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Winter progam features new ballet, spring preview

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The Wolf (Allison Taylor) struggles to get free from Peter (Raelynn Dolatta), Cat (Sara Carrick) and Bird (Audrey Clanton). Consuming Fire will present the ballet this Sunday at CSC's Memorial Hall.

The company of Consuming Fire School of Dance and Gymnastics will use their skills to tell the story of a young boy who saves a community from a sly beast when they present “Peter and the Wolf” this Sunday, Jan. 16.

Consuming Fire Executive Director Donna Gimeson said this is a ballet they’ve never done before, and it came as a suggestion a few years ago on one of the evaluation forms given to community members. It is a smaller cast requirement with 15 parts, Gimeson said, which works out well as the dance program is still rebuilding in the midst of the Covid pandemic.

In comparison, the Nutcracker — a regular annual production — has 30-35 cast.

As for the reaction of the more senior members to having something new to add to their repertoire, Gimeson said, “They usually enjoy doing a variety of productions. I know it’s been expressed they would not like to do The Nutcracker every year. The Nutcracker has its place, it’s a wonderful ballet; our students just really do like to do different productions.”

In 2020, when the coronavirus was still keeping a lot of regular events from happening, Consuming Fire still managed to put on a ballet production. There was some trouble finding venues, however, so they used the High Plains Theater in Rushville. Rather than one big production, Dancers did three “mini-ballets” including The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella and excerpts from The Sound of Music.

This year is an attempt to get back into the regular winter ballet routine at Chadron State College’s Memorial Hall, Gimeson said. Typically dancers perform in December — in part because The Nutcracker is Christmas themed —but there was some uncertainty as to whether the hall would be available last month.

“We are very grateful to the High Plains Theater for allowing us to rent their space,” Gimeson said, as well as to the CSC campus for the Memorial Hall stage, and St. Patrick’s for allowing use of the Assumption Arena for their 2020 recital.

“It’s been challenging, maneuvering our Covid life,” Gimeson said.

Peter and the Wolf will be a traditional ballet, though it won’t be the only dance style during the program. The second half of the show will be a  preview, during which there will be up to 10 dances the students are working on for their spring recital. There will be tap and contemporary dances, Gimeson said, and possibly some clogging. The spring recital is scheduled for May 21.

In addition to Gimeson, Amy Dolezal and Allison Taylor have been working hard to get the students ready. Though previous years have seen more traditional ballet dress, the 2021 program has the dancers in costumes and Gimeson praised seamstress Esther Block for the work she’s put in to make them.

“I looked through my resources to find costumes,” Gimeson said, “and was really coming up with nothing,” She added Block has been a real lifesaver.

One of the focuses of doing a classical ballet is so the students can learn to enter and exit on music cues, as opposed to dance recitals where they know to enter or exit the stage when there’s a break in the music.

“With a ballet, the music just keeps running,” Gimeson said, “so that’s part of the practice of paying attention — which increases their concentration skills — knowing when to run on and knowing what dance they’re doing.”

In addition to the five main cast characters, there is a group who helps set the stage while dancing to either represent a pond or the hunters who are after the wolf. Gimeson said without these dancers the story gets somewhat lost. Additionally, it helps them to watch what each other is doing and learn how to work together.

Peter and the Wolf opens at CSC’s Memorial Hall on Sunday, Jan. 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children, and can be purchased at the door or in advance at Consuming Fire, 225 Main Street.

The cast of Peter and the Wolf is:

Peter - Raelynn Dolatta (age 11, Chadron)

Wolf - Allison Taylor (age 13, Chadron)

Cat - Sara Carrick (age 12, Chadron)

Bird - Audrey Clanton (age 13 Crawford)

Duck - Madi Dolezal (age 10, Rushville)

Grandfather - Donna Gimeson (Chadron)

Ballet Corps, representing the Pond and the Hunters:

Loretta Block (age 9, Whitney)

Katie Cook (age 18, Crawford)

Bella Curran (age 9, Chadron)

Annah Freidel (age 12, Oelrichs, SD)

Lillian Johndreau (age 12, Chadron)

Adilene Nelson (age 12, Chadron)

Tabitha Schiaffo (age 10, Hay Springs)

Norah Shield (age 10, Chadron)

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