Years before talk of restoring the Lyric Theatre got serious, Adalhi Aranda Corn would drive past the derelict building during her morning commute. As a former professional dancer and founder and director of Bluegrass Youth Ballet, Corn couldn't help but daydream about its possibilities as a dance venue.
"My daily commute from home to Bluegrass Youth Ballet and back sat me on that light of Elm Street and Third Street one too many times," Corn says. "I couldn't help but dream what the Lyric was like decades ago, when it flourished and when the community came to see shows.
"I kept on wondering what it looked like and how wonderful it would be to have it again, since Lexington really needs venues for performing artists."
This year, Corn's stoplight daydream will be realized when her young dance troupe debuts the first ballet to be mounted in the newly renovated Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center.
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Bluegrass Youth Ballet will present The Nutcracker in One Act this weekend at the historic theater, performing an abridged version of Tchaikovsky's classic holiday play on Friday and Saturday.
Corn's troupe has performed The Nutcracker in One Act to sold-out crowds since 2003, but she sees this year's shift in venue to the Lyric Theatre as an opportunity to expand the ballet's audience base and further hone her dancers' skills.
"We are so happy to reach new audiences that perhaps might not feel comfortable going to other venues," Corn says. And for performers, "Being able to adjust to different stages, audiences and environments makes you a stronger, more versatile dancer."
Another way to lure new audiences to the ballet is by offering fun material that newcomers and children alike can digest easily.
"Our Nutcracker is very child-friendly. It's funny and sweet," Corn says. Recruiting future dancers is an inevitable outgrowth of the production she says.
"Children that see other children perform get inspired by thinking, 'Wow, they are as young as me; I could do that, too,'" she says.
Bluegrass Youth Ballet's one-act version runs only an hour and cuts out large portions of the original ballet, leaving the most colorful, audience- pleasing elements intact.
"We wanted to give our audience a different option for Nutcracker-ing," Corn says.
Corn's version of the ballet omits the lengthy opening party scene in favor of a swifter-paced, but equally magical, opening.
"Our Clara discovers a trunk of treasures in the attic that belongs to her mom," Corn says. "Her mom then tells her the story of how she came to own the nutcracker she found inside of the trunk. Then she falls into her mother's dream and has her own adventure."
Corn hopes to bring this adventure to the Lyric's stage every year.
"The day that the Lyric reopened its doors was a dream come true for me, and even though I grew up more than 3,000 miles away, I feel a sense of pride and belonging," she said.
If You Go
'The Nutcracker in One Act'
What: An abridged, one-hour version of Tchaikovsky's famous holiday ballet starring a young cast of dancers ranging from kindergartners to college students.
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 17, 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 18
Where: The Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third St.
Tickets: $12 students, $15 adults; available by phone at (859) 254-4546.