Collaborating with school of film has been a first for me.
So it's been a really exciting learning process.
There's a definite understanding
that we are filming a theatrical production.
The dancers will be wearing usual stage makeup
and the costumes are over the top and covered in sequence
for any of us who grew up watching ballets on film,
getting to see the closeups
of some of the theatrical styling,
was something that drew us in, that appealed to us.
So we didn't want to deprive that for our viewers.
- I think the difference between costumes for film
and for stage are in the very minor details.
So in film, since everything seems to be a lot closer up
we all have to make sure every like little detail
is perfect cause you will see it.
- In the opening of what would be act two
or Land of The Sweets,
Sugar Plum is ushered in by her attendance.
And so they're kind of like her ladies in waiting.
So we wanted to come up with a costume
that coordinated with her
but it was maybe the junior version of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
This is the new night gown that we made for young Clara.
We used a combination of three different vintage laces
for the bodice, with a light purple background,
again giving it a slight nod to the previous design,
which is also purple.
So this is the original sketch
for our usual theatrical version of Drosselmeyer
and you can see he's a slightly ominous character
a little bit mysterious.
And when we knew that alumni Anthony Santos
was coming to play the role,
we wanted to make a new design for him.
This Drosselmeyer is much more magical
and a little less ominous.
And so we wanted his costume to reflect that.
So we went with a little bit more colorful
he's in kind of rich purples eggplants,
a fun little detail or these beautiful buttons
which are actually the same buttons
that are used on our theatrical version of Drosselmeyer.
So I wanted it to have a little bit of a tie
in to kind of the history of the character.
The colors and the fabrics are going to look beautiful
And I think really pop on camera.
For this production of the Nutcracker,
all of our performers are masked.
One of the challenges was coming up with a shape
and a structure that we felt was comfortable and functional
for the dancer so that they could breathe easily
and for the masks to still look like they were part of
- There's a lining on the inside
and like the middle nose bridge.
So it doesn't keep sucking in
and like preventing us from breathing while we're dancing.
- I grew up on this campus.
I grew up watching the Nutcracker as a party child
and the Nutcracker watching my sister
perform the Nutcracker.
It's really important to me that we keep
the community connected with the beauty and uniqueness
of the school.
Being able to provide the holiday cheer
and the special experience that the Nutcracker means
to so many people.
I'm just so glad that we're finding a way to do that now.
And I'm just happy to be a part of making that magic.
- We wanted this production to have a fresh new look
and changing the portrayal of Drosselmeyer,
was central to that vision.
From the beginning, this role was intended for an alum.
Once Anthony Santos' name came up,
we knew this role needed to be made for him.
We are thrilled to have him back to UNCSA,
for this exciting new collaboration.
- I'm really excited to just see a new version
I've seen many Nutcrackers
and I've never seen a black Drosselmeyer ever.
So it's really good that they're showing people
that like Drosselmeyer can be anyone.
My name is Anthony Santos,
I graduated 2017 from the Contemporary Dance Program
and I'm playing Drosselmeyer in the new Nutcracker.
I graduated and I joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem
in New York, the iconic Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Dance Theatre of Harlem is a touring company.
So I've had the opportunity to travel around the world
and do a lot of ballet actually,
way more ballet than I expected.
I feel like there were a lot of steps of vocabulary
that I missed out on being a contemporary major.
And I kind of had to play catch up.
This is the first time I'm like back on campus
and I had the opportunity to see some faculty.
And once I stepped on campus, I was like,
"Oh my God I'm a student again."
The role of Drosselmeyer is different now,
one big reason because he's a young man
and traditionally Drosselmeyers,
are a lot older, you know,
and watching Drosselmeyer videos
and trying not to actually take all of the inspiration
I would get from these videos
because most of the Drosselmeyers are like much older.
I would look at this and I would say,
"Well, how would this character be
if he was 20, 30 years younger?"
He still has that innocence in him.
He hasn't experienced the whole world yet
where he can just be this crazy, ridiculous, mad scientist.
And he still has an innocent quality about him.
Since it's not live and I'm wearing a mask,
I feel like my eyes and my hands
and the way I move my body has to be 10 times as real,
if that makes sense.
