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Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Burklyn Youth Ballet - 'Aladdin'

by Kate Snedeker

August 12, 2006 -- Edinburgh, Scotland

It wouldn't be the Edinburgh Fringe without the Burklyn Youth Ballet, and this summer the company has treated Edinburgh audiences to another colorful spectacle in Robert Royce's "Aladdin".  To create an hour long ballet which appeals to a wide ranging audience,,can be learned by young dancers in a few short weeks, and can be easily transported across the Atlantic must be an immense challenge, but Royce, along with ballet master Arthur Leeth, costume designer Angela Whitehill and lighting designer Jessica C. Flores have done another masterful job. 

For this production, the long tangled tale of Aladdin and his famous lamp has been condensed into a delightful hour.  The story is typical ballet fare - boy loves princess, princess loves boy, but evil sorceress keeps them apart.  Boy finds magic lamp, kind Genie grants boy's wishes, boy gets princess and all live happily ever after. Except of course, the evil sorceress. 

The company is formed of teenaged dancers who are accepted into Burklyn Ballet Theatre's summer program, supplemented by a few young professional dancers in the lead roles.  This summer Sarah Tallman from Ballet Nouveau Colorado (Princess), Joey Steinauer and Emily Conelly from Tuscon Ballet (evil sorceress) took on the central roles, with London Laban Centre student David Beer dance-acting as the King. Leeth, a former Boston Ballet dancer returned to the stage for a quick turn as the Genie, gave the audience a quick glimpse at his poise and posture.

A slinkily evil sorceress, Conelly appeared the most accomplished, while the petite, blond Tallman was a storybook princess bestowed with sparkling clarity in her dancing.  Steinauer coped well with the small stage (there's a large drop at the front which must be a bit unnerving), throwing in a pair of twisting jetes at the end  - sort of barrel turns without the menage in the finale. Most impressive to my eye were the brief sections of partnering between Tallman and Steinauer. In past years there have been some nervous moments, but here it came off very smoothly.  The choreography doesn't give Steinauer much of a chance to really 'stretch his legs', but he showed off clean batterie before appearing to tire towards the end.  Blessed with what appear to be very flexible feet, he does need to remember to pay attention to his back leg and foot - a nicely pointed foot adds a great deal of polish to a performance.

Noting his occasionally wayward back foot reminded me of a quote from an interview I did with former NYCB dancer Kurt Froman, talking about class at the School of American Ballet with Stanley Williams: 

 " but he [Williams] would say, everything is front, even when you¹re doing something in the back, you have to think of it as being to the front. Because when things are in front of you, they¹re within your control, but sometimes when you get to the back, you start twisting your legs in a very funny way.  But this had you so pulled up; there was a clarity, and you didn¹t compensate in a funny way." ( http://www.ballet-dance.com/200503/articles/KurtFroman20041219.html

While Conelly and Tallman are clearly at another level in their performance quality, as evidenced by their comfort and ease en pointe, it was impressive how beautifully the cast blended together. This was not the “guest soloists and then... every one else” kind of production that one often sees at ballet schools in United States, but a cohesive and professional performance. 

Royce's choreography included nice divertissements for the various princesses and a harem of girls, and in particular the evil sorceress' trio of bats.  The bats, who brought back memories of last year's stand out Tthree Blind Mice, were deliciously evil in their silvery body suits and batty little ears.  Another highlight was the 'battle' between Aladdin a corps of hissing cobras. This year the company also made use of the balcony in the Debating Hall, from which Aladdin climbed down a ladder to escape the evil sorceress. 

One of the pleasures of Burklyn's productions is the fabulous costumes and simple, but effective sets. This year the scene was set primarily by projections on a screen, which along with the costumes (and, the dancing) were all that was needed to transform the hall into a harem. Whitehill's costumes were sumptuous, creating the fairy-tale feeling that draws in kids and adults alike. Especially noteworthy were the girls draped in harem pants and tops of vibrant jewel-toned colors bedecked with sparkles, and the cobras in shiny bodysuits, with a snake winding around their bodies to the headpiece at the top. 

The grand finale, with the full cast filling the stage with a whirlwind of color and sparkle, came all too soon.  The curtain will 'rise' again however, as the company performs daily at 10:30am through August 20 at the Gilded Balloon (Teviot).

Read related stories in the press and see what others are saying. Click here.

 

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