Peter Tonguette, The Columbus Dispatch
Thursday, September 12, 2019
As she was preparing to appear in Hixon Dance’s new production of “Peter and the Wolf,” dancer Victoria Alesi decided to do some homework.
“There were a lot of ballet or balletic versions that have been performed and produced,” Alesi said of “Peter and the Wolf,” “but no real modern, contemporary versions that we were able to find.”
The Hixon Dance version promises to break fresh ground when it is performed Saturday and Sunday at the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington.
“That was really cool to know that we were putting on something totally new that we couldn’t find anywhere on the internet,” Alesi said.
Hixon Dance will retain the basic plot of the family friendly dance, which revolves around a Russian boy named Peter (Danielle Kfoury), who finds himself in a tussle with an antagonistic wolf (Alesi).
The animal-centric cast also includes the bird (Jasmine Shafley), the cat (Julia Ayau) and the scolding grandfather (David Jon Krohn, also the narrator).
Artistic Director Sarah Hixon acknowledges that most audiences will associate “Peter and the Wolf” with ballet rather than modern dance.
“Ballet is just such a part of the zeitgeist that everybody understands at least on a surface level,” said Hixon, who choreographed the show. “But they don’t have that same knowledge base for modern dance.”
Even so, Hixon hopes young audiences will be receptive to the switch in dance styles.
“It’s an American art form and definitely something that I think kids can certainly get into,” Hixon said.
In creating their roles, the company’s dancers have looked to videos of animals for inspiration.
For example, Alesi is aiming to approximate wolflike movement.
“I’m a very hungry creature throughout this dance — truly a predator in a lot of ways,” Alesi said. “I can use a lot of my strength, which I have — I’m also an athlete — ... as well as a lot of tension in my fingers because they’re my claws, they’re my mouth, they’re my teeth.”
The score by Sergei Prokofiev — to be performed by the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra — asks the audience to associate instruments with particular characters.
“It’s programming that can be fun for all, but it really tries to introduce the orchestra to young students,” said Artistic and Music Director Antoine T. Clark, who will conduct the orchestra.
“They (can) expect to hear Prokofiev’s wonderful score,” he said, “and how he is able to bring, in a way, the character of the music, or the instruments, and pair it with this story.”
Hixon, whose company usually performs to accompaniment by trios or quartets, is looking forward to the accompaniment of a larger ensemble.
“It’s going to be 12 musicians and lots of instruments,” Hixon said. “We’re pretty excited to get to dance to that large of a force.”
Although the stage at the Worthington arts center is not as expansive as some in central Ohio, the dancers don’t intend to be inhibited in their animal-inspired moves — and that includes the wolf in the title.
“A wolf can travel up to 30 miles a day,” Alesi said. “I get to use that migratory movement as a huge inspiration.”