For the first time in 33 years, Abilene’s holiday celebrations will be missing a classic: The Nutcracker Ballet. The Abilene Ballet Theatre is postponing this annual performance until March, 2021 due to coronavirus concerns. The Abilene dancers first performed the show at the Historic Paramount Theatre in 1987. That year it was also performed in Sweetwater, said Nancy Gore, owner and operator of Abilene Ballet Theatre.
“We took a cast of 80 dancers to the theatre in Sweetwater which was rather basic – one restroom only in the dressing room area,” Gore said. “During the snow scene for that performance my brother and a member of our board climbed above the stage with buckets of snowflakes to scatter during the scene to mimic snow.”
Because of coronavirus concerns for keeping dancers and guests safe, the show will be postponed. The ballet hopes to reschedule for March 5-7, 2021.
The Nutcracker tells the story of a girl named Clara and her toy nutcracker which comes to life on Christmas Eve. The nutcracker battles an evil toy mouse and then takes Clara on a magical adventure into a land of snow and fairies. Performances of the ballet worldwide still feature the original music composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote in the 1890’s, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Though the plot and music remained the same, costumes, dancers and choreography morphed and evolved as new artists and ballet students took to the stage. These photos and the memories of the dancers keep the tradition alive this holiday season.
Lily Etter, Junior at Abilene High School, Dancer at Abilene Ballet Theatre in Senior 2
Roles: Baby in party scene at 7 weeks old, Angel, Mouse
“I was always really excited about it. I grew up going to the studio, it’s like my second home. It’s taught me to work hard and set goals. Through the years, kids always have an idea of what they want to be the next year. We always try to put something new and different in there to have fun with it – but it’s a tradition, everyone gets in the Christmas spirit.”
Erin Seabourne, Executive Vice President at Hendrick Home for Children, volunteer stage manager for Abilene Ballet Theatre
Roles: Angel, Mouse, Sugar Plum Fairy, Dewdrop Fairy, Snow Queen, Clara
“I performed in almost 20 Nutcrackers. I just do it for fun, I love it. For me, it’s a holiday tradition and it’s a family tradition. A lot of our family events used to center around the Nutcracker. It’s a holiday tradition that can be counted on every year that consistently delivers charm and warmth and beauty, that never disappoints.
“There’s been costume changes, little parts added here and there. The butterfly was added in the waltz of the flowers. Choreography changes a little bit always, there’s artistic freedom in that, but it’s at least similar every year.
“Dance for me has created a discipline for me and an appreciation for the arts. Ballet is not just a sport. You have to look really good doing it while you’re completing an athletic endeavor. It has to be beautiful.
“It’s created a second family for me. You spend a lot of time and preparation and rehearsal with those people. From the guest artists, many of them have come since I was young so we’ve grown up together in a lot of ways. The Paramount crew, we’ve also grown up together.”
Alexander Maryianowski, Dancer for Paris Opera Ballet, Trained at Abilene Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, and Houston Ballet
Roles: Mouse, Fritz (Clara’s brother), Clown, Chinese Soloist, Cavalier for Waltz of the Flowers, Nutcracker Prince
“I’ve done the Nutcracker for 15 years. It’s such a staple. So many people get their first exposure to ballet at the Nutcracker. It’s really a chance for the kids to have their first experience on stage. In Abilene, they really trust the kids with big roles. Even from a young age, I got to do really cool roles. It was very important for pushing me to ballet as a n actual career.
“What pulls people in is the relationship to the holiday season. Like watching the same Christmas movies every year. It’s very rare for ballet to become mainstream, but the Nutcracker has. You could turn on your TV and hear the music in a Toyota commercial.
“What’s amazing about the Nutcracker is the amount of music in such a short amount of time, and it has such a variety to it. When you have beautiful music, it’s easier for people to stay and watch the ballet. They see the artists, the dancers, enjoying themselves and the music.”
By Haley Laurence