There are plenty of people that believe presentation is everything. That’s not necessarily the case for Ballet Under the Stars, but according to Amber Luallen, cultural arts program administrator for Lexington Parks and Recreation, it certainly doesn’t hurt.
“There’s something about having it in the park on a summer night,” she said about the event’s Woodland Park surroundings in the month of August. “It is a completely unique event not only for Lexington, but for the entire region.”
Back in the summer of 1989, as theatre fans were flocking to Woodland Park to see the popular Shakespeare in the Park event, a group of professional dancers came to Lexington Parks and Recreation and asked if they would be willing to leave the stage up a little longer so they could put on a dance production. While Shakespeare at the Park eventually left, Ballet Under the Stars stuck around thanks to the enthusiasm of a supportive Lexington community.
Ballet Under the Stars has become a fixture on the city’s cultural calendar over three decades, fostering generations of dancers and appreciators while attracting attendees from across Kentucky and surrounding states.
This year’s 30th anniversary event, which takes place Aug. 1 through Aug. 4 once again at Woodland Park, is set to attract about 5,000 people over the four nights and feature familiar elements starlit crowds have grown to love.
“What we try to do is because it is quite often people are new to dance is to try to have a diverse program,” she said. “We hear that people fall in love with it and do go on to see one of the other performances from one of the other ballet companies. I think it’s a nice entry point for people.”
Ballet Under the Stars continues to shine a spotlight on both the talented dancers of Lexington and the artform itself, garnering the type of reaction that leads Luallen to believe this event will be taking place for decades to come.
“The number of people that say this over and over to us. It’s ‘magical,’” she said. “It’s just a magical night... and we’ve really worked hard to curate this to make this a magical, special evening.”
The popular pre-show, this year titled “Princess Vignettes,” will begin at 8 p.m. and feature 130 young ballet dancers ranging in age from eight to 18 from dance studios all over central Kentucky.
Luallen said the addition of this performance has only strengthened the audience’s continued support.
“It really helped build a lifelong audience for us,” she said. “We have people who were dancers in the pre-show who have their own children in the pre-show and it has built a loyal following.”
As a complement to the pre-show that will feature a variety of princesses — including a few you may recognize from Disney movies — there will be a Princess Tea Party for children ages three to eight that will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. prior to the pre-show performances on Aug. 2, 3 and 4. The event will feature snacks and party favors, along with face painting and a princess performer. Tickets are $15 for children (parents and guardians are admitted free) and count as admission to the Ballet Under the Stars pre-show and main show.
The main performance for Ballet Under the Stars will be presented by the Kentucky Ballet Theatre at 9 p.m. The show is under the artistic direction of Norbe Risco and features guest choreography courtesy of notable choreographer and dancer Andrés Arámbula from Mexico. Luallen said in addition to the nightime park setting, what has proven to keep the community coming back is the variety of the performance itself.
Ballet Under the Stars featuring the Kentucky Ballet Theatre
When: Aug. 1-4 (rain date Aug. 5); Pre-show: 8 p.m.; Main performance: 9 p.m.
Where: Woodland Park, 601 E. High St.
Admission: $8, free for children 3 and under
More information: 859-288-2925 or lexingtonky.gov/ballet-under-stars