In weather that felt more like New England summer, the Boston Ballet company — all together for the first time since March — welcomed the holiday season Monday afternoon by dancing part of the “Waltz of the Flowers” on the streets of the Theater District.
Clad in everyday clothes, sneakers, and masks, the company’s 45 members bopped to a snippet from Duke Ellington’s jazzy “Nutcracker Suite” right outside their longtime home, the Citizens Bank Opera House.
“It was so nice to feel the energy of the whole company again,” said second soloist Haley Schwan. “To bounce off everyone’s excitement and be together after all these months.”
A small camera crew filmed the production for the organization’s virtual “BB@yourhome: The Gift” programming. This performance — a modern take on Tchaikovsky’s classic — will stream online Dec. 17-27.
Most sections of the ballet will be performed by “pods” of 10 or fewer dancers, who rehearse together regularly to accommodate safety and social-distancing protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other rehearsals were held exclusively through Zoom. Only the section of “The Nutcracker” finale filmed Monday will include the entire company, artistic director Mikko Nissinen said.
“We thought, why not bring the finale to the streets?” he asked. “This opera house is where we came from and where we’ll go back to when this is all over.”
A few onlookers around Washington Street watched the dancers from behind green plastic fences on the unusually warm autumn afternoon. Thomas Rashid and Linda Delaney, longtime ballet fans who work near the opera house, spent their lunch hour applauding the company.
“The precision is amazing,” Rashid said. “And they have a beautiful day for it. Mother Nature’s on board. It’s really perfect … We work near these wonderful theaters and institutions. To see them shuttered is discouraging.”
In a normal year, the ballet’s schedule includes around 50 performances of “The Nutcracker.” (This year, a one-hour televised version will air on NBC, NECN, and Telemundo.) Many Boston audience members see the show as an integral part of their holiday celebrations.
“‘Nutcracker’ is a very special part of the season and for our families and for our audiences,” company artist My’Kal Stromile explained. “Since we’re not going to be able to perform in the opera house this year, we wanted to give a gift to keep [people] in the spirit.”
The more contemporary take in “The Gift” demonstrates that while ballet is deeply rooted in history and tradition, it is also equipped for the modern era, Schwan said.
“We’re really an art form that’s trying to transform with the times and not stay stuck in the past,” she said. “The company mirrors the world that we live in and the world that we want to be. We want to evolve.”
The ballet’s dancers may be yearning to return to the stage they call home. But on this day, the streets in front of the Opera House were close enough.
“This is a good omen for the future,” Nissinen said. “A great omen.”