Ballet for free

Youth company to tour area libraries performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream

If there’s any confusion after the show, all you’ll have to do is move to the stacks.

That’s the beauty of performing a ballet in a library, especially one based on William Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It’s three stories that collide on a given summer night, and it’s filled with romance and fairies and spirits. And though there will be a few spoken words to guide viewers of the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s Youth Ballet company along the way, the rest of the story will be told in visuals.

“We will need to have some narration, but we’ll keep it simple,” Susan Perlis said.

She co-directs this company with Rebecca Acosta, and together they’re staging more than 60 dancers on the company’s tour, which opens Monday, June 3, and travels to libraries throughout the area. There are also a couple of non-library stops, including a fundraiser performance at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at the Dancers’ Workshop, where the company meets for rehearsals and classes. This will be the only summer show that requires admission.

Tickets will be $10 for adults and $5 for children, with all proceeds benefiting the Youth Ballet’s programs.

Otherwise, there will be plenty of opportunities to catch free performances of this show, again mostly at libraries. And when the last dancer exits the stage, you can easily walk over to the library’s drama section and check out the story you’ve just seen.

Call it a perfect storm that mixes dance and writing. Or Better yet, music, dance and writing.

It’s what George Balanchine had in mind in 1962 when he choreographed the ballet to Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music for Shakespeare’s play.

Mendelssohn composed his music in 1842. Balanchine studied it for 20 years before creating the ballet.

And though the Youth Ballet will be performing its own version of the Balanchine ballet, it won’t be a first for this company.

“We first performed it in 1995,” Perlis said. “It was the first ballet I directed by myself. Then we went back to it in 1998. After that, we put it up. I guess I was tired of it, but Rebecca wanted to go back to it this year. And now that we’re back into it, it’s fun. Mendelssohn’s work is so beautiful, and we’re having a good time working with this ballet.”

Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream between 1590 and 1596, in which he tells the story of The Duke of Athens’ marriage to Hippolyta, Demetrius who loves Hermia who loves Lysander, Oberon, the fairy king and Titania, his queen who are there to bless the duke’s marriage and a band of Athenian craftsmen rehearsing a play that they hope to perform for the duke and his bride.

Then there’s Oberon’s servant Puck, who is charged with finding a magical flower with juice that can make a person fall in love.

Now, these are just fragments of the bigger story, which will be told through the Youth Ballet’s performances. That is, the bigger story without the presence of the duke.

“We don’t include him, but we imply that he’s there,” Perlis said.

Which will be enough, because there’s lots going on among the other characters. And dancers are having fun with this show.

“I love Shakespeare, so this has been a lot of fun for me,” Nelson Williams said.

Williams is 18 and a recent graduate of Baton Rouge High Magnet School. He’ll be entering LSU in the fall, where he plans to major in music performance and history.

His instrument is double bass, and though he isn’t planning on a future of professional dance, he does intend to keep dancing.

“I didn’t even think about dancing until my freshman year of high school,” he said. “That was the year we were moving from Baton Rouge Magnet High to Lee High School, and I was helping with the move. Someone told me that I was in great shape and that I should consider dance. I went home and thought, ‘Why not?’ And I started classes at school.”

He began classes at Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre in his sophomore year and is now an apprentice for the professional company, as is Brittany Nettles, who plays Hermia in this production.

Nettles is 14 and has been taking dance classes for 11 years. She also is a student at University High School, where she’ll be a member of the Spirit Steppers dance line in the fall.

But summer is devoted to Shakespeare, where her character is in the midst of a love triangle.

“I like the summer tour,” Nettles said. “It’s been fun dancing with friends.”

Though youth ballet members range from ages 10 to 14, male dancers are usually older.

“They’re usually in high school,” Acosta said. “Boys usually don’t have the upper body strength to lift until after high school.”

Besides, there are more girls than boys on the dance floor.

“That’s always the case,” Acosta said. “So, we pull them in for these performances.”

And though the shows have been triple cast to give all company dancers a chance to perform, male cast members will have to make all the performances.

“It’ll be OK,” Williams said. “You get up early, and once you do the first performance in the morning, you relax.”

“We have parents who drive the dancers to the performances, and we usually have lunch at one of the dancers’ houses,” Perlis said.

But the best part of it all is touching the community. Some audience members are not able to attend ballet performances for mobility or economic reasons. Others may have never considered watching a ballet.

“This is our way of giving back to the community,” Acosta said. “We don’t have recitals, and we don’t go to competitions. So, with this tour, we’re able to reach out to the elderly who may not be able to go to a ballet, and we’re able to introduce ballet to the younger audiences and communities that may not have an opportunity to see it otherwise.”

And in the end, there’s an opportunity to read more about it.

Among the pages in the library.

  • CAST: Titiana: Emma Camille Barbin, Emelia Perkins, Allyson Gonzales; Herma or Helena: Campbell Wall, Charlotte Coyle, Brittany Nettles, Kelsie Guzik, Sarah Franklin, Eva Kruger; Puck: Delaney Dufrene, Estelle Crawford, Giselle Doucet; Understudy: Katherine Landrem, Katherine Landrem, Katherine Landrem; Lysander or Demetrius: Keytreon Butler, LeTiger Walker; Oberon: Nelson Williams; Bottom: Javier Banks, Noah Nagle; Fairy Quartet: Charlotte Coyle, Juliet Alise, Grace Bordelon, Kelsie Guzik, Sarah Franklin, Eva Kruger, Megan Littleton, Brittany Nettles, Alyssa Rainey, Ana Louisa Rodriguez, Campbell Wall, Abby Shortess; Fairies: Grace Asevedo, Katie Bryant, Mary Grace Beck, Jordan Boshea, Katherine Landrem, Catherine Carline, Leah Cox, Anna Lebold, Isabella Galindo, Morgan Gallegos, Revathi Menon, Natalie Gaspard, Hayley Gregoire, Caroline Petty, Elizabeth Jones, Anna Matherne, Claire White, Lauren Michelli, Sydney Veazie; Spirits: Charlotte Balart, Andrea Chen, Catherine Bonaventure, Maile Braden, Chloe Higgins, Joanna McBride, Celia Fishbein, Elena Monette, Cristina Riazuelo, Aynsley Gaspard, Anna Rainey, Katherine Scott, Ryan Whaley, Elise Saloom, Adrienne Simmons, Cindy Xu, Estelle Yeargain, Alison Qi; Players: Noah Nagle, Javier Banks, Jonathan James, Jonathan James, Jonathan James.
  • DIRECTORS: Susan Perlis, Rebecca Acosta.