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Ballet's funny business.

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

The words ``comic'' and ``ballet'' don't often appear together in the same sentence. Daniel Pelzig figures that's a problem that needs fixing.

``Most people think dancers don't have any sense of humor, but they do,'' said Pelzig, a free-lance choreographer who has worked for the Santa Fe Opera and the Boston Ballet.

``If you grew up in the dance world, you know that dancers are made to present themselves on the stage as serious human beings. But behind the scenes they are smart and really funny.''

So when Pelzig, who then worked as resident choreographer for the Boston Ballet, was asked to create a ballet in his first season with the company, he wanted right off to do something funny.

"I knew there weren't many comic ballets on the stage, and I wanted to make one," he said.

The Boston Ballet was then doing an evening of Hans Christian Anderson stories, and Pelzig picked the story of a princess who passes a royal test of sensitivity by detecting a pea under many mattresses on her bed.

But in Pelzig's zany telling of the classic tale, which premiered in 1995, the princess is flat-footed, the queen shops through three baskets of peas to find the right specimen and even the mattresses come to life, dancing around the stage and parodying ``Swan Lake'' in the process.

Pelzig has choreographed numerous operas, including Chicago Lyric Opera's "Regina," New York City Opera's "Don Giovanni," Seattle Opera's "Salome," Houston Grand Opera's "Samson and Delilah," Los Angeles Opera's "Aida" and "Death in Venice" for Chicago Opera Theatre.

He's also worked in musical theater, both on and off Broadway.

"His view of things incorporates a wonderful outsider mentality," said Riley Grannan, Eugene Ballet's managing director. ``He is conversant with musical theater. He has done a bunch of operas.

`This is the guy you want doing a production like `Princess and the Pea.' You could get some overly serious classical choreographer who could ruin the thing, take the wackiness out of it.''

The Boston Phoenix loved the Boston production of "Princess and the Pea."

"The real coup here," their reviewer wrote, ``is the mating of Pelzig's campy, nudge-wink choreography with that last bastion of the British musical empire (not to mention National Football League highlight films), Gustav Holst.''

Also on the program is "Swing Kings," Eugene Ballet artistic director and choreographer Toni Pimble's review of American dance crazes, including the Lindy hop, Charleston and jitterbug.

Pelzig has come West twice to work on "Princess and the Pea." He will be back in 2007-08, when the Eugene Ballet will produce his ``Nine Lives: Songs of Lyle Lovett,'' which premiered in Boston in 1999.

The Lovett ballet is ``nonnarrative but highly dramatic,'' Pelzig said. Envision line-dancing ballerinas in cowboy hats, according to the reviews.

Pelzig has never met the country singer, but he heard that Lovett came to the ballet in Boston and enjoyed it.

Bob Keefer can be reached at 338-2325 or bkeefer@guardnet .com.


Princess and the Pea

What: Eugene Ballet, with choreographer Daniel Pelzig, sets the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale to music by Gustav Holst; also "Swing Kings," a review of American dance crazes by Toni Pimble

Where: Hult Center's Silva Concert Hall, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street

When: 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $12 to $38, through the Hult box office, 682-5000


Diego Castro and Aline Schurger dance the royal couple-to-be in "Princess and the Pea."
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Title Annotation:Entertainment; Eugene Ballet takes a leap on the lighter side with the comical ``Princess and the Pea''
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 23, 2006
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