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Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2005

Burklyn Youth Ballet - 'Beauty and the Beast'

by Kate Snedeker

August 14, 2005 -- Debating Hall, Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, Scotland

The more than decade-long presence of the Burklyn Youth Ballet at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe attests to the continuing appeal of the colorful and creative ballets. This year's Burklyn production, Robert Royce's "Beauty and the Beast" is no exception. With it's hour-long run time, festive costumes, solid dancing and energetic pace, the ballet is a perfect match for Fringe-going children of all ages.

In adapting the classic fairy tale for this youthful cast, Royce has blended the traditional storyline with a charming assortment of furry and feathered characters. Instead of Disney's dancing cutlery, Burklyn's "Beauty and the Beast" features a zoological menagerie including a cat, rabbit, birds and even three blind mice. Set to a score by Jules Massinet, the ballet moves deftly through the story uninhibited by excessive plot twists or scenery.

This year's cast includes several dancers with professional experience, among them the striking, raven-haired Jessica Fry as Beauty. Fry's dancing had a comforting solidity, her Beauty tender yet free-spirited. Fellow Ballet Theatre of Maryland dancer Ramon Gaitan, brought in to dance the challenging role of the Beast, impressed with his partnering skills and controlled but powerful dancing. Alhough the Beast-mask must have hampered his vision, there was nary a bobble in Gaitan's partnering of Fry or in his solos.

The elegance of Fry and Gaitan's final pas de deux should provide an example for the less experienced members of the cast, including Holly Kwitkowski and Peter DeLameter. Kwitkowski and DeLameter, as the birds, were nice individually but struggled in their pas de deux with noticeable bobbles in the supported pirouettes.

As the purr-fectly delightful Cat, Jennifer Reynolds was one of the stars of the show. Charming in her feline affectations, she provided a comforting back to stroke for both Beauty and Beauty's father. But it was the trio of dark-spectecled blind mice -- Anna Bernstein, Lindsay Holeman and Allegra Pennisi -- who provided humor that tied this whole wonderful production together.

As with all Burklyn ballets, the simple sets were complimented by vibrant, unique costumes. Created by Angela Whitehill & Patricia Halajian, the rich-hued dresses, mice tuxes and detailed Beast head, bring true fairy tale magic to the production (though the unflattering tutu in the cat costume could probably be best left back in Vermont).

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