Pictured: Ensemble of Kansas City Ballet’s PETER PAN. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
By Bec Pennington
Many years ago, when I was very little, my parents took me to see the ballet for the first time on a cold winter evening in Kansas City. The couple next to us were dismayed to realize they would be seated beside a tiny child on their special night out, but the magic of the theatre soon quelled their concern. I was spellbound by the music, the impossible grace of dancers on the tips of their toes, the emotion of the story. Though I had to sit on my knees to see the stage, I was on the edge of my seat until the curtain dropped again.
I admit I was a bit of an odd one; most four-year-olds are not ready for the ballet and most ballets are not for four-year-olds, but Kansas City Ballet’s Peter Pan is a standout of an exception. Artistic Director Devon Carney has choreographed with the innocence and awe of children in mind, incorporating inspiring talent of all ages and delighting from beginning to end. His staging has winks at the inspiration of the animated film most families are familiar with, and the story follows the traditional path, but the performance still has a distinctly fresh feeling.
Technically speaking, KCB is taking its strides toward Carney’s goal of a world-class company. Carmon DeLeone’s score is memorable and creatively humorous, and the Kansas City Symphony tackles it with the professional polish one has come to expect from them. The sets are bright and grand in size, fully embracing the whimsey, even provoking audible gasps from the audience in Act 2. Costumes, usually something of a disappointment to this reviewer, for the most part are quite fitting for the production, utilizing cheerful cartoon colors to good effect. It would have been nice to see some more imagination applied to Tinkerbell and her fairies, though the simple costumes of Tiger Lily and her corps are thoughtfully far removed from anything culturally insensitive.
For the dancing itself, Tempe Ostergren’s Wendy is a standout for tight footwork and soft port de bras, Amaya Rodriguez’s Tiger Lily stuns with amazing turns and extensions for miles, and the corps gets to really play with some fun choreography well matched to their abilities. Peter, danced by Dillon Malinski, is accomplished and energetic. Angelin Carrant just nearly steals the show with a certain, ahem, reptilian character. I cannot miss noting that the students in this production are proving the merits of the training at KCB’s school; their presence and strength of technique belong on this stage.
Captivating, laugh-out-loud funny, technically sharp, and sweetly endearing, Peter Pan is a most excellent introduction for young ones to the exquisite art, and a lovely night of entertainment for us all. Peter and the children really fly, pixie dust sparkles, the cannon booms. Ballet is magic again.
PETER PAN runs through May 20th. For more information visit kcballet.org.