Mendocino Ballet Keeps Students Dancing, Even at a Distance


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Throughout the shelter-in-place, Mendocino Ballet Director Trudy McCreanor has been able to keep her dancers active, safely. When schools closed in early March, it was expected that we would come back after a few weeks, after spring break at the latest. With this in mind, McCreanor put classes on pause and continued with preparations for the spring show. Once quarantine extended, Zoom classes started, and dancers took classes from home. Because there was still no confirmation of how long shelter in place would last, we held out hope that the spring show would continue to happen; however, as we now know, COVID 19 has lasted much longer than expected.

Other complications came along with the extended shelter in place. Income has been an obvious worry, and McCrenor said, “the thought of having no income at the studio for several months was problematic.” Many small and local businesses have gone through the same thing and struggled to stay open.

As any student or teacher knows, Zoom can be challenging, and teaching dance classes over Zoom is no exception. McCrenor said Zoom has been appropriate for classes with older students in the Art of Classical ballet program. She said these classes have stayed relatively full and “operating at 80-90%.” However, the classes for younger children have had fewer numbers. Ms. McCrenor explains, “dance is obviously meant to be done in person, so doing class virtually is difficult, especially for the 3-6-year-olds”. Just like in school, teaching young students is especially challenging in a distance format. The level of constant engagement and hands-on help they need is taken away. Through these challenges, though, Ms. McCrenor is optimistic that when students and teachers can return in person safely, “our classes for children will fill out again.”

Another large obstacle this year is Mendocino County’s annual Nutcracker performance, and it will be very different. McCrenor explained that “we are currently taking on a big project of presenting a virtual Holiday Performance. We will present excerpts from [the ballet’s] “Paquita” and “Giselle” along with some other holiday dances…and a modified Nutcracker called “Clara’s Dream.” The usual Nutcracker performance had to be altered because the first act includes many large group dances and scenes. McCrenor devised a way to cast this year’s performance through mostly solos and small groups to keep us performers safe. The scheduled virtual performance is possible by having one on one, small group, and masked and socially distanced rehearsals.

Through this challenging time, Mendocino Ballet’s founder Judy McCrenor has found many ways to keep her dancers dancing and the love of the ballet alive. 

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