Youthful Ballet Company Ballet Excel Presents “The Magic Flute” at Akron Civic Theatre

Sat 3/10 @ at 2PM & 7PM

Sun 3/11 @ 2PM

Back in February we drove down to Cuyahoga Falls to watch dress rehearsal of a new ballet version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. It’s performed by Ballet Excel (BX), the performing wing of Nan Klinger’s Excellence in Dance Studio, formerly known as Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet.

BX has trained many dancers who have gone on to national and international careers: full scholarships to Juilliard and School of American Ballet, roles as principal dancers and soloists at Birmingham Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Boston Ballet and Miami City Ballet, national and international tours of Broadway shows, Cirque du Soleil, teaching and artistic consulting. And, no surprise, many of the dancers in nearly every ballet company in Northeast Ohio received their early training at BX. Whence cometh all that excellence? Something in the water in Cuyahoga Falls? Vibranium in the soil?

This was our first visit to a BX rehearsal so we were a little surprised to see the dancers before rehearsal. Kids being kids — giggling, messing with their phones, apparently typical 8-18 year-olds. But once the rehearsal started it wasn’t long before we realized how smoothly things were going. Everybody was ready for their entrance, knew their choreography and nailed it, relaxed and portrayed their character. Pointe work was strong and comfortable. Turns were secure. Jumps were full out. That huge gang of kids with costumes, masks, and jeweled headpieces softly and sweetly killed Magic Flute.

We’re not very familiar with The Magic Flute — or any of the opera canon — but BX told us the story, which follows a familiar formula. There’s a good guy, Tamino, played by Levian Mondville, who has a bird sidekick, Pappageno, played by Lex Zorich. They meet the good girl, Pamina, played by Christianna Poblette, and her bird sidekick, Pappagena, played by Jade Blankenship. This being a comic opera, everyone wants to get married but various complications ensue as they meet other powers both helpful and threatening: three benevolent spirits; animals; the Queen of the Night and her four Night Shades; Egyptians. It hardly matters if you can tell the good guys from the bad guys, because whenever things get threatening, Tamino plays his magic flute which makes everyone dance.

Hatred and rancor replaced by love and brotherhood? What a contrast to ultra-violent film fare.

There are many adults present at the rehearsal, from top local pros to what are apparently parent volunteers. BX artistic director Mia Klinger coaches the dancers and runs the music, which turns out to be a patchwork of excerpts from The Magic Flute complete with vocals stitched together with other music including Mozart’s A Little Night Music and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Choreographer Erich Yetter also has double duty, coaching the rehearsal and performing his role as Sarastro, high priest of an idealistic community. “Big jump! Big jump!” says Klinger. “Point the feet!” says Yetter.

Janet Bolick, who designs and executes costumes for many local dance productions, is also present but she denies playing any important role in the many beautiful Magic Flute costumes; she’s only helping to assemble costumes from pre-existing wardrobe. Lighting designer Dennis Dugan, long-time collaborator with BX and many other local dance companies, watches, apparently reviewing his plans as the rehearsal proceeds.

Costumes and dancing were the stars of the rehearsal. We were especially impressed with the way costumes held together and stayed on, enhancing rather than impeding the dancing even in this first dress run through. Consider, for example, the many jeweled headpieces, not one of which came askew or shed nary a gem.

Yep, vibranium.

Ballet Excel presents The Magic Flute and Carnival of the Animals at Akron Civic Theatre. For tickets @ $25, $18, and $10 phone Akron Civic Box Office 330-253-2488 or go to AkronCivic.

[Written by Elsa Johnson and Victor Lucas]

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