The fight for Christmas took a hit this week when politics bigfooted a troupe of adorable little ballet dancers performing “The Nutcracker.”
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is scheduled to interview President Obama on Thursday night at American University as part of the “Hardball College Tour.” MSNBC approached AU to host the chat, and officials jumped at the chance for a free, hour-long commercial for the university and its students.
But the interview, announced Tuesday morning, abruptly kicked the Ballet Petite’s rehearsals of”The Nutcracker” out of AU’s Greenberg Theatre. That didn’t sit well with the ballet school’s staff, teachers and parents who have been preparing for the performance for months.
The bad news came in an e-mail Tuesday from AU’s facility department, which announced “an issue” with Wednesday and Thursday’s plans for the local ballet school’s technical and dress rehearsals: “We unfortunately must cancel these dates at the Greenberg Theatre. . . . We’re fully aware of the ramifications and grief this may cause at this late date.”
Given that the school has rented the space for the past eight years and had a signed contract for eight performances and rehearsal nights this year, the news — less than a day before the kids were set to be onstage to practice — came as a bit of a shock. “They did not ask,” said artistic director Melissa Carney. “They told us.”
You can understand AU’s position: Obama on campus vs. a local kids ballet company. But losing the theater for two critical nights — the only time the 150 kids get a chance to rehearse there — makes it tougher to be stage-ready for Sunday’s opening. “We don’t want this to be a bad experience for the students,” Carney said. The show will go on, but another dance group is performing in the small theater Friday and Saturday, and the Ballet Petite kids (mostly 7- and 8-year-olds) won’t have a chance to rehearse until early Sunday morning, followed by two performances that day.
AU did try to make it up to the ballet school, cutting the $25,000 rental fee in half. “We regret the short notice, and do recognize the impact of the compacted time frame for preparations on the dancers and the company,” the university said in a statement. As a result, the university offered “substantial concessions” to accommodate “the interests of all parties.”
MSNBC did not respond to a request for comment.
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