ORLANDO, Fla. — While adapting to life in quarantine was a challenge for most, dancers with the Orlando Ballet have spent much of the last six months in their homes with canceled productions and audiences skittish about returning to the theater. Dancers have performed for their spouses, roommates and pets, pirouetting around living rooms while yearning to feel connection to their colleagues.

But on Thursday, the ballet company ventures back to the stage again to perform for an audience after overhauling how the dancers practice and perform. The artistic director, Robert Hill, said they may be the first ballet company in the U.S. to do so. Here's five things you need to know:

1. Back in March, Orlando Ballet was on the verge of performing a big show, featuring guest choreographers. Hill was even set to make his return to the stage with a solo performance. About a week before the production was to take place, everything shut down. Dancers were paid to the end of their contracts, for another six to eight weeks in which they did not work. That alone was fortunate, Hill said, as many other dance and theater companies around the country stopped paying their performers altogether.

2. Dancers returned at the beginning of their new contract in September to many changes, as the company worked with Orlando Health for recommendations: Temperatures were taken at the door and staff members stood before a facial recognition device, scanning their health as well. All dancers had to wear masks for their now socially-distant rehearsals. And last week, all 54 members — dancers and staff — were tested for the coronavirus; all tests came back negative. Moving forward, Hill said that they'll continue testing every two weeks. 

3. Hill had to make some changes to the choreography of Sleeping Beauty as well, taking the liberty to re-create scenes by spacing out dancers and adding more solo performances. In one classic scene, would-be suitors perform for Sleeping Beauty's hand. For this scene, Hill explained, they'll now don gloves and masks.

Hear below what Hill said about adaptations to another iconic scene in the show: "The kiss."




4. University of Central Florida Rosen College Professor of Hospitality Management Kevin Murphy said that it's encouraging to see Orlando Ballet return to the stage with safety precautions in place, though it'll be a slow recovery for that particular industry. 

“I think for a complete recovery of the tourism, hospitality, entertainment industry, you’re looking at 2023 and that’s a long way out," he said. “Sarasota has 10 performing arts companies, they’re all still closed. How many theater companies are going to close? How many entertainers are going to be permanently out of work? It’s hard to say.”

5. The audience, too, will be spaced out for Thursday's performance at the Doctor Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Visit the Dr. Phillips Center website for more information on the show and how to buy tickets.