As I waited in my seat at the Broomfield Auditorium for Danse Etoile Ballet’s One Thousand and One Nights to begin, I noticed the vast age range of the audience; there were young teens, white haired grandmothers, babes in arms, and everything in between. It was a joy to be part of such an energetic and supportive audience.
Creator and founder of Danse Etoile Ballet, Marie-Jose Payannet, choreographed a stunning evening of ballet styled middle-eastern story telling and theatre. The costumes were amazing: vibrant colors, shapes, drapes, and details. It takes skill to design costumes that portray the cultures and times of the tales while simultaneously allowing the dancers to dance, revealing skilled ballet moves and technical expertise. I loved hearing the point shoes on the stage floor.
The company is comprised of ten young women, one man, and two apprentice members, a young woman and a young man. Six dance students (girls) from Danse Etoile also performed in group and more minor dances in the show. One had her own role as Abu the Monkey in Aladdin’s tales; she was definitely a favorite.
The evening began in The Sultan’s Palace, with energetic sweeping movements across the stage, draped in colorful vibrant and flowing silks. The backdrop was a huge white screen with grand cinematic images projected onto it throughout the performance: now a city market, now a desert spotted with camels, now a deep cave, and now a vast sea. After meeting the Sultan and Scheherazade in the first piece, we are introduced to Aladdin in the second piece. He falls in love with Princess Badroulbadou, the Sorcerer tricks him into entering the great cavern, he discovers the magic lamp, escapes the Sorcerer, and finally (with the help of the Genie) marries his princess.
After the 20 minute intermission, we found ourselves at the feet of the great story teller, Scheherazade. She told us tales of Sinbad the Sailor and his extraordinary voyages. We see him lost at sea, with dancers dancing the ocean. Rescued by a band of Indian princesses, Sinbad is then left in the city. At the bazaar, he comes across many characters and merchants, a snake charmer, and a flock of lucky birds. After Sinbad finds his great love, Scheherazade closes out the evening by recounting the tale of a great battle with only one surviving warrior.
It was the choreography and dancing that made this show utterly unique. Payannet seamlessly combined classical ballet technique with shapes and gestures from East Indian, Arabian, and Egyptian classical dance styles, to name a few. I can only imagine the challenge the ballerinas faced with bent elbows, wrists, and knees, hip swinging and rotating, and other non-classical ballet moves, like the customary Indian head wobble. This fusion ignited the show with a special sparkle. The ballet dancers, male and female alike, were obviously up for the challenge.
Aside from the young woman who danced Abu the Monkey, Francesca Macri, there were a few others that stood out. The magical lamp that Aladdin found came with two genies. It was the second Genie, danced by Kiera O’Neill, that totally wowed me. Her strength, her lines, the foot work and extensions, all while holding her arms in various geometrical Egyptian, very non-ballet, shapes. Stunning. Emily Jacobs danced a most uplifting and beautiful Jug Dance in the bazaar, Christopher Darling danced a technically masterful and adventurous Sinbad, and Vicente Veatch danced a lovely cautious yet excited Aladdin. There are too many to name, really, and I’ve left out some great soloists and duets.
Unfortunately, this show’s run is over. But do not fear! Their next performance, Excerpts from Carmen, and more, runs on September 24 and 25 at the Broomfield Auditorium. Don’t miss your chance to see all the talented soloists and dancers that make up Danse Etoile Ballet!
Soma Feldmar: Soma Feldmar received her MFA from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School, and is now working on her PhD in English from SUNY Buffalo, with a focus on poetics. Other, her first book of poetry, was published in 2009 from Capilano University Editions (CUE Books). Soma’s work has also appeared in various online and print journals. Her doctoral dissertation is on poet Robin Blaser and how his work brings the poetic and the ethical together, remaining open to the other and the unknown. Originally from Vancouver, BC, Soma recently relocated to Denver, CO, after five and half years in Buffalo, NY. Overjoyed to be back in Colorado, she has started her own business, Seamoon Editing Services and joined the writing team of Presenting Denver. As a former ballet, jazz, and modern dance student, Soma looks forward to more opportunities to combine her love of dance and her love of writing.