You're so used to performing in like an opera house
where you have the balconies all the way up here
and you have to show yourself to the whole audience.
I can't just show myself to the people down here.
And so when you put forearms for so long,
it's natural once you start to dance,
to reach out to everyone
and then film, it was different where,
reaching out was reaching out to that camera.
That camera is everyone.
I've seen many Nutcrackers and a lot of them are the same
so it's really good that they're starting something new.
- Recording the Sleeping melodies
of Tchaikovsky's iconic score required creative solutions
to ensure both safety for our musicians
and the artistic integrity of the music.
Meet our guest conductor and witness the momentous task
of creating this beautiful piece of music.
- I think Nutcracker every year at the school,
hopes to achieve engagement with the community,
engagement across the departments.
Although the environment has completely changed,
the goal is to have this Nutcracker achieve exactly
the same thing.
My name is Karin Hendrickson.
I'm a conductor.
This is my third year at UNCSA a guest artist.
And I'm here to conduct the film version of Nutcracker.
For first and second violins, pina SMO for Viola cello.
Coming to you in UNCSA is like coming home a bit.
I love the school because of its collaborative spirit
and there's always a willingness to see what can be done,
what can be achieved, what can be moved
what can be changed.
And I find that type of thinking at a school
just very invigorating.
It's my first time working with an orchestra for a film.
I'm first recording the strings
and then I bring in the winds and brass and percussion,
and we start layering them on
- By necessity,
we're recording striped sections,
which means that woodwinds brass, percussion and strings
are all recorded separately.
And we are combining them later on.
- It's it's been a weird experience to say the least.
I mean, we're going to be listening to the strings
we have already played and trying to play
our part on top of it.
- The biggest challenge is just sinking everything up
and making sure that everybody's playing together
because there are four completely different sections
of instrumentalists that are playing
at completely different times.
- I think I'm always just excited
for different types of collaborative experiences at UNCSA.
So I feel like this is just another opportunity
for us to create an different way.
- Everybody's working with the idea of story
and how film will deliver that story,
how dance will deliver that story,
how musically we will deliver that story
is all in line but also at the moment,
it begins very separately.
And then we slowly funnel it together
to have one unified stream.
And that is the essence of ultimate collaboration.
This is the goal,
not just in terms of what we want Nutcracker to be
but in terms of what we want the student experience to be.
Keep it moving.
- One of the advantages is that
the whole world can be able to see it now.
And my family would never get to see it back in Serbia
if it weren't a movie.
- I haven't heard of any other school or conservatory
in the country or even in the world
trying to do this.
So I think the end product will definitely be
a milestone for the school.
- Right now,
it is very difficult to deliver
a performance experience,
a collaborative experience that shared in a room.
But that being said,
it doesn't mean it can't be done creatively.
It doesn't mean it has to be done mechanically.
We can find all the creativity, all the musicality,
all of the collaboration, but we have to really think
about how we bring those elements together
to deliver the student experience that we want to deliver.
It has really brought home to me,
the importance of the story
and the importance of sharing that story
and that's partly why I'm really eager to see
the end result.
And I would just really encourage audiences
as you come to this particular Nutcracker,
to sit back and experience it with completely new eyes
and with a completely open heart to see
what can be produced in a way that you might not expect
and really be willing to go on the journey with us
and see where it takes you at the end.
- Early in the development of the project,
we knew we wanted to create something like never before.
The addition of visual effects allowed us
to imagine magical scenes our audience
could never experience on stage.
- What we're trying to do,
is create something that's a little bit more magical
in the cinematic terms.
So we're using a lot of visual effects to give
some of the dance performances,
just the kind of sparkle and magic
that you couldn't possibly do on stage.
- My name is Bob keen.
I'm the chair of Immersive Entertainment and Visual Effects.
And my role on Nutcracker
was the visual effects supervisor.
We're not doing it live this year,
we're doing it as a cinematic experience.
So we haven't been involved in Nutcracker before
but suddenly the film school was involved pretty much.
Right from the beginning,
we knew that we wanted to put more of the digital
type of effects than the physical type of effects
but we want to do enhance some of the shots
and some of the scenes.
