Usually this is Nutcracker season, with productions all over the Twin Cities, led by perhaps the grandest of all, Minnesota Dance Theatre’s “Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy.”
If not for COVID-19, it would have had its 56th season this month at the State Theatre.
But Nutcracker fans may take comfort in a bit of joyous fantasy in the Minneapolis North Loop. There, nestled in seven antique windows spread across the frpont of the MartinPatrick3 store, visitors can view Judith Cooper’s meticulously constructed costumes for the production up close, thanks to a partnership between MDT and MartinPatrick3.
Framed by bright red-and-white striped curtains, sugarplum tutus, toy soldier mannequins, party dresses and Christmas ornaments populate the vintage front of the 1885 Colonial Warehouse building at 212 3rd Av. N., taking random passersby into a journey of sweets and dreams.
Cory Johnson, executive director of MDT, is a customer of the store. He was drawn to its old-fashioned department store windows, and approached the owners with the idea.
“They are great community supporters and philanthropists,” said Johnson. “MartinPatrick3 is really one of those destination boutiques.”
Owner Greg Walsh, who co-founded the company with partner Dana Swindler, got on board immediately.
“I thought: If we are going to do it, let’s do it big,” Walsh said.
Windows across the front of the shop recreate the story of the nutcracker, through mannequins dressed up in costumes from the ballet — plus a few products from MartinPatrick3 thrown in.
Walsh said it’s been fun to watch people stop by the windows, listen to Tchaikovsky’s music piping through the speakers, and read each caption telling the story.
“We have had a lot of people send us emails that they were in the Nutcracker,” Walsh said.
MDT artistic director Lise Houlton, daughter of founder Loyce Houlton, said the company had begun talking about doing holiday window displays back in October, initially thinking about the Nicollet Mall.
“As a New Yorker, I always loved going to Saks Fifth Avenue and looking at the Christmas windows,” she said, “and as a kid here, I always loved the Dayton’s Christmas. So I thought that would be a wonderful way for us to have some sort of presence.”
Houlton said she feels especially excited to highlight Cooper’s work.
“She created everything for Minnesota Dance Theatre for decades,” Houlton said. “She did just exquisite work. It makes me so happy to see her costume designs honored.”
Of course, a window display is not the same as being able to actually do the show, but Houlton said she hopes it might inspire new audiences to check out the production next year. In the meantime, MDT is scheduled to perform “The Enchantment” in April at Cowles Center in Minneapolis, if it’s feasible to do so.
“I would never put any of our dancers at risk,” Houlton said. “We are meeting with the furloughed company next week to have a strategy for perhaps doing some video work and at least getting something up. I’m hoping the dancers can ride this out. Because our intention is to as soon as we can get back on stage.”
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis arts journalist.