Entertainment » Theatre

McIntyre’s "Peter Pan" Takes Flight at Pennsylvania Ballet

by Lewis Whittington
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday May 3, 2012

Choreographer Trey McIntyre created "Peter Pan" for Houston Ballet ten years ago, and it was a huge success. Critics hailed McIntyre as the new vanguard for the story ballet. Houston performed it again in 2004, but the ballet is seeing its first re-staged revival in Philadelphia by the Pennsylvania Ballet this week.

J.M.Barrie's story of Wendy, the Lost Boys, Captain Hook, and all of Neverland's denizens were all there before. But it was never, never, like this onstage. Elaborate sets were designed by Thomas Boyd and music was composed by Sir Edward Elgar and arranged by Niel DePonte. McIntyre has interpreted "Peter Pan" through a dark magical realism lens for a story ballet.

This is McIntyre's third collaboration with PB; he created "Plush" with them in 2001 and returned for a revival of his modern ballet "Blue Until June," which featured a gay themed central duet for a male couple. He is overseeing the dancers for "Peter Pan" but has left the staging to Annali Rose and Brett Perry, two dancers from the choreographer's own company (The Trey McIntyre Project).

EDGE spoke to Perry and Alex Peters, a dynamic new dancer at Pennsylvania Ballet corps cast in the lead role, after they discussed the production aspects of the ballet during a preview talk at the Free Library on Rittenhouse Square. Both are in their 20s and recipients of the prestigious Princess Grace Award for their achievements in dance.

At Houston Ballet, much was made of the inventiveness of the flying effects as they worked within ballet vocabulary. The Houston production had to use manual flying apparatus with ropes and pulleys operated by stage technicians. In Philly, everything is computerized and operated by hydraulics and robotics. Perry described the process of setting the steps and aerials for a new company. Working from recordings of the Houston performance and rehearsals, "Annali and I wrote down descriptions of every step of this. We worked it out for months in advance," he said.

"I've been a dancer with TMP for four years. As a dancer, I know what it feels like to not have the stager know every step. I can relate to these dancers. And they have been so game to get it right. I think they knew I was one of them too," Perry explained.

Peters is alternating in the lead with fellow corps member Amir Yogev. Pennsylvania Ballet artistic director Roy Kaiser often uses members of the corps de ballet in feature or lead roles.

"It's amazing to see Alex's confidence in this. When they were first working with the flying, they were just attacking the precision of this movement," Perry said.

The two Peter Pans had been rehearsing the aerial work at a smaller studio theater nearby. When they rig the Academy of Music, they will be making adjustments for seven more feet of flying ropes. "It's going to change a lot. The other characters just go up and down basically, but Peter's flying involves spinning variations, for instance...and elements that are really the magic of the whole story," Perry noted.

Peters said that the choreography "requires a lot of acrobatic skills," He continued, "Trey has this vision of the character...not as Disney, but more animalistic and reckless. Peter is self-involved and unaware of the consequences. With Captain Hook especially, it's just a dangerous game. He just wants us to throw ourselves into the part."

Perry is already scheduled to stage "Peter Pan" for two other companies next year. "This work is Trey ten years ago, and he doesn't work with pointe shoes anymore. So it's interesting to realize what he did within the story ballet. He brings to it a very real and honest base to the characters." Perry will be dancing when he joins TMP the day after the Philly opening, flying halfway around the world for their month-long Asian tour. Meanwhile, the two Peter Pans will be flying on their own in the Academy of Music.

Peter Pan
Academy of Music, Philadelphia
May 3-13
www.paballet.org | 215-893-1999.

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.


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