When Kentucky Ballet Theatre debuted Peter Pan two years ago, it was such a hit with audiences, artistic director Norbe Risco said, that he decided to revive it this year. He even envisions it becoming a staple of the company's programming.
Risco credits part of Peter Pan's success with the familiarity of the story. Whether through author J.M. Barrie's original tale or Disney's film version, everyone knows that Peter Pan is the boy who never grows up and lives in Neverland, a magical place of adventure populated with a tribe of Lost Boys, fairies and pirate foes.
"All the characters you've seen in the novel and the adaptations are there," Risco says of the ballet version, "so that audience can say, 'Wow, this resembles a lot of what I read or saw in the movie.'"
Connecting audiences with material they might already know is an important part of KBT's efforts to make ballet accessible to new audiences, Risco says.
"We always try to do family shows because when I came here, Lexington wasn't a city about ballet. It's more of a sports city," he says. "So the way that we have worked is to create good ballets with titles that people would recognize."
Peter Pan joins the ranks of shows such as Dracula, Pinocchio, Beauty and the Beast and The Night Before Christmas as one of the original shows that Kentucky Ballet can count on to connect with audiences.
Of course, another major draw of Peter Pan is getting to see Peter and the children soar through the air on whisper-thin wires to simulate flying.
After all, as Risco said in 2011 and again this year, "There is no Peter Pan without flying."
Orlando Viamontes and three other dancers — Kelsey Van Tine as Wendy, Kennedy Comer as Michael, and Mary Beth Matocha as John — each take flight with the help of technology by ZFX, a Louisville company that produces flying effects nationwide. A small harness hidden by costuming must be attached and detached from the wire at carefully timed intervals throughout the show.
"You cannot do a pas de deux with a harness on your body," says Risco, who had to find creative ways for the dancers to conceal the moments when they are attached to the flight wire.
"We want it to be a surprise," he says, "to look magical and for the audience to say, 'How did they do that?'"
The show has about 30 dancers and runs one hour, 40 minutes.
To add to the magic, the show features a large projection of special effects that enhance the illusion of flying.
"It transports you to another world," Risco says. "That is the meaning of this show."
IF YOU GO
What: Kentucky Ballet Theatre dance production based on J.M. Barrie's 1902 story
When: 2 and 8 p.m. May 11, 2 p.m. May 12
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.
Tickets: $16-$32 adults, $16 children; available at (859) 252-5245 or (859) 277-2227.
Learn more: Kyballet.com
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer.