Rehearsals had already begun for Hudson Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" when Hurricane Sandy caused record flooding and widespread power outages in Hoboken in late October.
Artistic Director Bethany Marc-Aurele had to make a difficult decision: should she cancel the performance in order to give 50 young students and their families time to recooperate? "All the parents came together and they said, 'Please don't. We'll do whatever it takes to keep the show going.'"
Dancing, they said, would give their children a sense of normalcy in the midst of chaos.
Marc-Aurele knows at least two of her students and their families were displaced by the storm, and have been moving from hotel room to hotel room for the last month.
"When they walk in they are all smiles. They are ready to dance," she said. "We don't hear anything about what happened."
But she sensed the stress of dealing with life post-Sandy had taken its toll on everyone, including other Hoboken businesses and non-profits.
So, Marc-Aurele decided to turn the performance into a fundraiser.
All of the proceeds from Saturday's performance will benefit the Rebuild Hoboken Relief Fund to help the city recover from more than $4 million worth of damage.
It's not an easy sacrifice. For many dance schools, annual performances of the classic Christmas tale of a young girl whisked away by a handsome price to a land of dancing sweets - with its familiar score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - is a staple fundraiser. For Hudson Ballet, a nonprofit junior dance company, it's a costly undertaking.
Marc-Aurele said parents and industry pros are pitching in. Lighting and tech crews have donated their time and the prop house gave them a discount. Despite their help, she's still taking a personal financial hit.
But, "I thought it was the right thing to do," she said.
Hudson Ballet's performance of "The Nutcracker" will take place on Saturday, December 8 at 1 p.m. at Hoboken High School. Doors will open at 12:30 p.m. for a bake sale and light refreshments. All proceeds will benefit the Rebuild Hoboken Relief Fund. For more information, visit hudsonballet.org.