The Manassas Ballet Theatre’s upcoming March performance, “La Boutique Fantasque & More,” will feature a touching tribute to artistic director Amy Grant Wolfe’s son.
Colin Joseph Wolfe, a 19-year-old Marine, was killed in action in 2006, just seven weeks into his first deployment to Iraq.
Titled simply “Colin,” the ballet will be part of the performance’s second act, and features nine MBT dancers who trace the story of the younger Wolfe’s short life -- from childhood years spent playing Little League baseball, studying ballet and learning his Sabbath prayers, through teen years marked by a heartfelt decision, made on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was just 14, to serve his country and become a Marine.
The performance goes on to depict Colin heading off to boot camp at Parris Island, falling in love, shipping off to Iraq with his Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based infantry unit, the 3rd Battalion/2nd Marines and, finally, what came after the roadside-bomb attack that claimed his life. The heart-wrenching grief suffered by Colin’s family, friends and young girlfriend, Kira Wolf (no relation), as well as the subsequent outpouring of community support.
Lance Cpl. Colin Wolfe was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 11, 2006, the five-year anniversary of 9-11.
Colin first expressed interest in the Marines when a group of them visited Jennie Dean Elementary school when he was a student there, his mother said. Years later, the family traveled to France and visited Normandy, where Colin saw the rows of tomb stones, some topped with Jewish stars of David, and was touched by the sacrifices U.S. forces made to help liberate the Jews. He enlisted in the Marine Corps just after graduating from Osbourn High School in 2005.
The idea to commemorate Colin’s life and military service in dance was not something his mother said she’d thought about until last year, when she was making plans for the Manassas-based professional dance company’s March performance and had asked her longtime friend, Dallas-based composer Mark Menza, to produce original music for the show.
As Menza and Wolfe began collaborating, Menza suggested that the piece be something patriotic, something that would honor the U.S. military and the young men and women who serve our nation. Wolfe said she liked that idea and continued to explore its possibilities. During a long walk on the beach during a family trip to South Carolina, the idea came to her: The patriotic piece should be about Colin.
“I just thought, here we are, nearly seven years later, and this seems like the right thing to do,” Wolfe said. “I thought this is our chance to take something really horrible and … create something of beauty that’s really enduring.”
Still, it was not a piece that Wolfe thought she could create on her own.
Still grieving her son’s death, Wolfe said she initially could not imagine trying to choreograph the dance. But somehow that changed late last year when she began listening to the music Menza created for the show.
The more she listened, she said, the more the ideas for the dance came to her -- first in small pieces, starting with an opening scene that involves young dancers depicting Colin and his younger sister, Cece, as children, and Colin playing trucks with neighborhood friends. From there, ideas for additional scenes and movement combinations – all chronicling Colin’s life and loss -- seemed almost to write themselves, coming to mind so quickly that Wolfe said she could hardly wait to get to the to studio to teach to them to the dancers.
“It choreographed itself so fast that I could feel it to the ends of my fingertips,” she added. “It didn’t really surprise me, but of course it was a very, very wonderful feeling.”
Although Wolfe said she has had to hold herself at arm’s length emotionally, at times, during the hours of rehearsal and practice leading up to the performance, the process of creating a dance in Colin’s memory has been comforting.
“Actually, for me, it really brings Colin back to life,” she added. “Now I have something I can listen to that is Colin. Now there is something that I can watch that is Colin. … It makes it as if he is right here with me.”
In addition to “Colin,” the MBT dancers will perform the headlining ballet La Boutique Fantasque, choreographed by MBT dancer Vadim Slatvitskiy. The ballet is a family-friendly love story set in a whimsical 19th-century French toy store and tells the tale of two can-can dancers who are distraught by the toy-shop owner’s decision to sell them to two separate families, one Russian and one American. When night falls on the toy shop, the dolls come to life and devise a scheme to foil the plan.
The performance will be accompanied live by the Manassas Symphony Orchestra and also includes “Tractus,” a dance choreographed by MBT dancer Will Smith.