Central Kentucky audiences have two opportunities to see professional performances of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker ballet this weekend, with Kentucky Ballet Theatre performing at the Lexington Opera House and the Lexington Ballet performing at the EKU Center for the Arts.
While Nutcracker is a time-honored rite of passage for dancers, it is also a longstanding holiday tradition for audiences as well.
Just take Barbara and Paul Mostert, for instance. The couple haven’t missed a performance of The Nutcracker since they helped to found Kentucky Ballet Theatre in 1998.
Barbara had danced in college in Mississippi, and the pair were acting in various dance communities over the years, including ballroom dancing. But it was a trip to St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad) in 1962 that introduced Paul, a mathematician, to the splendor of ballet.
“I attended the Bolshoi Ballet there and I saw the male dancers who were just tremendous leapers and such wonderful dancers,” says Paul. “It really made me feel a whole lot different about ballet.”
While neither danced professionally, the couple have shared a many memories of productions as dance enthusiasts and on a few occasions, appeared onstage themselves.
“We played the grandparents in The Nutcracker in the first couple of years after they (KBT) formed,” says Barbara. “We even had a little solo.”
Beverly Durborow is another Nutcracker enthusiast who encountered the ballet in different capacities throughout her life, as a child attending shows in Alabama, as the mother of a dancer, and later, as a performer herself.
Her first memory of the Nutcracker is listening to an album of her mother’s.
“I remember listening to the music and looking at the album cover,” says Durborow. “The music was just so captivating.”
While she wasn’t involved in dance herself, she loved getting to see The Nutcracker for the first time as a child in Huntsville, Ala.
In the 1990s, Durborow got involved in figure skating performances of The Nutcracker.
“My kids were mice and my husband and I were in the party scene,” says Durborow, who directed The Nutcracker on Ice for the Thoroughbred Figure Skating Club last weekend.
When her own daughter began training at the Lexington Ballet, Durborow got to see first-hand the work and dedication that goes on behind the scenes to create the magic of The Nutcracker.
After her daughter went to college, eventually becoming an engineer for NASA, Durborow began taking adult ballet classes at the Lexington Ballet, and appeared as Mrs. Stahlbaum for almost a decade.
Now, she and her family enjoy the ballet as spectators, and have even traveled to New York and other cities to see different versions of the show.
“It’s been just a great tradition, and we’ve enjoyed going as a family,” Durborow says. “You hear the music and you think of all the magic and fantasy of Christmas.”
One thing that keeps families like the Mosterts and the Durborows coming back to see The Nutcracker is how both producing ballet companies make changes to the ballet each year.
“They kind of change things up a little bit here and there so you never know exactly what’s going to happen, although the structure is the same,” Paul says.
“It’s different every year,” Durborow says. “I’m just always amazed at how they coordinate it all to have such a beautiful product at the end.”
“The Lexington Ballet is right up there with all the big city ballets,” Durborow says. “It’s top notch.”
The Mosterts have similar words of praise for Kentucky Ballet Theatre, particularly for KBT’s principal male dancer.
“Jorge Barani is the best male dancers I’ve seen since the Bolshoi,” Paul says. “Lexington doesn’t know what it’s missing when they don’t see him dancing.”
If You Go
The Nutcracker, by Kentucky Ballet Theatre
When: 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 12; 2 p.m. Dec. 13, 19 and 20
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.
The Nutcracker, by the Lexington Ballet
When: 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 12
Where: EKU Center for the Arts, 1 Hall Dr., Richmond.