- I am the environmental designer
that basically entails working within the unreal engine
and creating virtual environments in place of physical sets.
So instead of having to go on location to snowy Wonderland,
we get to create this all in the engine
and bring this world to life.
It's more than just placing objects down,
it's trying to convey a story with a landscape.
And that's my favorite part of these things.
Typically we use the flat images as the reference
in the program even,
and we'll kind of just build it up
to follow the shapes and the lines.
So this is one of the designs that the designers
for Nutcracker gave us.
So our job was to take this elevation
and turn it into assets.
This was one of the references that
the designers of Snow gave to us.
They wanted this very cut-out sort of storybook look
- So we're gonna be generating elements
and unreal engine
to pretty much create like night skies.
Above the dancers what we've done is,
effectively created a relatively simple system
to where every one of the sets has a ground row.
It's like a physical wall that is above all of
the dancers heads.
That way we don't have to worry
about cutting individual dancers out
and we can focus more on the stylistic artistic approach
to those shots.
- One of the visual effects shots
which I think has really worked out,
it's a dancer who we've shot against a blue screen.
She's been shrunk down to dance on the princess hand.
There's probably going to be in the region
of about 30 visual effects shots.
It's a big undergoing for us
but in some ways that's the challenge
and that's the fun of this kind of project
is that you're trying to get the best
out of everything with all of the time limitations
that you have.
And that's really where thinking outside the box
and problem solving comes in.
It's really interesting to come from a film point of view
and then working with the dancers.
They have completely different way
about thinking about things.
So it's been a really nice collaboration
between all the schools.
- The angle color, and intensity of light on a dancer's body
can completely change the way
an audience experiences a piece.
Lighting design for theater and film are two distinct arts.
Come explore the combination of the two
and how it shapes the tone of a scene.
- I enjoy telling stories and I enjoy telling stories
through something that is not the most obvious
to be able to influence the audience's feelings
and their experience when seeing something on stage,
is incredibly powerful.
There is really nothing else like it.
My name is Yuko,
I'm a fourth year lighting designer at UNCSA
and I'm the lighting designer for this year's Nutcracker.
The lighting designed for our usual UNCSA Nutcracker
is designed by the same person
and it has been for the past however many years.
So it's going to be different because I'm designing it.
Nutcrackers is very special to me
because it was my first dance show
that I have ever seen and worked on.
So being a part of that was very special.
I start with research,
so I would research who the director is,
who the original choreographer is,
what the past productions were like,
the history behind it
and then I come in to a design meeting
with the director or a choreographer.
And we talk about what makes this specific show special,
early at the choreographer,
and I talked a lot about color
because the lighting is very much influenced by color.
We talked about what our visual idea is for each scene.
So whether that be color, imagery or intensity imagery,
whatever that is, we really want to make sure
that that also is coherent with the music.
I think about music a lot,
I listen to it over and over again.
I hear, you know, where the tension is in that music
where the dynamic changes are
and that influences what colors should be
or does it even need color
because sometimes the music itself speaks color
and where that lighting is motivated,
from depending on the idea of the lighting
that I have for that show.
Snow is my favorite part of the whole show,
it's the most magical part.
And it's also the first magical place that Clara
has been introduced to
when she enters this other world.
And I wanted to make sure that that goes well
with the choreography and the music.
So when it comes to lighting,
I want to make sure that
that magic is being seen on stage.
That first, all moment,
that beautiful blue cue being highlighted by bees
low boom lights on the dancer's body.
It creates sort of this shape and dimension
and this interesting shadow
that you can't really get from a light on the gown.
- There's definitely gonna be a theatrical quality of light
and how the light is sculpting the dancer
especially just with the ability to control more light
so you can really fine tune like
what's getting picked up with which light.
Dancers move a lot
and so we are adding followspots,
we're adding to scaffolding units into space
which are going to hold a spotlight operators
because you're not sitting all the way
at the back of the house.
The camera's going to be close up to the dancers.
It's going to take you closer to the action.
So you're gonna really experience it like you never have.
- I'm super excited about working with film artists.
It's such a unique opportunity
to be able to collaborate this way.
That collaboration I think is very special
to just to our Nutcracker.