Waking Up To Dance

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‘Sleeping Beauty’ will be revived by Footlight Dance Centre

By Dana DuGan

Bryn Downey, a senior at Wood River High School, will play Princess Aurora in Footlight Dance Centre’s “Sleeping Beauty.” Photo credit: Aubrey Stephens and Manon Gaudreau / Footlight Dance Centre

For 36 years, Footlight Dance Centre has brought dance to the youth of the Wood River Valley, culminating in one massive spectacular production every spring. Under the artistic direction of Hilarie Neely, “Sleeping Beauty” will be presented with 190 student dancers, at 7 p.m., Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11, with a third show at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 12, at the Wood River High School Performing Arts Theater at the Community Campus, in Hailey.

Footlight Dance Centre also presented Sleeping Beauty in 2004, with the lead part of Aurora danced by Christina Arpp Price, now part of Footlight’s ballet faculty. Bryn Downey, a graduating Wood River High School senior, will play Aurora in this production. She joined Footlight when she was about 8 years old.

“Sleeping Beauty” is considered one of the most treasured of the 19th-century ballets.

“The dances are so beautiful,” Neely said. “It’s a difficult ballet, with integrated dances for the seniors. I’ve been waiting for the right time to bring it back. I needed strong leads, and the five or six grades beneath that. It’s very ambitious to do with young kids, exciting to see them step up and get there.”

The New York Times wrote in 2016, “No other dance classic has a score so endlessly fragrant and varied. No other work has so rich an idea of what ballet theater can be.”

Based on the Grimm Brothers’ version of Charles Perrault’s 18th-century tale “The Sleeping Beauty,” Tchaikovsky wrote his second balled in a whirl of intensity. Its first performance was at the Mariinsky Theatre, in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1890. The classic fairy tale concerns a princess who is cursed to sleep for 100 years by an evil fairy. She can only be awakened by a handsome prince. In this production, the prince will be played by Lem Reagan, an alumni of Footlight and now a theatre dance student at Boise State University.

“He’s returning to dance the pas de deux with Bryn,” Neely said. “It’s one of the grand ballet classics, a culmination of the entire story. Love triumphs over evil.”

Though a ballet, Footlight’s instructors created new pieces for this version of “Sleeping Beauty” to showcase an integrated performance of modern, jazz, tap and hip-hop.

While Princess Aurora sleeps, 100 years goes by. To show that passage of time, the scenes will go from a swing dance and a 1960s’ jazz piece to 1990s’ early hip-hop, and ending with pop music from the early 2000s.

The Advanced Jazz class will be featured in “Endearment,” with Shea Slanetz jumping in the back. In the front row, sitting, left to right, are Sam White, Laine Whittier, Abbie Heaphy, Isabella Cronin and Britta Heaphy. Standing, left to right, are Bryn Downey, Emelia Morgan, Chloe Henderson and Sophia Schoen. Photo credit: Aubrey Stephens and Manon Gaudreau / Footlight Dance Centre

At that point, when the prince discovers Aurora, he must break through thorns and vines covering the castle in order to wake her up.

“We have a Philip Glass piece for this with lovely atmospheric music that lends to the roses blooming, vines withering, and the gates opening to reveal Sleeping Beauty,” Neely said. “Then there is a tap sequence with trumpets and horns and drums.”

Ballet choreography is by Neely while other new choreography is by instructors Price, Gabi Bryant, Julie Fox, Robyn Fox, Melodie Taylor-Mauldin, Jen Simpson, Leah Taylor, Kassidy Thompson and Anne Winton.

The production will feature graduating seniors Downey, Isabella Cronin, Abbie Heaphy, Emelia Morgan, Taylor Telford, Laine Whittier, Chloe Henderson and Sophia Schoen.

All tickets are available for $8 at Iconoclast Books, Hailey, and at the Community Campus weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and at the door prior to each performance.

For more information contact Hilarie Neely at (208) 578-5462 or email footlightdance@gmail.com.