By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Southwest Ballet Theatre will host open auditions for its sixth annual production of “The Nutcracker” Saturday, Oct. 3.

Two outdoor performances are slated for Dec. 12 at King of Kings Church in Goodyear.

“One of the things I love about our production of ‘The Nutcracker’ each year is that it brings together dancers of all levels, from first-time performers to seasoned professionals,” SWBT Board President Susan Richardson says.

“We genuinely welcome all aspiring dancers to audition for the show.”

Richardson explains that although the nonprofit has experienced many setbacks during the pandemic, it remains committed to bringing professional ballet performances to the West Valley.

After many months of virtual ballet classes, SWBT went back into the studio for classes in August.

“Because of COVID, we’ve had to delay moving to our permanent studio home at Estrella Mountain Community College’s Performing Arts Center until January, but we’re incredibly grateful to Effusion Dance Center for hosting us in their new facility,” SWBT Treasurer Elizabeth Seufert explains. “They’ve been so welcoming and collaborative.”

The new Effusion Dance Center is in Goodyear, near Estrella Mountain Parkway and the MC85.

SWBT’s professional faculty teaches classical ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical to students, ages 4 to adult. Appropriate safety measures are in place at the studio, and Zoom classes are also available for those who are not ready to return to dancing in-person.

“We felt it was very important to get back to dancing in the studio,” Artistic Director Melissa Zervas Hahne says. “Kids are spending an incredible amount of time in front of the computer right now. We need to get them moving, not only for their physical health but also their mental and emotional well-being.”

Although “The Nutcracker” performances will look very different from years past due to funding constraints and social distancing guidelines, SWBT is committed to making them happen for the community.

“Last year, our performances of ‘The Nutcracker’drew almost 1,000 people,” Richardson says. “Obviously that is not possible this year, so it became clear that an outdoor performance would be the best way to keep our dancers and audience members safe. We think it is more important than ever to be a bright spot for the community. At the end of this very difficult year, we all need a little holiday spirit, and ‘The Nutcracker’ is such a wonderful part of the holiday season.”

For information about classes at SWBT or upcoming “Nutcracker” openauditions, or contact Effusion Dance Center is located at 3810 S. Estrella Parkway, Goodyear.