Bringing the city’s biggest dance event back to the Capitol Center for the Arts after that building was closed for a year was never going to be easy. Then came the sound system.
“We had never been there before, and when we first did, we had a problem: all the (audio) settings are for a full house. People absorb sound, you know…because we don’t have a full house, we’re social distancing, we have to adjust all the sound so it doesn’t echo,” said Cindy Flanagan, Founder of Concord Dance Academy.
The Academy celebrates its 40th anniversary on Saturday with a 225-student recital, the first major event inside the Chubb Theater since COVID-19 shut everything down. Its theme, fittingly, is “The Show Must Go On”.
Although the theater has not fully returned to normal – attendance is limited to 450 seats out of 1,350 and the show’s finale was canceled because it would put too many dancers on stage at once – it is a sign that the Concord’s largest performing arts venue wakes upstairs.
A few other rental events are planned, including a beauty pageant, then from August 1st tour numbers will start appearing to a full house, unless there is a resurgence of COVID-19 and that New Hampshire must clamp down again.
Other performance venues across the state are slowly opening. The Palace Theater in Manchester, for example, was planning to open its smaller Rex Theater on Friday, with comedy shows, although its main stage is currently not scheduled until September.
It’s fitting that Flanagan was integral to the reopening of the Capitol Center, as she was part of the steering committee that brought it to life in its current form in 1995.
The academy organized last year’s recital via Zoom, which was difficult. He began holding classes and rehearsing last fall in the Page Belting Building, which Flanagan owns. Funds from the Main Street and Paycheck Protection programs helped keep it going.
The old factory has plenty of open space to separate students and allowed for a host of precautions, such as keeping parents out and classes small.
“We did everything we could to make it as normal as possible for the children. Mothers came to tell us: “It’s the only normal thing in our child’s life; we live in a small apartment, do Zoom all year, we’re so happy about it,” Flanagan said.
Despite all the complications, the lessons went well. “We haven’t had any cases (of illness) all year. We started talking in theater, ‘maybe we can get back on stage,’” Flanagan said.
A difficulty coming back now was an air shaft that had started to buckle. The Capitol Center took advantage of the closure to repair it, but the work prevented the school from entering the building until the last minute. Many dance teachers hadn’t seen their classes perform on stage until this week, Flanagan said.
Even with all the issues, however, getting back on the big stage is a thrill.
“People were emotional to be physically back in this building,” said Carl Smith, the band’s sound director.
The recital is a major fundraiser for the academy, which takes a hit by limiting audience size. They try an experiment: each dancer can buy a maximum of two family tickets; other family members or friends watching to watch can do so online via live stream at $20 per ticket.
“That way anyone who wants to see it can see it one way or another,” Flanagan said. “Normally we do two shows, sell 2,400 tickets. This year we can only sell 400. We are praying that people will buy the live stream, and we will have to do some fundraising.
(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or [email protected] or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)