Something New – Something in the Air!
By Sarah Schneeweis
As 2020 was finally approaching its end, we couldn’t help but feel hopeful that things could only get better! Dance studios were trying everything they could to survive, and dancers were still desperately missing their normal in-person weekly classes. Holiday productions and showcases felt like a thing of the past, and the idea of “we can only up from here” became very real.
Every year at my studio, we put on two holiday shows. One is a studio showcase where every class performs a fun holiday routine (we call it a “holiday review”). We also put on a huge holiday production called “Believe,” an original show that my brother and I wrote together, inspired by The Polar Express as told through music and dance. This show has run every year since 2013 and sells out quickly. It has become a local holiday tradition, cast by local dancers, and brings the magic of the holiday season to our whole community. Except for 2020. Just like all productions, including (nearly) every Nutcracker across the country, we had to cancel.
Sitting on that decision was almost depressing, honestly. Not only was it a source of income for the production team and the studio, we wouldn’t be able to bring that holiday spirit to the cast, their families, and our community. Until one day, we started asking the right questions. And it was time to get creative… again… and do something special.
“How can we celebrate the holidays with music and dance? How can we bring this to our community during this time? If we can’t perform it in the theater, how do we bring this to life?”
We make a movie. That’s how. And we show it at the drive-in! And we did.
Since it was already late October, we had to get to work! There is an amazing new drive-in theater in our town that would work perfectly for this new venture. It was outdoors, safe, and available! People could purchase tickets from three screenings during the first weeks of December. We had an initial planning meeting for budget, rehearsals, set production, video, editing, and screenings.
Our seasoned cast of dancers were all on board and we got to rehearsing. It took them two weeks and we were ready to film! That was a lot of work and a ton of hours on my end getting them ready, but they are such professionals and were so hungry to do something, so we just killed it. One of our dance families graciously let us use their hangar at the airport to film. We also chose some local spots outdoors, and had plans to film quite a bit in our studio parking lot! We moved the set to the various locations over a two-week period and filmed the movie. My brother spent hours (each morning after filming the scene the night prior) on editing the movie. He did an amazing job, and we were so excited to share it with everyone!
Meanwhile, tickets were on sale and we started to sell out! We were charging per car at the drive-in and sales were looking good. By opening night we had sold out, we had covered our expenses, and made a profit. Our cast was thrilled, families were pouring into the drive-in, and we all sat with anticipation for our movie debut! We couldn’t believe this was happening, and felt so proud of everyone involved. It was magical. It was special. It was innovative and IT WORKED! We brought the show to life, and in a whole new way.
As you can imagine, this got our wheels turning! What if we can do more of these? It takes work, but everything worth something does. It’s a way for studios and families to really fundraise for their dance communities! These kids get to participate in something they’re proud of, and it can really help keep studios alive. And if there isn’t an in-house videographer and editor, hiring someone is so doable. The drive-in is also a great place to show a screening of a past show, or even create something new like a student choreography showcase… just film it, edit it, and invite everyone! People are looking for something to do and are diving into supporting the people of their communities.
This new venture is something I didn’t expect to take on, but one that I am thrilled we did. It brought our family and our dance studio closer. We had a blast and it felt good to do something positive at the end of the crazy year of 2020.
We are all in this together, and that kind of love is what keeps a studio alive. I’m so thankful for that and so glad we tried something new!