They’re still in the throes of the honeymoon phase of a long-distance relationship, but both of them believe they’re in it for the long haul.
And if the response from the performers, directors and audience at this past weekend’s performances of “The Nutcracker” is any indication, it’s a perfect match.
Performances of “The Nutcracker” at the newly refurbished Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids served as the formal debut of the collaboration between Ballet Quad-Cities and Cedar Rapids-based Orchestra Iowa.
“It was amazing,” maestro Timothy Hankewich said. “It was beyond our expectations. It was a magical weekend. The orchestra was abuzz, the whole audience is still talking about it. It was a great, great weekend.”
All three performances were sellouts. In the Cedar Rapids Gazette newspaper, reviewer Diana Nollen wrote, “This stunning new holiday collaboration opened to cheers, shouts, multiple bursts of applause throughout and an instant standing ovation.”
Those behind the scenes were just as pleased as the audience members.
“By having the live music with it, I feel like it took the ballet to a brand-new level,” ballet artistic director and choreographer Courtney Lyon said. “The music brought that out exactly the way I hoped, and it brought it to a new level that I couldn’t even imagine until I saw it.”
The partnership between the 16-year-old Rock Island-based ballet and the musicians from an organization that began as the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra in 1923 was announced in July. It will continue in April, with two weekends of performances of “Cinderella.”
Ballet Quad-Cities had done nearly all of its performances with recorded music until the agreement was reached.
“When you have this interaction between dance and musicians, there’s a give and take you’re never able to get with recorded music,” Hankewich said.
The role of Uncle Drosselmeyer, which has frequently been filled by a Quad-City personality for Ballet Quad-Cities productions, is being played by Scott Schulte, a morning show co-host at radio station KZIA-FM in Cedar Rapids and a frequent actor.
“He’s such an animated person and a great actor and a great personality. We didn’t realize there was such a major role and there was so much dancing to it,” Hankewich said.
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Hankewich said the collaboration is especially significant because it bucks the trend faced by arts organizations over the past few years.
“So many performing arts organizations nationwide are in distress,” he said. “Symphony orchestras are going on strike or disappearing altogether. Opera companies are following that same trajectory, and I’m sure ballet companies are feeling the pinch as well.
“It’s really important that when you advance the art, you do it the way it was intended: Actually, physically perform ‘The Nutcracker’ and many other ballets in the future. ... It is a magical experience,” he added.
Joedy Cook, executive director of Ballet Quad-Cities, said she didn’t realize the magnitude of the partnership until she stood on the Paramount stage Sunday afternoon, taking photographs.
“So many years ago, when we started this ballet company and did ‘Nutcracker’ with (background) tracks, it was fine,” she said. “There weren’t many people in the audience and ... so many people told me I would never have a professional company in the Quad-Cities. So, for me, this was an incredible gift that was just full of magic and energy.
“It changed the future of Ballet Quad-Cities forever.”