Corrections or additions?

This article by Regina Tan was prepared for the October 31, 2001

edition

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

American

Repertory Ballet. "There are no other distractions: it’s a live

theatrical event, a three-dimensional story with lighting and costumes

and dance."

American Repertory Ballet presents "Once Upon A Time," a

family

program that aims to inspire children with the excitement of dance,

at the Patriots Theater of the War Memorial, Trenton, on Sunday,

November

4, at 2 p.m.

Opening the program is a danced staging of Maurice Sendak’s 1964

classic

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

rumpus."

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

Dream,"

is also featured on the double-bill, danced to the well-known

incidental

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

returned

to London to join the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet where he also

choreographed

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

"Where

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

arts."

— Regina Tan

Once Upon a Time , American Repertory Ballet, War

Memorial, Lafayette Street, Trenton, 609-984-8400. $20 to $32.

Sunday,

November 4, 2 p.m.


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