Stage & Dance

‘Nutcracker on Ice:’ Same story, different surface

Ana Despa plays young Clara in the Thoroughbred Figure Skating Club’s 2015 production of “The Nutcracker on Ice.” The figure-skating version of the classic holiday story is performed three times this weekend at the Lexington Ice Center.
Ana Despa plays young Clara in the Thoroughbred Figure Skating Club’s 2015 production of “The Nutcracker on Ice.” The figure-skating version of the classic holiday story is performed three times this weekend at the Lexington Ice Center. Herald-Leader

As a little girl, Caroline Nickerson’s dreams never included becoming the Sugar Plum Fairy in a production of the holiday ballet classic, The Nutcracker.

She was too busy ice skating, rising through the ranks and participating in competitions.

Now, thanks to ice skating, she will perform the coveted role, in skates, not pointe shoes.

“It’s a unique opportunity,” says Nickerson, 20, a University of Kentucky junior majoring in mechanical engineering and kinesiology. “It’s a classic story, but it’s usually done as a ballet.

“We have a lot of great skaters and learn-to-skate skaters. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

It is the second consecutive presentation of The Nutcracker on Ice by the Thoroughbred Figure Skating Club, reviving a tradition that started in the mid-1990s. It was performed in 2003, too.

The club is part of U.S. Figure Skating, the national governing body of the sport of figure skating, and members participate in competitions and annual spring and fall productions. Director Beverly Durborow says that The Nutcracker on Ice has taken the place of a fall show, noting figure skating clubs in cities such as Louisville also present a Nutcracker.

“This takes everyone in the club, putting in everything they’ve got,” says Durborow, who has worked on the Lexington Ballet’s production in the past both as the parent of a dancer and as an adult performer.

“We’re pretty true to the ballet,” Durborow says. “We added a narration in the program, because it’s important to me that people understand the story and what’s going on.”

The music is the familiar score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. And two Lexington Ballet dancers helped choreograph a few scenes.

“The dance is different for ice,” Durborow says. “There are things you can do on ice you can’t do in ballet, and vice versa.”

The show, she says, is somewhat streamlined, as the length of some of the dances in Nutcracker exceed the usual ice performance.

“In figure skating, four-and-a-half minutes is a long program for men,” Durborow says. She adds that the timing — two 40-minute acts with a 15-minute intermission — make the production “very kid friendly. It moves quickly, and there are a lot of children.”

Like the Nutcracker ballet, the skating version offers a challenge for ice skaters, Nickerson said.

“I get a great solo, I’m in a lot of scenes, and I get to work with Jeff Buchanan,” she says, referring to a longtime club member who skates the role of the Cavalier. “I’ve only done singles skating on my own, so it is great to get to do pairs.”

Nickerson, who grew up in North Carolina and Ohio, and whose family now resides in Wisconsin, says when she visited UK, one of the first things she and her mother looked for was the ice rink, and she eventually became connected with the figure skating club.

“It is a lot of fun,” says Nickerson, who has been skating since she was 4. “Obviously I am studying other things, but I wanted to keep skating as part of my life.”

And that is what a number of the people in the club are doing, and like ballet, they are gaining new adherents through the kids in the show.

“The kids are loving it,” Durborow says. “The are listening, interpreting and telling the story.”

Rich Copley: 859-231-3217, @LexGoKY

If You Go

‘Nutcracker on Ice’

What: Figure-skating version of the classic holiday story presented by the Thoroughbred Figure Skating Club

When: 6 p.m. Dec. 4, 2 and 5 p.m. Dec. 5, 4 p.m. Dec. 6.

Where: Lexington Ice Center, 560 Eureka Springs Dr.

Tickets: $10-$20.

Online: Tfscskating.org

Note: This story was updated Friday morning to correct showtimes.

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