By Irina Rusanova
On Oct. 9, the Westmoreland Ballet filmed the Angel Solo scene in front of the Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica for its upcoming performance of “The Nutcracker.” The scene featured Sarah Barkley Mastalski in the role of the angel.
Dominic Defabo, junior international business major, helped to facilitate the campus space for filming and is dancing in the role of the Nutcracker in the production. Defabo said the process of shifting back into performing after a period of stagnancy brought about by the pandemic had been difficult.
“It has been challenging to jump back into something after being away for an extended period of time, but it has definitely been rewarding,” Defabo explained. “Furthermore, many of the other performers as well as I have never performed in a film. We are used to the fast pace and high adrenaline of a live show, live music to accompany the dancing, and interaction with the audience—all of which are eliminated by the film medium.”
Regardless, Defabo conveyed his enthusiasm about the project and spoke about the future involvement he hopes to have with the ballet company.
“It has been quite different, but overall I think it has been a fantastic project, and I am very excited to see the finished product,” he said. “I have been a member of Westmoreland Ballet's non-profit board since its founding earlier this year and I hope to continue to serve in this capacity. . . . After ‘reentering the scene’ by performing in this project, I look forward to taking a more active role in future productions with the company if possible.”
The full-length production of the digital Nutcracker will include scenes filmed around Greensburg and Westmoreland County.
“The film will be shot on location using the iconic sites, cultural organizations, and businesses of our community as a way to showcase our wonderful community,” says the Westmoreland Ballet Company website. “Our goal is to create a truly collaborative production.”
“Filming has been taking place at a variety of locations around the county, including Fort Ligonier, the Ligonier Diamond, Invisible Man Brewing, Vinoski Winery and Greensburg Country Club,” clarified Katherine Vitale, assistant director of alumni relations at Saint Vincent College and board member of the Westmoreland Ballet Company.
Vitale took part in two of the scenes, dancing with her husband, Frank Vitale, in the first act’s party scene. They filmed on Oct. 18 at the Vinoski Winery and Oct. 19 at the Greensburg Country Club.
“We all did our best to remain masked up and social distanced from the other performers—Frank and I only dance with each other to help that,” she noted.
Vitale spoke further about her transition from dancing in live performances with Westmoreland Ballet Company’s Artistic Director Judy Rae Tubbs for 14 years to filming during COVID-19 times.
“All of the performers are accustomed to a rehearsal period leading up to a few performances, but for this project, we will do two to four takes of a scene, or even part of a scene, to get a variety of angles to edit together,” she said. “So not only do you have to remember your choreography, you have to try to do it exactly the same every time for continuity.”
Despite the unfamiliar circumstances, Vitale expressed her excitement that she and the rest of the performers are able to gather safely and perform once more.
“It’s a new challenge, but everyone is just happy to be able to perform again after so many cancellations of art and cultural productions,” she said. “Hopefully, all artists and performers will be able to return to doing what they love in live settings again soon, so there won’t be the same need to create virtual projects.”
Vitale explained that filming is ongoing and that the Westmoreland Ballet Company aims to make the digital film available for purchase before the end of 2020.
“We don’t yet have a final release date since we’re since finishing up filming, but we’re hoping for the project to be finished by November or early December,” she said.