Youth Ballet tours with ‘Firebird’

Sometimes the youngest of audience members will cry, not because they’re scared, but because the story saddens them.

“They cried last year when we did ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ ” Eva Kruger, of the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s Youth Ballet, said.

Even the ballet version of William Shakespeare’s classic has its moments of jealousy, revenge and sadness. Audience members surely will invest their own emotions into their favorite characters. And when things don’t go the way they should, even the youngest will cry.

“But there’s nothing to cry about in ‘Firebird,’ ” Juliet Alise added.

That’s the show the Youth Ballet is performing this summer, Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird.” The Youth Ballet will give a fundraiser performance at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 7, at Dancer’s Workshop. Admission will be charged for this performance only. The show also travels to local libraries, summer camps and community centers.

Kruger and Elise are splitting time in the title role among the three casts. Kruger is a 14-year-old sophomore at Runnels High School. Alice, also 14, will be a freshman at St. Joseph’s Academy.

Javier Banks, 16, plays the hunter. Banks is one of only two boys in the tour, so he will appear with all the casts. He’ll be a junior at Lee High School in the fall.

“I’m nervous,” he says of the tour.

Butterflies are to be expected, especially when performing Stravinsky’s classic. The ballet tells the Russian legend of a hunter who falls in love with a princess. But there’s a problem — a monster is holding the princess captive in his evil garden.

Then comes the Firebird, who uses her magical powers to help the hunter rescue the princess.

Stravinsky wrote “Firebird” for the 1910 Paris season of Sergei Diaghiley’s Ballets Russes company, meaning that ballet companies have been performing this show for more than a century.

This will be the first time in 13 years the Youth Ballet has performed “Firebird.”

“It’s a difficult ballet,” Kruger says. “You really have to listen to the music, because Stravinsky’s work is strong and accented.”

KRUGER, ALISE AND BANKS ARE SUMMER TOUR VETERANS, AND THIS YEAR’S PERFORMANCES WILL MARK THE TWO FIREBIRDS’ LAST, AS THE Youth Ballet stages dancers from age 10 through 14. Kruger and Alise will graduate to the next level when they turn 15.

They stood outside the ballet theater’s Dancers’ Workshop, where director Susan Perlis called for the cast’s monsters to make their entrance. They did, jumping and waving arms while making scary faces. This is their lair, and the princess is their prisoner. But not for long.

Banks soon entered the room with Kruger and Alise walking close behind, and one of the Firebirds helped the hunter in the magical rescue.

There won’t be any room for tears in this summer’s show. It’s a time for celebrating, and it’s a safe bet that even the youngest cast members will be cheering.