Unique partnership between college, ballet company benefits both parties
A holiday tradition returns to Estrella Mountain Community College Dec. 13-16 as Southwest Ballet Theatre brings The Nutcracker back to the Performing Arts Center for the fourth year in a row.
The unique partnership between the ballet company, which is based out of CrossFit Fury in Goodyear, and college was forged just after the PAC opened in November 2015.
“When the Performing Arts Center was about to have its grand opening, Melissa Hahne, who’s the artistic director there, approached me about doing The Nutcracker here and possibly doing some other shows,” EMCC Coordinator of Fine Arts Facilities Tim Butterfield said. “And we started talking about ways that we could partner.”
Through the partnership, EMCC waives all facilities fees for SWBT and the ballet company pays all personnel fees.
“In exchange for waiving the fees, they allow our students to attend their shows for free, and then also they give us a percentage of their box office,” Butterfield said. “It’s a great partnership.”
He said that because of the partnership and the revenue it’s generated over the last couple of years, twice as many productions have been held at the PAC this semester than ever before.
But the partnership doesn’t end there.
“Once a month, their performers and instructors have been offering free master classes to our students,” Butterfield said, adding it’s common for students at big universities such as Arizona State University to have master classes on their resumes, but “not too many community colleges offer opportunities like that.”
Other performing arts students benefit from the partnership, as well.
“One of the things that we are able to do because of Southwest Ballet is increase the content for a lot of our technical theater students,” Butterfield said, adding that on Dec. 4, introduction to technical theater students got a hands-on lesson in stage rigging. “You can sit in the classroom and watch projections of that, that’s one thing, but today, they actually went into the stage and they hung the scenery for The Nutcracker.”
Student workers help EMCC Technology Support Specialist Scott Morganroth with scenes, special effects and sound and help Butterfield with lighting.
“I’ll make the decisions and they execute it,” Butterfield said. “They’ll hang and focus the lights, they’ll do some of the programming. We’ll do it in conjunction.”
Benefits of the partnership even extend to EMCC alumni. Butterfield was the stage manager the first year SWBT performed The Nutcracker, but he later referred the company to Antonio Hernandez, a former EMCC student who was one of the first employees at the PAC.
“He’s also the first graduate of our theater program, and he went on to ASU, got his BFA in theater and scenic design, and now is back here working as my production manager,” Butterfield said. “And they hire him to do the stage management for their show.”
Butterfield said the show is very traditional and has more elements added every year.
“The first year was a more streamlined version,” he said. “Last year, we finally added Mother Ginger into the mix, which is the big dress where all the kids run out from underneath it. There’s always just a little bit more every year as we gain more capabilities to do things.”
The Nutcracker will be performed at 7 p.m. Dec. 13-15 and 2 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Performing Arts Center on the EMCC campus, 3000 N. Dysart Road, Avondale. General admission tickets cost $24 ($32 for general admission and flowers); $18 for students 18 and younger with ID; and free to EMCC students. EMCC students must reserve their tickets online at southwestballettheatre.org and take their ID to Will Call.