Children and teens are breathing life back into Shasta County arts programs after a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They're returning to in-person classes and performing in front of live audiences this summer.
“I love being back in person," said 16-year-old Redding City Ballet dancer Audrey Beazor, who took ballet classes since age 5. “It’s normal for me. I just like something being normal.”
Returning to the dance studio four times a week helped her focus on her technique and see how much her peers progressed since March 2020, the Anderson resident said. "I was very excited, but I was also very nervous dancing with others — with people being around me again."
Even better is the return to live performing, she said. “I love dancing in front of people. I get a performance adrenaline rush. I love hearing the audience’s reaction to what’s going on, whether I’m on stage or other people are on stage."
Shasta County youth arts programs reopened with full in-person programs this year.
Responses have been mostly positive, said Julie Smyrnos, Redding Arts Project administrative director and Redding City Ballet’s assistant artistic director. “Parents are glad we are able to hold classes and performances again. Kids are excited to be back to doing what they enjoy without restrictions.”
But not everyone is ready to return to in-person classes.
About 45 students signed up for studio programs this year, Smyrnos said. Most years, there are 60 students.
Class sizes at Shasta County Arts Council's summer arts camps are also smaller than they were in 2019, Art Coordinator Agata Maruszewski said. Some classes have half to three-quarters of usual student numbers.
That's enough to get creative juices flowing: The Arts Council is offering its full summer schedule, Executive Director Nancy Hill said.
Art directors hope audiences are ready to return to theaters, too.
Students in Redding Arts Project’s summer music theater camp, Broadway Boot Camp, will perform “Singing in the Rain Jr.” on July 22 and 23 at the Shasta College Theatre.
In 2020 and 2021, in-person arts programs shut down to reduce spread of COVID-19. Restrictions on gathering in person prompted some instructors to give online lessons and host virtual recitals, but not every facility functioned in a virtual world.
The Arts Council didn’t offer virtual classes out of its facility in Old City Hall in downtown Redding, Hill said, although some members offered private online music and arts lessons.
“We did do Zoom classes for the first month or two, but since dance requires hands-on corrections, it was not very effective to keep students progressing as they should,” Smyrnos said. “We also put on streamed versions of our Broadway Boot Camp production of “Aladdin” and “The Nutcracker.”
Beazor took three weekly ballet classes on Zoom while restrictions on gathering were in place in 2020 and 2021. “I would grab a chair and use it as a barre and dance in my living room,” she said.
Online dance instruction had its challenges. Technical difficulties made it hard to hear instructors, and Beazor couldn’t take pointe classes — which require a hard surface — because her home is carpeted. She also "missed having other dancers around,” she said.
The state's lifting of restrictions on gathering and events during the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be sticking in 2022. Program directors feel confident they can plan performances and courses for next fall and spring.
The Arts Council plans to release a full fall schedule by Aug. 1, Hill said.
Redding City Ballet posted audition information at reddingcityballet.org for December performances of the classic ballet “The Nutcracker," Smyrnos said, and plans to perform "Don Quixote" in May 2023 are in the works.
Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.
This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Kids bring theater, dance, art to Shasta County after hiatus