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Hansel and Gretel 

New World Ballet. Van Duzer Theater.

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Kids' dance productions are about that: kids dancing. Artistic director Victor Temple's version of the siblings sent to the woods fairytale gave a lot of kids a lot of chances to dance up a storm. His choreography, appropriate to the abilities of the children, gave them their proper placement in the oeuvre of classical ballet. A quartet of birds charmingly performed birdlike changements and ├ęchapp├ęs, although we missed seeing them eat the breadcrumbs key to the plot. A lively band of Bunnies playfully turned tail for a fluffy wiggle. Butterflies, Flutterbies, Flowers, Sweets and Courtiers were enchantingly showcased. Experienced dancers, like Rabbit Jolie Hossack, had challenging parts, leading the frolicking bunnies or delighting with a comedic solo. Four Sleep Fairies en pointe, Dakota Goodman, Coehlo Hill, Jada Owens and Maura Harris, gracefully executed the demanding vocabulary. The trio of minions -- Lauren Alexander, Faith Robb and Ravyn Smith -- were especially mature performers.

Big community productions require big participation from parents and community members, and they stepped up, providing labor, technical staffing and fundraising. Everyone had fun, so we had fun too.

But reviewing kids' performance differs from viewing the overall production. Ballet is often full of such brouhaha that it makes one expect flawlessness. The pretentious program was quite large, printed on expensive paper. Money could have been better spent on music. Although there would never be enough funding for a full orchestra, a classical ballet performed in a theater like Van Duzer cries out for live musicians. A small ensemble would do.

Six professional guest artists certainly upped the ante. Except for the witch (the exquisite Helen Daigle), whose slippery dancing made me cheer aloud, those parts could have been danced by local technicians, saving a bundle. Some years ago Humboldt County studios were engaged in Ballet Wars; today many dancers moonlight from their home bases to work for other choreographers.

The other guests were top-notch performers, but their parts were not that demanding. Wonderfully theatrical as Hansel and Gretel, David Gould and Sarah Comstock didn't do much dancing. The requisite pas-de-duex, deftly performed by Mikelle Bruzia and Tom Fillebrown, was rote and could have been handled by local ballet dancers, as Shelby Vollmers proved in her role as The Woods Maiden.

An adorable twist, Temple's maiden was nearsighted and could not see that her prince, Kevin Atkinson, was a troll. He kept taking off her glasses for fear of being discovered. My son and I laughed at these antics, but we were in the dark, too, until we read the program synopsis when the lights came up. The troll did not look like a troll at all, giving him no transformation when he became a prince. Argh! The story should be clear in the characters and their dancing on stage, not dependent on the page.

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  • New World Ballet. Van Duzer Theater.

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About The Author

Stephanie Silvia

Bio:
Stephanie Silva directed her own modern dance company in New York City and is a student of American poet Diane di Prima. She teaches movement and writing.

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