Coming of age: Utah Regional Ballet tackles 'Peter Pan'

2013-03-21T00:04:00Z 2013-03-27T10:03:31Z Coming of age: Utah Regional Ballet tackles 'Peter Pan'Kari Kenner - Daily Herald Daily Herald
March 21, 2013 12:04 am  • 

Peter Pan is a little mischievous boy who simply won't grow up, and this week, under the direction of Jacqueline Colledge, his story is coming to the stage of the Covey Center for the Arts in a whole new way: ballet.

"Few companies in the United States actually do it as a full-length production," said Colledge, choreographer for "Peter Pan." "I thought it would be entertaining for families and children, yet I wanted it to be sophisticated enough choreographically that the avid ballet fan would appreciate it and not just as a child's production."

Colledge first tackled the challenge of bringing the full ballet of "Peter Pan" to the stage two years ago, as a main season production of Utah Valley University's in residence ballet company, the Utah Regional Ballet. Working with acclaimed Italian composer Silvio Amato, Colledge was able to add Amato's original score as accompaniment to the timeless adventure.

"Music is the biggest thing for me," she said. "Dancers don't say a word in ballet, so you have to have the right music to portray the words. ... I let the music inspire me to follow the script I've written and make connections between movements."

"Peter Pan" was originally written as a play and book by Scottish writer J.M. Barrie, and follows the story of young Peter Pan's adventures in Neverland. From flying to mermaids, Indians to fairies and pirates to a lovable band of lost boys, according to Colledge, Neverland holds an escape for everyone.

"I think it is so important when people come to a ballet or a symphony that they're able to step away from everything else going on," she said. "There are so many other stresses, other joys and other sorrows in the world. I want them to step away for just a moment and go to Neverland and be totally engrossed in it and be uplifted. They can have a rest from the cares of the world around them for just a little bit."

Principal dancer Robert Tyler Burkett will play the eternally youthful Peter Pan in the company's production, and said he loves the chance to step into such a childlike role.

"It's been quite fun getting in touch with my inner child," he said. "It's nice to be able to live in that moment for a full ballet."

According to Burkett, one of the best moments in the production comes at the very beginning, when Peter flies into the bedroom of Wendy Darling and her little brothers.

"Peter Pan flies through the window, comes down, and just kind of stands there," he said. "I can feel the sense of realness to it ... the whole story has just sort of been brought to life at that moment, and I hope that moment can last the whole ballet."

Burkett said ballet is largely about those moments, as well as movement and feelings.

"I think, in a sense, it's a story without words," he said. "It's the same story but we're telling it with our bodies. I think that one may be able to understand the story more through less words and more movements ... they can put their own lines in it and have it be their own story."

Joining Peter in the adventure to Neverland is Rachelle Brooks, who will portray Wendy in the ballet. In her fourth year with the professional company, Brooks was able to understudy for the role the last time "Peter Pan" was performed and said she is excited to work with Burkett to bring the story to life.

At the beginning of the ballet and story, Peter appears in Wendy's room, and teaches her and her brothers how to fly. They then take off on an adventure of a lifetime through all the mystery, magic and adventure of childhood.

"I want [the audience] to feel the magic of it," Brooks said. "I hope that they can feel the magic of it as well as enjoy the goofy, funny parts of it."

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