Monterey County Dance Theatre students rehearse a musical number from “Cats” as part of this Friday’s virtual performance and fundraiser, which will be streamed live via Facebook beginning at 7 p.m. (Miguel Serrano Photography)

SALINAS VALLEY — South Monterey County dance students are in need of a Christmas miracle after enduring a difficult year due to the coronavirus pandemic, from the shutting down of their dance studio in King City to the canceling of both their spring production and the 61st annual “Nutcracker Ballet.”

“They need to keep dancing,” said Teri Storelli, president of the Monterey County Dance Foundation, which co-hosts these yearly performances with the Monterey County Dance Theatre. “It is a shred of normalcy and a creative outlet for them.”

Over the past several months, the Dance Foundation has sprung into action to support these local dancers, who come from all over South Monterey County.

After finding dance locations that met Covid-19 social distancing guidelines, including the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds in King City, the youth dancers were able to continue their studies and prepare for an upcoming virtual performance — the first of its kind for the nonprofit organizations.

“This has been a challenging year for the children in our community,” Storelli said. “MCDF has strived over the last several months to go above and beyond to support local dancers, as we have since 1992. In light of two of our large-scale annual productions — our spring production and our 61st annual ‘Nutcracker Ballet’ — being canceled, we have come up with an alternative.”

The community is invited to watch “From Our Heart To Yours,” a free virtual performance and fundraiser that will air this Friday at 7 p.m. via the Dance Foundation’s Facebook page.

The Dec. 4 event will include local dancers and performers as well as a silent auction, which is currently underway. A donation pledge phone line, 831-525-5707, will open Friday at noon and remain available until 9 p.m., as well.

There will also be special appearances from District 3 Supervisor Chris Lopez, Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal, the Ettinger Family Quartet and other guests.

While most locals are familiar with the dance studio’s yearly productions and showcases, Storelli said they may not realize how the Dance Foundation works.

“Few people realize that the annual ‘Nutcracker’ ticket proceeds, as well as the spring performance’s revenue go directly back to the Foundation to alleviate the financial burdens of our students associated with performance, such as costumes, lighting, props, backdrop rentals and more,” she explained. 

Many dance students who are involved in productions must pay to participate. Sometimes these costs can total hundreds of dollars per production, according to Storelli.

“But thanks to our generous donors and fundraising efforts, no youth dancer pays out of pocket for performance-related fees; we cover them,” she said.

The Dance Foundation also awards scholarships to dancers for local lessons based on financial needs as well as to those who are selected to join a summer intensive program with the American Ballet, Bolshoi and other prestigious schools of dance nationwide.

Friday’s virtual extravaganza is an opportunity for the community to give back to these young dancers.

“These gutsy students have endured outdoor weather conditions and are presenting these dances as a holiday gift to our community,” Storelli said.

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Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.


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