Each year, the Catskill Mountain Foundation's Orpheum Dance Program puts on a performance of The Nutcracker, directed by ballet pro Victoria Rinaldi. This year's pandemic brings this annual tradition online, using clips from the past five years of performances, plus new material featuring students like Lada Svechnikova, pictured here. Join us for an interview with Victoria and Lada in Hunter, NY.
Thanks to Cyndi and Paul LaPierre, and to the the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce for their support of this episode.
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Some people can't start their holiday season without seeing the Nutcracker. It's just wrong. Welcome to Katz cast, a biweekly podcast delivering interviews, arts, culture and history from New York's Catskill Mountains. Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker is a holiday staple. And Victoria Rinaldi has been directing a community performance of the classic ballet since 2015. This year is of course a bit unusual, and the traditional venue. tannersville Orpheum theatre will be replaced by an online experience using video clips from past performances, along with fresh material from Victoria's current students. On this week's cats cast, a conversation with Victoria Rinaldi, a veteran New York City ballerina, who retired to the Catskills and now teaches aspiring dancers like Lada suspension of Cova. My favorite move is probably towards a tie. It sort of looks like a switch and they're like scissors. My name is Laura spatch Nicola, I'm in sixth grade. I've been dancing for about four years. Okay, balance, how to shop, how to break part of shop, how to go, Sue to new. Yes. Okay, my name is Victoria Rinaldi and I, I created this class. So when I started in the Nutcracker, no one had any ballet skills at all. So we were teaching everyone how to listen to musical cues, how to count music, how to behave on stage, how to behave backstage. And the Nutcracker was a huge success for the community. Everyone loved being on stage. I would bring in dancers, from colleagues schools to dance the big numbers in the second act, the snow scene, etc. and the local kids had never been that close to Nancy, you're basically sharing the stage with professionals in some cases, is magical for a child to see the Nutcracker. But to be backstage with the ballerinas, touch the costume see the pointe shoes. In some cases, it's kind of life changing. Then all of a sudden, the kids wanted to learn how to dance. So that was kind of a big decision for me because this was not ever something I thought I was going to do teach beginners that's difficult. While teaching beginners may have been a new idea for Rinaldi, she already had quite the ballet Foundation, and many years of experience to share. I was a founding member of Washington ballet, then I came to New York, and I wanted to join American Ballet Theatre and Lucia chase said, Oh, you're lovely. Let I want to see you next year. Well, I needed a job now. And I ended up at New York City Opera becoming their featured ballerina and Grand Opera. And I thought it was going to be a temporary, just stopping off place. Well, I loved I loved the scale of it. I love the freedom of it. I love I was not in a line of swans. From there, I went to the Metropolitan Opera and I got the opportunity to work with the absolute best in every field, the best music, the best directors, the best singers, that it is very fun to stand in front of that gold curtain and take a solo bow. So my career was very long. I very long, almost 30 years, which is ridiculously long for a ballet dancer. Rinaldi ultimately retired to the Catskill Mountains, and years later, would find herself in a local ballet class as a way to get back into shape. So I'm in this ballet class. And I wasn't there to judge. And as a matter of fact, I didn't want anyone really to look at me. That's why I was taking a ballet class where I, you know, I wasn't going to the city to take the class, but the kids in the class could see, I was dancing the way their teachers did, and they would come up to me and ask me for corrections. And I'd be like, no, sorry, kid. This isn't my class. That would be really rude of me to correct you. And every now and then they would do something that was so hideous that I, I'd be like, you get over here. That thing you just did don't do that again. The mothers were asking if I would coach to coach, well, would you consider coach and this went on for over six months. Finally, you know, I'm seeing things in the studio and I'm thinking these kids are the best in the class. They have desire, they want to be dancers. They don't realize that they're going to show up for an audition for a Summer Intensive and not get it. They're not in a major metropolitan area. They don't know what the competition is. their teachers don't know what is expected from a ballet students these days. I could help them. And so in addition to teaching private classes with the likes of lattice vecina, Cova, and other ballet dancers and training, Victoria Rinaldi is the director of the Orpheum dance program in collaboration and supported by the Catskill mountain Foundation. The Orpheum dance program is under the umbrella of the Catskill mountain Foundation, the foundation is great. They do all sorts of programs for both adults and kids. They support all sorts of things that really better the community, from organic farming, to movie theaters, to bookstores, to art galleries, to the annual Nutcracker. So originally, I was coaching a local boy that was going on to international competition. And I needed a place to coach him. And they generously gave me the space to coach him