PROVIDENCE — Restless with anticipation, ballet dancers flexed their feet and spun in pirouettes, their elaborate costumes dazzling the eye — fluffy white tutus for the snowflakes, lace accents in jewel tones for the partygoers, a bright multicolor diamond pattern for the dolls.
After all, the performance couldn’t be the iconic “Nutcracker” ballet without the costumes — but it almost wasn’t. Last month, 57 of the troupe’s costumes were stolen.
It took all of an hour, however, after the story hit the air waves and newspapers, for Festival Ballet Providence’s artistic director, Mihailo “Misha” Djuric, to get calls from other troupes across the country, offering to lend their costumes, he said.
“We’re here in Rhode Island, in Providence, and someone from Kansas City or someone from Chicago is calling you like your next-door neighbor,” said Djuric, who has led the troupe since 1998. “It’s a testament to how the dance community is . . . very tight and very supportive of each other.”
This generosity, the Festival Ballet Providence dancers said, allowed the show to go on. The Saturday afternoon matinee was the second public “The Nutcracker” performance this season at the Providence Performing Arts Center, with the final one scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
Ten troupes in nine states lent costumes to the Festival Ballet performances, and countless others offered. Apparel-makers donated their time to recreate the rest of the ensemble.
“A costume is a costume, but there is another special meaning behind this year because it’s really coming from an outpouring of support from many different places,” said David DuBois, 34, who played the Snow King in the Saturday afternoon performance, wearing a costume borrowed from the Kansas City Ballet.
Djuric said he discovered half-empty boxes in the Festival Ballet’s warehouse in Pawtucket the week before Thanksgiving. Pawtucket police ask anyone with information to call 401-727-9100, extension 758.
The crime confused its victims, who didn’t see an obvious black market for stolen Nutcracker attire, but realized the devastating impact it could have on their ability to perform.
“Small or big, every company relies on ‘The Nutcracker,’ ” Djuric said.
And so do many members of the community, who see “The Nutcracker” every year as part of their holiday tradition, said Boyko Dossev, 35, a dancer and choreographer with Festival Ballet Providence who performed in Saturday’s matinee.
“For them, not having a ‘Nutcracker’ [performance] is like not having a Christmas tree,” said Dossev.
Stolen costumes included the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker himself. The soloist and principal tutus can cost upward of $600 each, and replacement costs for custom-crafted items like the Nutcracker’s headpiece are estimated at more than $2,000, according to a statement by Festival Ballet Providence.
But the International Ballet Academy in Norwell lent the Festival Ballet Providence a Nutcracker headpiece with a white beard and a bushy black mustache, and the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago sent along a holiday-red jacket with gold buttons and trimmings to match. Dancer Ty Parmenter, 31, wore it all during the Saturday afternoon performance — changing quickly from his doll costume, sent by the Mobile Ballet in Alabama.
“We’re living in such crazy times . . . What happened to us is emblematic for me of how important kindness is,” Dossev said.
Dossev and his troupe were thrilled with the outcome.
“There is nothing in the world . . . that can compare to the hours that you put into working for just a couple of minutes of being out there,” he said. “Being able to communicate and being able to see the reaction of the audience, of the kids, of the parents, at the end of the ballet, screaming and cheering.”
Dossev said he had goosebumps at the end of Friday night’s performance as the audience gave an enthusiastic standing ovation.
And while the performers knew about the stolen costumes and how they were replaced, the children didn’t have to know what happened to feel the magic.
“We may have many shows of ‘The Nutcracker,’ ” Dossev said. “But for them, every time is the first show.”