Pasadena, CA

Petra Conti Brings Her Ballet Magic to Pasadena Civic Ballet's Latest Production in 'The Wizard of Oz'

Kristyn Burtt

Photo credit: Melissa O’Gara.

Like many performing artists, the last year has presented unique challenges to principal dancer Petra Conti. She and her husband and fellow dancer, Eris Nezha, have pivoted and continued to find ways to keep pursuing their love of ballet during a pandemic. They joined the Pasadena Civic Ballet in Pasadena, California, as guest artists and faculty members, to keep their creative juices flowing — and the partnership has been downright magical.

The couple has been able to share their knowledge and dance experience with the students while the ballet has provided a home for them to keep up their technique and choreograph new pieces. They starred as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier in last December's drive-in production of "The Nutcracker" and they are continuing with the outdoor theatre experience with "The Wizard of Oz" from March 12-14.

The company has also partnered up with local Pasadena eateries with the #FollowTheYellowBrickRoad campaign to support the recovery of both the restaurant and the arts industries. It's a wonderful way to make a difference in the local economy with a meal and a show in the Pasadena area. Several of the shows are already sold out, so don't miss your chance to visit Emerald City. Purchase tickets here.

Watch the full video interview with Petra Conti:

The Pasadena Civic Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" was wonderful, and our first experience with a drive-in ballet production. What was that experience like for you as a dancer?

We were so happy to perform and push through because we danced three shows a day, so hardcore. After not dancing for many months, it was intense, but I've loved every second of it. We could feel the audience even from the cars, they were still excited to see something and so appreciative of a drive-in show.

It's exciting to see that Pasadena Civic Ballet is now mounting "The Wizard of Oz.' Can you describe your role in the production?

Thanks to the weather in California, we can perform every month, which is awesome. We [she and husband Eris Nezha] are going to be guest artists again with Pasadena Civic Ballet. We're going to perform to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which everybody knows. It's gonna be a little bit different than what we usually do. We are working on it right now and creating it from scratch. We can't wait to show you.

What challenges did you encounter as a dancer performing out in the elements? It's so different from the comforts of a theatre!

After not dancing for many months, definitely challenges! One thing we have to think about is that we have cars all around, so we need to look good from the side. Normally, we have the wings in the theatre to block that. So we have people looking at us from the side and there are some angles where you don't look your best, so we need to refine that and think about that. Depending on the time of day, we noticed last time that when it was sunny, the Marley flooring on top of the stage was nice because it would melt down. During the evening performances, it would bunch up and bubble from the cold, it was slippery at night.

Photo credit: Bryanna Bradley Photography.

What has made the biggest impact on you as an artist who has been able to perform through a pandemic?

I had so many people thanking me for giving them a reason to dress up nicely — even for the car — and just sit there and enjoy a show. So that's something that we are proud of, that we are making this happen when almost nobody else in America can do it. So we feel very blessed and lucky to be able to do that.

What are you looking forward to as we move away from the pandemic?

I'm looking forward to performing for a live audience in the theatre soon. The energy that comes from a big group of people together, that vibration is so different when we have a real audience all packed together, sharing that moment, that energy. It's something that we live for as artists, so we can't wait for that to happen as soon as possible right now.

Pasadena Civic Ballet's performance of "The Wizard of Oz" runs March 12-14. To purchase tickets, please visit their website.

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Kristyn Burtt is a commercial dance journalist, TV host and producer. She was the West Coast correspondent and host of "To the Pointe" on Dance Network for five years. Her coverage of "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing With the Stars" and "World of Dance" is popular with dance fans across the globe. Kristyn's love of dance began early in her life. She trained at the Boston Ballet School, danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in "The Nutcracker" and won a dance scholarship to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She currently serves on the American Dance Movement’s Marketing & PR Committee and is a member of the Television Academy and SAG-AFTRA.

Los Angeles, CA

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