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Premieres and Magical Dolls

Manassas Ballet presents ‘La Boutique Fantasque & More’

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Copy of Page 19 Lifestyles Ballet Mazurka dolls.jpg

From “La Boutique Fantasque”, dancers Alice DeNardi, Abigail Gorrell, Debora Greer and Hallie Wilde perform as Mazurka dolls during a preview performance for a Manassas Lifelong Learning Institute class at the Hylton’s Jacquemin Family Foundation Hall.

With breathtaking and sensual visions, magic, comedy and drama, Manassas Ballet Theatre will present “La Boutique Fantasque & More” at the Hylton Performing Arts Center this weekend.  

Act I of this unique production features two premieres of original choreography. Act II is the enchanting “La Boutique” story from the late 1800s and early 1900s of a toymaker and the exquisite dolls that come to life. 

Each performance is supported by the live music of the Manassas Ballet Theatre Orchestra.

In the first premiere, “Memories & Remembrance,” Debora Greer’s choreography was inspired by a poem by 20th century Brazilian poet and diplomat João Cabral de Melo Neto, titled “Os Três Mal-Amados.”

Greer believes the verses in Portuguese might lose a bit of the passion in translation to “The Ill-loved Ones” and requests that the audience let her choreography interpret the poetry. 

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Choreographer and assistant ballet master Ahmed Nabil plays Shakespeare’s Othello during his premiere, with his wife, Alice De Nardi, portraying Desdemona.

During a special performance Feb. 24 for the Manassas Lifelong Learning Institute, a member of the audience asked about the creation of the dances. Greer spotlighted the collaborative nature she uses by having the dancers give their input into steps and moves, ensuring their ownership of the work.

The titles and composers of the three musical selections chosen by Greer may not be recalled by the listener, but the powerful imagery the compositions have invoked when used in iconic films and programs will fuel intense feelings as the three couples perform and interact.  

Antonin Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons: Summer,” Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prélude” and Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” each set the atmosphere for portraying different moments and stresses in love’s relationships. Three couples intricately weave the poetry of the music with acrobatic lifts and seamless maneuvers.  

The second premiere in Act I, “Shakespeare’s Déjà Vu,” was created and choreographed by assistant ballet master Ahmed Nabil, after Christopher Hite and the Manassas Ballet Theatre Orchestra chose the piece they wanted to perform – Georges Bizet’s “Symphony in G.”  Matching the four unique movements of the piece with Nabil’s idea to have Shakespeare appear as a character to reflect and revisit five of his notable plays’ main characters is an engaging and intriguing concept. 

Nabil applied his expertise and chose death highlights – yes, a contrast with passion. As the intricate and challenging choreography keeps the observer alert, Shakespeare is ruminating on how the tragedies result from gossip and lust for power. 

Nabil’s expertise for using recurring motifs and themes is enhanced by intense pairings – Othello and Desdemona, Romeo and Juliet and Scottish Macbeth with the alluring Lady Macbeth – along with Hamlet’s losses in soliloquy. Three witches mesmerizing Macbeth morph into the Shrew’s taunting sisters, and the finale’s ensemble offers the audience another view of human interaction and character flaws.

Act II, “La Boutique Fantasque,” is a one-act ballet about magical dolls in a toy shop set to a musical score by Ottorino Respighi based on piano pieces composed by Giachino Rossini, well-known for his operas. 

Ballet master Vadim Slavitsky choreographed this comical piece that brings in a cultural buffet of dancing dolls and families of patrons. Colorfully costumed dolls dance the can-can, tarantella, mazurka and Cossack, delighting British, American and Russian families who visit the store as potential customers and get caught up in the dancing, too.

Two of the dolls have a love interest that is woven into the setting after the shopkeeper closes for the night. The stage and costumes are a flourish of bold colors, antics and a whirlwind of dances. The skill of the Manassas Ballet Academy students uplifted their inclusion in this challenging ballet, and Slavitsky is pleased to recognize their experience and talent.


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