for no fee, because this was a local mountain top boy. And I asked them what they wanted. And they said, Could you make a nutcracker for us? Yeah, I can do that. And the Nutcracker has become another one of these things that they Catskill mountain foundation does, it's sort of a gift to the community. Anyone can audition for the Nutcracker. So far, I really have not turned away anyone. There's party children. Basically, they're skipping, they're marching. They're doing shots, a very basic steps. Then there's other dances that take more precision, you really have to be able to take musical cues. There's a lot of staging going on. So when I do the Nutcracker audition, I give them little snippets of each one and try to figure out really fast, who can handle what you have to be willing to rehearse. Parents have to be willing to bring their child to rehearsal every you know, every weekend for eight weeks. You know, when you dance with a lot of people, it's very disruptive if all of a sudden the person in line next to you isn't their parents, they had to be educated. They had to understand, well, they know all the steps Do they still have to come to rehearsal? It's like, yes, you just wait and see what happens on stage. If they haven't been to all the rehearsals. It used to be a battle to get my entire cast at a rehearsal. Now, all of a sudden, the parents, they stepped up. I have parents backstage, organizing costumes, wrangling kids, making sure everybody's in their entrance, we can have at times just like 60 people backstage. So we had this performance that used adults, professional dancers and children really well and it became successful and I really wanted to have another performance where I could use the different levels of dance. And Midsummer Night's Dream just seemed to fit the bill. Because I have little dancing fairies. I have big dancing fairies. I have all sorts of different levels of dance. And the children that are in it are just charming. It's magical. I try to keep the community class open to all I try to be very sensitive to physical ability and try to make it more of a shared experience learning What I do insist upon is everyone learns the proper name for the steps, tries their hardest, and treats their fellow students with respect and allows them to learn. There's no talking and valet class, choose your questions carefully. You know, there's a certain tradition to ballet classes, we end with river offs. I thank my students for working hard, they thank me for what they've learned. And that is a little bit different. Now during pandemic, the first thing we stopped even before we close down and it upset the students usually we do reverence and then they would come up one by one and they curtsy and handshake. We're not going to be doing that for a while. Our thank yous are six feet apart, at least, if not further. Right now community class as a group is on zoom. And I have a rotating schedule where there's one person in the room with me, everyone else is on zoom. Everyone is very excited when it's their turn to be the example on zoom and be in the room with me because most of these kids would not get a private lesson with me ever. And it's good. They they deserve something for sticking it out on sale. We're just doing a little tutorial on Tom do all qual if we can. In the zoom class we joined Rinaldi worked with six young dancers, one in studio and five online, some using dining room chairs and tables in lieu of a ballet bar. Can you move your cameras down so I can see your feet and less of the ceiling? Okay, really point and ask for this year's Nutcracker. Rinaldi is compiling the best bits of previous performances and combining them with new material available on the Catskill mountain Foundation website December 22. through January 2, some people can't start their holiday season without seeing the Nutcracker, it's just wrong. And so I'm hoping that they watch our performance. They get to reminisce, see the cast at different ages as the production goes through. I'm using footage from all five years I am separating kids into family groups. In some cases, entire families want to be in the shot. In other cases I'm I'm putting together people I know play together etc. and filmed in picturesque locations in the hunter, Windham and tannersville families on their way to Clara's house. You see that look before they go on stage in their in their costumes, and you know that in some cases they wait a year to do that are cracker. If I look at their faces, and don't feel the same thing they're feeling it's time for me to quit. I'm happy for them. I'm excited for them seeing how happy they all are. When they're bowing at Nutcracker. It's thrilling. I would say it's up there with any bow than I did at the mat. Thanks to Cindy and Paul up here who were pleased to sponsor this episode of cats cast, the mountain top Historical Society. The mountain clothes Scenic Byway and silver hollow audio are continuing to make the connections between the rich history of the Catskills and 21st century tourism. Thanks also to Victoria Rinaldi. latas Vegeta Cova, the Catskill mountain foundation and production intern skyrace. Also thanks to the central Catskills Chamber of Commerce, providing services to businesses, community organizations and local governments in the central Catskills region. Follow the central Catskills Chamber of Commerce on Facebook and sign up for a weekly email of local events at Central catskills.org. From all of us at cats cast, happy holidays, and we wish you a healthy and happy new year. We hope you'll tune in for another great season in 2021. I'm Brett Barry, thanks for listening
Transcribed by https://otter.ai