Ballet Memphis brings back first in-person performance since start of pandemic

Ballet Memphis goes virtual for "The Nutcracker"
Ballet Memphis goes virtual for "The Nutcracker"
Updated: Apr. 10, 2021 at 9:24 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Saturday, Ballet Memphis returned to the stage for a live performance for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

There’s nothing like seeing a performance live and in person and for the ballet dancers and organizers of Ballet Memphis, they hope this performance is the first of many more to come this Spring and Summer.

A captivated Memphis audience got to sit on the lawn at the Levitt Shell and enjoy a live performance Saturday for the first time in a long time.

“There are no words. I’m so happy. This is one of my favorite things to do in Memphis,” said Cyndi Hartley.

“So we got here an hour early just so we could be at the front of the line so we could be at the front of the stage,” said Clarence Davis.

For the past year, there have been very few live events and none for the dancers at Ballet Memphis since February and for the Levitt Shell amphitheater, this is the first live show since October 2019.

Saturday, after Friday’s highly anticipated performance, was ironically rained out, that streak ended.

“We’re so exhilarated to be back on a stage,” said Gretchen Wollert McLennon, President and CEO of Ballet. “You know it has been 14 months. This is what our professional company loves for. Moments like this.”

400 people were allowed to buy tickets for the outdoor and socially distant event to see an ensemble of performances part of a fundraiser for Ballet Memphis.

McLennon said they survived the challenging year by creatively reaching audiences virtually and with lots of generous help from the Memphis community.

“And thank goodness Memphis is such a caring community and so many of our stake holders really embraced us and really made sure we were able to cross that threshold this year,” said McLennon.

Attendees were required to wear masks and space out groups 6 feet apart.

Wollert hopes Ballet Memphis’s upcoming 35th season that is being announced in October, will be much closer to normal.

“But if need be we can be flexible and nimble. That’s what this year has taught us. We have the capacity,” said McLennon.

For these several hundred people, they were simply happy to get out of the house and attend a live event that used to be just a normal, enjoyable aspect of life.

“Just enjoying the moment,” said Davis.

“Just incredibly grateful for the city, for Ballet Memphis, for the arts,” said Hartley.

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