SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – For many families, seeing The Nutcracker is not only a beloved Christmas institution, it’s synonymous with the holiday season.

Last year, COVID-related restrictions on gathering made it impossible for companies to present the classic ballet, robbing many dancers of the chance to perform and audiences of the ability to enjoy this time-honored tradition. While many companies – including Salt Lake City’s Ballet West – opted to present the show virtually, the fanfare and festivity of a night out at the theater was decidedly missing.

“Last year, the holidays were taken away from us,” says Andrew Goldberg, senior director of external affairs at Ballet West. “The opportunity to come back and have a wonderful holiday family experience again is high on people’s lists because we have to make up for last year.”

Historically, ballet companies nationwide attribute the majority of yearly ticket sales to Nutcracker season. Last year – with waves of cancellations and free/low-cost virtual performances replacing typical performancescompanies took a huge revenue hit.

This year, however, things are looking up.

This season, Ballet West has already sold 15,000 Nutcracker tickets, a rate that Goldberg says – should it continue – will make this year’s Nutcracker the most successful the company has seen in a long time.

“With this upcoming return to live with The Nutcracker, we’re seeing sales trends that are the best in 25 years,” he says. “If the trend continues, we will have our bestselling Nutcracker of all time.”

Ballet West also sold over 10,000 tickets for their run of Dracula which – according to Goldberg – makes it one of the highest-selling performances in several years that isn’t a traditional ballet title.

“It had been ten years since Dracula had been in Salt Lake,” Goldberg says. “There was a lot of buzz and excitement, knowing that it was going to be here during the Halloween season. [Ticket sales] exceeded our expectations by about 30%.”

Although excitement surrounding the new ability to gather after lengthy lockdowns surely plays a role in this season’s prosperity, the team at Ballet West has been hard at work since the beginning of the pandemic to ensure the company’s success this season and beyond. When performing arts venues across the world were forced to close their doors, Ballet West’s staff got to work, and has been at the forefront of finding ways to get audiences back in the theater safely ever since.

“It’s really important to Ballet West to continue our mission through the good times and the difficult times,” Goldberg says. “During the pandemic, we took that very seriously. We wanted to do everything that we could to make sure that we had the opportunity to present live performances in a very safe way. We were one of – if not the only – major ballet company in the country that continued to present live performances throughout the season.”

Though COVID made the outlook for dance companies look grim, Ballet West’s recent successes show that there is ample reason to be hopeful. Even after Nutcracker closes on December 26, the company expects high ticket sales for the remainder of the season. According to Goldberg, Ballet West’s season subscription numbers were up by 50% in comparison with last season.

“We’re seeing a lot of renewed and new interest in Ballet West which is really exciting for the company, for the arts landscape here, and for the city of Salt Lake,” Goldberg says.