Dancers and families reunite for ‘The Nutcracker’

Published Jan 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm (Updated Jan 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm)

With 20 performances throughout December, “The Nutcracker” plays a starring role in holiday traditions for PBT’s company dancers and many of their family members as well.

From father/daughter cast mates to a mother’s visit from overseas, many dancers will look out into the audience this season for family members who have gone the extra mile to watch them perform.

For two PBT performers, they’ll even be watching each other from the wings. On the cast list this year are both PBT principal dancer Nurlan Abougaliev and his 10-year-old daughter Diana Abougalieva, one of the PBT School students featured in the production.

While Abougaliev performs roles ranging from Drosselmeyer to the Sugarplum Cavalier, his daughter will take the stage as one of the sheep in the Act II Shepherdess scene. This season marks their third as fellow cast mates.

“She’s really excited; her favorite production is ‘The Nutcracker,’” Abougaliev said, adding that he sometimes helps Diana practice her role at home after rehearsals. “Even if I’m dancing (in the same show), I’m watching her from backstage. It’s a pretty awesome feeling when you’re on stage with your daughter.”

Like her father, Diana also watches Abougaliev’s scenes from backstage. “I like performing with the company dancers, because I know most of them,” she said. “(‘The Nutcracker’) is my favorite, because I perform in it too. It’s also one of my favorite ballet stories ever.”

Throughout “The Nutcracker” run in December, dancers’ families will travel to Pittsburgh from states all over the country including, Arizona, Florida, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and Indiana.

Soloist Amanda Cochrane’s family for one is traveling from Spokane, Wash., to see nine different performances. Her mother, father, two sisters and brother-in-law will be making the trip, and for her grandfather, this year’s production will mark his first time watching her dance professionally.

“Christmas time is a huge family time for my family…My mom absolutely loves ‘The Nutcracker.’ They love seeing all the different shows, because everyone brings something different – all of the different casts,” Cochrane said. “Every show’s special, but it’s extra special when my family is in town.”

For Yoshiaki Nakano’s mother, Mitsuko Nakano, her visit to Pittsburgh entails a 20-hour travel day from Osaka, Japan. Although Nakano has performed countless roles throughout his years training and dancing professionally in the United States, this will be his mother’s first time seeing him perform in “The Nutcracker” as well as on the Benedum Center stage.

“She’s a ballet teacher, so she likes to watch the whole thing...She wants to see my Cavalier, it’s nice to watch it live,” said Nakano, who began training with his mother at the age of 4 and frequently sends her DVDs so she can experience his performances from Japan.

Tickets for The Nutcracker, which runs though Dec. 30 at the Benedum Center, start at $25.75, and are available by calling 412-456-6666 or visiting The Box Office at Theater Square, and at

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