‘Peter and the Wolf’ a hit

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Performers on stage at Friday night’s production of “Peter and the Wolf” (Sara Gladney for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Attendees enjoyed a one-night-only performance of “Peter and the Wolf” Friday evening at Stone Bridge Farms, courtesy of BD Ballet Academy, founded by Brooke Desnoes. “Peter and the Wolf,” written by Sergei Prokofiev, is a ballet for all ages that tells a Russian folk tale of a boy and his animal friends capturing a wolf.

The ballet was created by Prokofiev to introduce his young son to the musical instruments in an orchestra. Each animal character is identified with a different musical instrument or class of instruments.

As for how she selected this particular ballet for Friday’s performance, Desnoes said, “For many years ‘Peter and the Wolf’ was only listened to and used as an educational tool in classrooms across Europe and only became a narrated ballet in the 1990s. Strangely enough, even though it is extremely popular in Great Britain, I realized that it was seldom staged in the United States. ‘Peter and the Wolf’ has many advantages both for the audience and the students. It is not too long. Prokofiev’s music is delightful, and it is truly a great ballet to learn for young dancers. I staged ‘Peter and the Wolf’ regularly in Europe where the audience was always very enthusiastic, and I knew that children and adults would love it in Cullman, too.”

Desnoes made sure that the ballet was enjoyable for her dancers as well, specializing the roles to match the abilities of the dancers.

“The youngest dancer is 6 years old, and the oldest dancer is 17, which is a wide span, but that is where I intervene as a choreographer to adapt each role to each dancer. There is no point in having a student perform on stage what they cannot fully accomplish in the studio,” she said. “For our first summer ballet, I wanted something that everyone could participate in and something that was fun. I am proud of the way all these dancers of all ages and abilities have worked together. They have really become a team and behave like the pre-professionals I expect them to be. I promise you that backstage is as calm and organized as what you see on the stage. Our kids can achieve so much more and have much more fun when they learn in an environment that is calm and respectful.”

A special dancer in Friday night’s performance was Ben Johnson South, 70, who played the part of the grandfather.

Typically, the dance company starts rehearsals about eight weeks out before a performance date, but for this ballet, which is a little bit shorter, four weeks were enough.

“All of these dancers attend one to four dance classes a week during the school year and many of them danced throughout the summer, so their technique and skill level is definitely ‘on par’ for their age level,” said Desnoes.

Going into every new production, Desnoes said, she has a plan to follow but remains open minded to the dancers.

“I look for the unique qualities that each one can bring to a performance. So, the kids had their own input,” she said. “The Wolf wanted to experiment with modern dance and her choreography reflects that.  The Cat became really quite jazzy; the Duck has some sass to her. The Bird has become more versatile with her technique. I adapted a neo-classical choreography for her. Samantha Olson, who dances Peter, has a lovely solid classical ballet technique and she shows that even though she wears a very un-classical costume. We also had great fun with the costumes.”

This year BD Ballet Academy launched Dance4All, a community outreach program that will promote dance education through scholarships in the Cullman community. The proceeds from the “Peter and the Wolf” performance at will go directly to Dance4All.

“I have a wonderful, innovative, involved and supportive board of directors who I work with on this project,” said Desnoes. “The profits from ‘Peter and the Wolf’ and from other performances are rolled back into the community!”

The BD Ballet Academy will be performing “The Nutcracker” in November. This year all the auditions for that performance will be free and held Aug. 27. Children 6 and older are welcome, and there are even a few roles for non-dancers. Both boys and girls are welcome.

BD Ballet Academy accepts students as young as 3, and enrollments for the 2022-23 school year are open now. For more information, visit www.brookedesnoes.org.

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