Flying High in "Peter Pan" at PA Ballet

Pennsylvania Ballet presents Trey McIntyre's Peter Pan for the first time this May. PAB soloist Lauren Fadeley, who'll dance the part of Wendy, is guest-blogging the rehearsal process for Pointe.

 

When we started this season at Pennsylvania Ballet, Trey McIntyre's Peter Pan was definitely one of the most anticipated ballets in the lineup. Everyone knows the story of the boy who doesn't want to grow up and his adventures in Neverland, but none of us knew what to expect from a ballet version of the beloved classic. Would there still be mermaids and the ticking crocodile? Would Captain Hook and Peter still be arch nemeses fighting alongside their crews of pirates and Lost Boys? Would the Darling children still "think happy thoughts" and fly to Neverland?


After starting rehearsals last week, the answer to all these questions is: Yes! And then some. This production is so innovative in the way it tells the story through dance, props and special effects. McIntyre bases his ballet more on James M. Barrie's novel of Peter Pan than the Disney cartoon we grew up with, and the book has many underlying stories that add to the character development.


I have the amazing opportunity to portray Wendy in this full-length production. And that means I get to fly! We began the "flying to Neverland" scene in the studio by watching the video and learning the choreography with music. It was difficult to mark on the ground and be on the right counts when going up in the air takes so much more time. So the company rented out a venue where we can practice flying. We're going to get used to the harnesses we have to wear and work on our spacing and choreography in the air. The guys playing Peter went today and said it was a lot of fun. The Wendys will go tomorrow--I'll be sure to write all about it next time!


In a week and a half of rehearsals we have pretty much learned the whole three-act ballet, so there has been a ton of information floating through my head. I go to sleep reviewing choreography and wake up humming the music. Right now it's all about trying to remember the counts and what comes next, as well as starting to develop the character of a girl slowly becoming a young woman. As a 26-year-old, it's definitely a challenge to pretend to be 10, but it's also quite fun to remember what it was like to be that age. I'm looking forward to the point where it all starts to become second nature, and I can just let go and enjoy!

Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo by Jayme Thornton

It's National Bullying Prevention Month—and Houston Ballet breakout star Harper Watters is exactly the advocate young dancers facing bullying need. Watters is no novice when it comes to slaying on social media, but his Bullying Prevention Month collaboration with Teen Vogue and Instagram is him at his most raw, speaking about his own experiences with bullies, and how his love of dance helped him to overcome adversity. Watters even penned an incredible op-ed for Teen Vogue's website, where he talks candidly about growing up queer. Catch his amazing anti-bullying video here—and, as Watters says, "Stay fabulous, stay flawless, stay flexible, but most importantly, stay fearless."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

Keep reading... Show less