AVON PARK –– More than 60 up and coming ballet dancers ages 5-19 from Highlands and Polk counties will join the South Carolina Ballet on stage at the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, for a production of “Beauty and the Beast.”
The Wildstein Center is on the campus of South Florida State College
The ballet is based not on the Disney production, but on the original book. “This is a fairy-tale story for people who don’t like ballet,” said SFSC Director of Cultural Programs Cindy Garren.
The South Carolina Ballet is made up of dancers from throughout the world. Choreographer is William Starrett. He was the principal dancer for Joffrey Ballet and the American Ballet Theater under the world-famous director Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Starrett came to Avon Park in November to cast local young dancers in the production. Over 60 of them now rehearse weekly with volunteer Nancy McDuffee, a teacher at Dance Unlimited.
The youngsters arrive at the college gym and do pre-dance stretching. The older dancers rehearse first, followed by those who will dance the part of the flower girls, then the bridesmaids, followed by those playing the orphans and then those in the wedding scene. The youngest kids play smaller roles.
“It’s about having the experience of being in the company with some of the world’s best ballerinas,” said McDuffee.
The upper-level dancers will dance “on point,” meaning on their tiptoes. Those dancing the peasant roles will dance a whole piece. McDuffee has the team practice three variations as Starrett will choose one and the children will be ready for the one he chooses.
The 60-plus youngsters have been practicing the piece every Saturday from 9 a.m until 2:15 p.m. for four weeks. As curtain day gets close they will have a “polish” week. McDuffee will work with them on facial expressions, how to hold arms and legs, and how to correctly turn their feet.
What is most amazing is that the children will have only one practice with the South Carolina Ballet troupe itself. Starrett will make final adjustments at that rehearsal.
The production features enchanting medieval sets and a mysterious castle nestled in old France. A one-of-a-kind Belle gown has been designed to debut. And the Beast’s character is created to come off artistically elegant with a touch of menace.
Tickets for Beauty and the Beast are available by visiting www.sfsarts.org or by calling or visiting the box office at 863-784-7178 Monday-Friday between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Florida Hospital is the presenting sponsor of the production. Additional sponsors are: Dr. Andrew and Beth Kulick; Terry and Dr. Michele Heston; Carol Emery; Dr. Witford and Inga Reid; Dr. Catherine Cornelius; Joan Hartt; All Around Septic and Sewer Inc.; Dr. Donald, Ruth and Kimberly Geldart.