COSTA MESA, Calif. — The last time Abbey Marrison performed on stage at the Sagerstrom Center for the Arts in “Of Love and Range,” it was in March of 2020.
“That was the last time I was on stage, last time there was a live audience, last time I was dancing,” she said.
What You Need To Know
- 18 dancers plus other company members isolated for four weeks, traveling only between hotel and arts center
- This is American Ballet Theatre's first live performance since March 2020
- Audience members will be seated in pods of two, at least 20 feet from the stage
- Uniting in Movement will also be recorded and available for streaming in May
When she stepped back on the same stage again more than a year later, it was a full circle moment.
Marrison spoke over Zoom from her room at the Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa, where she and her colleagues from American Ballet Theatre have been isolating themselves since arriving in Southern California four weeks ago.
To develop its protocol and keep everyone involved safe and healthy, the company worked with a medical advisor who also worked on the NBA bubble.
For the first two weeks, dancers quarantined in their hotel rooms and wore masks when they met for rehearsal. Then three COVID tests later they were finally able to remove those masks and dance face to face, which Marrison says felt strange.
“The first time we were getting close up to each other without masks on I was definitely anxious,” she confessed. “I am so used now to keeping my space and getting close to someone feels unnatural.”
And the dancers do get close.
The project — “Uniting in Movement” — features 18 dancers performing four pieces, including two classical pas de deux.
American Ballet Theatre’s artistic director, Kevin McKenzie, said it has been fascinating to see dancers blossom as they rediscover themselves, their bodies and their craft.
“They’re different people than they were fourteen months ago,” McKenzie said. “I mean, there isn’t a person on the face of this earth that hasn’t spent a year in full introspection so as we come out the other side, we’re different people.”
He added, they were still in rehearsal and had yet to perform for a live audience.
“Wait ‘til you see what that bloom looks like,” he said with a smile.
Judy Morr is also blooming. She has worked at the Segerstrom for more than three decades and considers it her home — a home she cannot wait to welcome audiences back into.
“Oh, they are so welcome,” she beamed. “I would welcome at the door. I would great them. I’d would say ‘come, come back into my house.’”
Over the course of this weekend, the dancers will perform for several small audiences seated in pods of two — a pas de deux of their own, in a way. The pods will be spaced apart and the audience will be seated at least 20 feet from the stage and the maskless dancers.
For Morr whatever it takes to get audiences — of any size — back is fine with her.
“[It] signals that life has begun again. You cannot help but be excited. It’s fantastic to come back to life,” she said.
Marrison said she cannot wait to feel the energy coming from the audience again, and knows that all that time knitting alone in her hotel room will have been worth it.
“It’s such a small price to pay,” she said.
A small sacrifice but a big leap toward normalcy.
In addition to live performances this weekend, “Uniting in Movement” will be recorded and streamed on demand May 12 — 26.
Information can be found at www.SCFTA.org.