City Ballet’s ‘Peter Pan’ takes euphoric flight
By Sheila Orysiek
SAN DIEGO–One of the thrills of dance – both to the dancer as well as the observer – is the momentary euphoria of suspension in space and the freedom of apparent flight. City Ballet of San Diego’s production on March 21 of Peter Pan at the Spreckles Theatre is a delight in every sense – including the sensation of flight.
Ballet dancers “flying” about the stage is not new – but quite old. We can see in a number of lithographs of the Romantic Era ballets in the 1800′s, sylphs, peris, wilis and other winged female creatures hovering above the stage. It fulfilled the desire of the Romantic Era to turn a woman into something sublime and unreachable. Peter Pan and his world are the dream stuff of children or better yet, those of us lucky to have never quite lost the child we were.
This ballet in two acts is fraught with staging difficulty; from several complex sets (designed by Catherine I. Irving), carefully crafted lighting (Stephen Judson), bright choreography (Bruce Steivel), and a technical company “Flying by Foy.” This last is surely an art form in its own right. Two dancer/technicians were assigned to “fly” each character. An additional challenge was the complex choreography of several flights happening at once, and on musical cue, which could not be rehearsed in the studio but only on stage which rather restricted the time spent in rehearsal. Notwithstanding all this complexity of changing sets, flying and earthly choreography, it all spun out smoothly like a silken skein.
The highlight was the aerial pas de deux between Wendy (Ariana Samuelsson) and Peter Pan (Gerardo Gil). From earth to air – from air to earth – the transitions were like those we experience in dreams; now we touch earth – now we are free. Gil was an intriguing other world creature but still human enough to make us wish to join him. Janica Smith’s Tinker Bell, while rife with impish naughtiness, was also the imp in each of us. Wendy’s brothers: Patrick Lahey as John, and Megan Nichols as Michael – were mischievously enjoyable.
This entire production was thoroughly enjoyable on every level. The characters are fun, the mood is light, the ballet entirely accessible to even the newest member of the ballet audience. Though there were many children in attendance, it is a delight no matter one’s age.
Other characters: Emily Pardington was loveable as Nana, the Dog; John Nettles as Mr. Crocodile, who was responsible for Capt. Hook’s hook (is this the same John Nettles who is the Company’s music director?) was smilingly fearsome; Capt. Hook (Kevin Engle) was properly evil and comically engaging. Well done to the pirates: Bryce Corson, Geoffrey Gonzalez, Kyle Rivieccio and special mention to fire cracker “Smeed” danced by Daniel Ching.
Moving into fouetté turns without the usual preparation is difficult. That whipped leg can begin the rotation either from the side (a more Russian version) or the front – but one needs to decide ahead of time which it will be.
This ballet is a worthy addition to City Ballet’s growing repertoire and I hope it sees many more happy flights.
The music by Thomas Semanski – synthesized and recorded – was wedded to the story and choreography in every sense.
Orysiek is a freelance dance reviewer and columnist based in San Diego. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org