Corrections or additions?
This article by Regina Tan was prepared for the October 31, 2001
of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Storytelling at the Ballet
You mustn’t underestimate the excitement of going to
see dance," says Graham Lustig, the artistic director of the
Repertory Ballet. "There are no other distractions: it’s a live
theatrical event, a three-dimensional story with lighting and costumes
American Repertory Ballet presents "Once Upon A Time," a
program that aims to inspire children with the excitement of dance,
at the Patriots Theater of the War Memorial, Trenton, on Sunday,
4, at 2 p.m.
Opening the program is a danced staging of Maurice Sendak’s 1964
children’s tale, "Where the Wild Things Are." The familiar
illustrated story recounts Max’s fantastical journey to a place where
towering Wild Things and starlit skies prevail. Commissioned in 1996
from Septime Webre, then ARB’s artistic director, the piece resonates
with the devilish undertones of Max’s decree for a "wild
The commissioned score is by Randall Woolf and all the settings are
from Sendak’s classic illustrations.
Max, his mother, and a roomful of uncles and aunties
all enter the stage picture, before Max sails away alone on his little
sailing ship to "where the Wild Things are." A family audience
pleaser, the production features 10-foot-high "Wild Thing"
puppets inhabited by real dancers.
Graham Lustig’s own family ballet, "A Midsummer Night’s
is also featured on the double-bill, danced to the well-known
music by Felix Mendelssohn. Although the dance closely follows the
plot of Shakespeare’s comedy "A Midsummer Night’s Dream,"
Lustig adds his own storybook twist by inserting a child narrator
into the story. In this version, the audience watches the unfolding
of the child’s dream of Titania’s and Oberon’s spirit kingdom and
of the mismatching of the two sets of human lovers. The story ends
on a happy note when all the quarrellsome lovers are finally united.
"Dance is a language of symbols and of images," says Lustig.
"You don’t even have to be able to read to understand ballet."
Lustig joined ARB as artistic director in 1999. Born and raised in
England, Lustig attended the Royal Ballet School and began his career
as a principal dancer with the Dutch National Ballet. In 1980 he
to London to join the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet where he also
for the company.
The universality of the dance and its ability to communicate across
language barriers and cultural difference demonstrate the potency
of dance as an art form, he says.
Seeing children perform or appearing as characters on stage is another
attraction of ballet for young audiences. Children’s roles in
the Wild Things Are" and "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" gives
children the chance to visualize themselves as storytellers. This,
Lustig says, is a way to "educate them about life and the
— Regina Tan
Memorial, Lafayette Street, Trenton, 609-984-8400. $20 to $32.
November 4, 2 p.m.
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