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Beauty and the Beast.

Love between humans and otherworldly creatures has a long history in legend, mythology, and ballet. BalletMet Columbus revived that tradition in April with a new version of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. In a lavish, fanciful production, the company also restored to the contemporary stage a considerable amount of the enchantment and beauty traditionally associated with nineteenth-century story ballets.

David Nixon, artistic director since 1995, chose this particular tale because he wanted something familiar to develop into a family entertainment along the lines of The Nutcracker. Nixon created both the choreography and the concept, fleshing out the basic story line with added characters well within the classical tradition, like La Bonne Fee (Sonia Welker) and La Fee Miserable (Rebecca Rodriguez). Plot twists got a tad cumbersome, but adept staging made them reasonably easy to follow.

Moreover, production elements created by scenic designer Carla Risch Chaffin and costume designer Linda Pisano dressed the ballet in such charming and inventive ways that every path proved worth traveling for the visual impact alone. The stage brimmed with goblins, flying fairies, dancing pillows, a bewitched fountain, and the sublime giant Peacock (Chris Alloways-Ramsey). One negative element was a bothersome scrim present throughout.

Nixon's choreography was strong on characterization. Beauty and her family were portrayed with droll human insight. And the duality of the Beast's personality assumed form in a dramatic pas de trois for Beauty, the Beast, and the Prince.

The first of two casts performed with confidence on opening night. As Beauty, delicate Anne Adair Wilkins projected kindness, her grace highlighted by superb port de bras. Jason Hartley's Beast was athletic and virtuosic; unfortunately, poor lighting undermined a full appreciation. Jim Orrante illustrated the noble demeanor of the Prince and partnered Beauty with aplomb. Erik Cederlund created an amusing, amiable M. Despaire, Beauty's father, and the two sisters, Catherine Yoshimura and Lisa Vice, added comic spice.

As with other ballets created without a score, Beauty and the Beast suffered from lack of suitable music. Nixon assembled selections by (mostly) French romantics, impressionists, and moderns, but they too often left the dancing without a strong emotional base. Moreover, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, conducted ably by Gary Sheldon, had little rehearsal time for this smorgasbord of unrelated items; on opening night, the playing sounded like it.
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Title Annotation:Ohio Theatre, Columbus, Ohio
Author:Zuck, Barbara
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Aug 1, 1997
Previous Article:Ballet Gulbenkian, Joyce Theater, April 22-27, 1997.
Next Article:Eugene Ballet Company, Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene, Oregon, April 11-12, 1997.

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