The School of Pennsylvania Ballet presented its 2018 annual performance at the Prince Theater on May 19 and 20. As Pennsylvania Ballet has gotten attentions for its storied history and recent innovations, it is also important to pay regard to the School of Pennsylvania Ballet and its role in the community’s next generations.
Although it had some aspects of Disney’s Peter Pan, the ballet was very much original in so many ways. It was created for the Hartt School Community Division Dance Department at the University of Hartford in 2014 by American composer Kermit Poling and assistant artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet and interim principal of the School of Pennsylvania Ballet Samantha Dunster. On the opening night, dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet, Ashton Roxander and Austin Eyler joined the pupils as Peter Pan and Captain Hook/Mr. Darling. Samantha Dunster’s choreography depicted each character from Peter Pan to Smee and Lost Boys distinctively through her intellectual and intuitive choreography, and the ballet was fun and captivating for any of the audiences from toddlers to grown-ups.
The well-known story follows Peter Pan, the forever-boy who loves fun and never wants to grow up. Ashton Roxander danced his Peter Pan exactly as it should be, with charming expressions and amazing physicality.
Four pupils who performed title roles, Lucia Erickson (Tinkerbell), Lucy Samuel (Wendy), Kaitlin Zeis (Queen of Fairies/Lead Mermaid) and Margaret Broadhurst (Tiger Lily) wer stunning. They tackled the very challenging choreography head on. Their deep interpretations into the characters created another story of their own, a story of girls growing up through their adventures and the experience of love.
Erickson’s Tinkerbell was simply stunning. She displays well-established dance technique, but also dances Tinkerbell’s emotions — jealousy, anger, sadness, joy and pure and strong love to Peter Pan — with such a honest and convincing expression.
The duet by Peter Pan and Tinkerbell shows the children in the audience seat the beauty of love, and reminds the grown-ups the passion they may have felt at their first kiss. All of the other pupils including those who played the key roles (Smee (Avery Lasky), Michael (Rowan Duffy), John (Liam Agnew)) also performed their ballet brilliantly.
It was amazing to see the potential and achievement of those children — from toddlers to teenagers — with strong support by faculty, volunteers, parents and the community. The show was like a good book — you wished it would never end.
[The Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street] May 19-20, 2018; paballet.org/school