Stage & Dance

Lexington Ballet takes a turn with Beatrix Potter tales

Lexington Ballet artistic director Luis Dominguez found inspiration for Saturday afternoon's show in his 5-year-old's library.

Dominguez was aware that other companies had staged stories by celebrated children's author Beatrix Potter as ballets, and it seemed like a good idea for a spring family show.

"I have a 5-year-old, Alex, and he has the books, and I went and read the books, and I thought, 'Why not? Let's do it,'" Dominguez says.

"Beatrix Potter came about because we wanted to have a ballet that would appeal to adults and kids alike, and that would have resonance because it was an old tale."

Dominguez's original version of The Magical Tales of Beatrix Potter will top off a big weekend for the company. Friday night, Lexington Ballet hosts and opens for Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble. That brings the artistic director's old company to his current stage.

The back-to-back performances make life hectic for Dominguez, getting his dancers ready for Saturday while also preparing to welcome an internationally acclaimed touring ensemble to town. He says the events coincided because the ballet was already planning to present Beatrix Potter when the opportunity to present Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble emerged. Dominguez says it worked perfectly because the theater was already booked.

So Friday night will be all about world-class dance, and Saturday afternoon will be all about emerging dancers in the Bluegrass.

"I get really excited when I see something beautiful, and the possibilities the human body has, especially with people that are training so hard," Dominguez says.

One of the big advantages of staging Beatrix Potter, he says, is the stories, with all their little creatures, give a lot of dancers chances to tiptoe and leap across the stage.

The show is in a way reminiscent of the dream sequence in The Nutcracker with unrelated but independently engaging tales being told.

Those tales include the bunny stories of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, which were set to music by Stephen Bias, the composer with whom Dominguez collaborated on Wild Things and Fabric of Dance.

The Tale of Jeremy Fisher gets a bluesy treatment from local rocker Brett James, whose daughter Ashley will play one of the hound dogs in the story of Jemima Puddleduck.

Also getting the Lexington Ballet treatment are Squirrel Nutkin and Old Brown Owl, and The Tale of Two Bad Mice.

During a Tuesday night rehearsal, Dominguez talked to the dancers about the importance of staying in character for the storytelling dances. He also had the kids do research as they prepared for the production.

"I was surprised that a lot of them didn't know" about Potter's stories. "A lot of them kept asking, what is this about? I said, go to the library, Google them, whatever you need to do."

Whether discovering the stories or revisiting old favorites, Dominguez thinks The Magical Tales of Beatrix Potter is perfectly timed for the first weekend of spring.

Dominguez says, "Easter is coming up and there are rabbits all over the place. It's a perfect celebration."

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