Posts tagged ‘ballet west’

April 15, 2012

Ballet West’s Springtime Nutcracker

by sofiastrempek//loveDANCEmore//intern

The Nutcracker’s fairies and princes are fabled and famous, but the Little Mermaid is no novice to show business. Ballet West II performed a reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid April 14th and 16th, a first go at a “Family Series Program”. The series, says Artistic Director Adam Sklute, will become a once a year event. Whether or not The Little Mermaid will be a spring tradition, or if the production will change year to year is unclear.

The story, written for children, translates easily onto the stage. The choreography, by Pamela Robinson-Harris and Peggy Dolkas, was largely symmetrical, clearly patterned and theatrical— ideal staging to maintain an audiences attention, especially when your audience is largely 5 years old.

The first act takes place in a shrouded world under the sea. The stage shimmers and seems to shift with wavelike motion due to some technically complicated lighting. Seaweed hangs from above. And best of all, the youngest students of Ballet West appear as schools of fish – goldfish, angel fish and sting rays – shuffling or darting, their smiles too teeth-bearing and cheek-reddening to not be the projection of true excitement.

While the youngest performers might compel some aspiring girls and boys to take up ballet, the “Young Little Mermaid,” performed by Madison Young who is a dancer of maybe 13 years, was inspiring to even 22 year old me. Young danced as youthfully and innocently as the character she was playing required on the Saturday 11 am matinee, but her port de bras and full attention to performance were beyond mature. Young is Swan Lake’s Odette in the making: slowly fluttering her arms as if under water, she moved with a natural, ethereal and knowing ease that belies her youth.

Kimberly Ballard and Young danced a short, synchronized duet and viola! Ballard was now the Little Mermaid, all grown up and ready to explore the world above the sea. Ballard and the rest of Ballet West II’s older dancers are testing their performing chops in this show. The low(er) stakes of a children’s show means that over-the-top performing is almost unattainable. Most of BW II takes the chance and challenge, hamming it up . In the roles of Seafoam, Waves, Toads and Snakes, and Wedding Guests, they perform already challenging choreography with the added test of staying in character.

The two female choreographers may have created visually simplistic choreography, but the simplicity was a sum of parts. The image of a wave that a group of dancers create is actually an amalgamation of many different positions and miniscule movements.

Anne Cullimore-Decker also serves as a clarifying component of the performance, sitting onstage as an omniscient narrator of Andersen’s tale. A grandmotherly woman, Cullimore-Decker is the kind of storyteller you want next to your bed to put you to sleep. She and the dancers enchanted the audience. You could tell, because the tiaras many girls were wearing stayed on the tops of their heads— there were no sleeping audience members, and maybe only one or two crying children. If the remarkably full theater impacts next year’s “Family Series Program” (and I imagine it does) the Little Mermaid or one of her Disney counterparts will be back next spring.

Sofia Strempek is an intern for loveDANCEmore and completes her BFA any second now.

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