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Degas' Little Dancer

a Children's Theater
CATEGORY :
by Wesley Middleton

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Woodruff Art Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 2547

SHOWING : November 10, 2007 - November 18, 2007

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

In this whimsical time-travel fantasy, a contemporary teen becomes the Ballerina Model for Degas' most famous sculpture. A poem to Following your own muse, featuring father/daughter Chris and Noelle Kayser.


CAST & CREW LIST
Cast Noelle Kayser
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REVIEWS

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Striking Poses
by Dedalus
Friday, November 16, 2007
4.0
I was going to write this in my daughter Julia’s “voice,” but, the truth is, she doesn’t remember anything about it, and was fairly squirmy through it, even though she said at the time she really really liked it because she really really likes dancing and dancers. (When I write in Julia’s voice, I try to be sure I at least reflect what she really thinks of what “we’re” writing about).

This is not to say this a bad production – on the coutrary, I enjoyed it immensely, and, perhaps kids ten or older will like it better than Julia did. But, here is a pseudoreview of a production from the Alliance Theatre Children’s wing that I won’t be able to farm out to my 7-year-old spawnling.

In Wesley Middleton’s “Degas’ Little Dancer,” Marie Gannon is a teenager in contemporary Atlanta. She hates being told what to do, even by a dance teacher struggling to maintain control over choreography. She “wants to dance to her own muse.” She becomes obsessed with the classic Degas sculpture of a ballerina, alone, anticipating the next beat of music. In one of those classic plot twists, Marie travels into the past to become the model for that very statue, and returns to the present only when she learns to appreciate the calling of her heart and talent.

Yes, the adult in us may quibble with this theme, that, occasionally in life (and art), we have to follow rules and form, if only to work in synchronization with our peers. But isn’t it a wonderful dream – to learn that what we do best may be what is criticized in us the most? To be given the freedom to “follow our muse?” To be given permission to fail without falling off our course? And isn’t this a wonderful gift to give our kids?

Rosemary Newcott does her usual high-energy directing job, this time adding a stylized layer of dance to the blocking. In lesser hands, this may have come across as unnecessarily pretentious and “arty.” Here, though, it fits like a glove, and the play is short enough (about 50 minutes) that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Tableaus are used to imitate some of Degas’ work, and the production flows from scene to scene with hardly a misstep.

Newcomer Noelle Kayser proves that talent runs in the family, as she does a marvelous job as Marie. She has the unenviable task of having to play most of her scenes with her real-life father, Chris Kayser, who does his usual topnotch job as Degas. The young Ms. Kayser is a true discovery. She shows herself to be an excellent dancer, and quite ably imbues Marie with an energy and reality that truly sells this show. Her Marie is a Force of Nature who embraces her muse with the fervency of a true acolyte. The Kaysers are given top-notch support from Tabitha Christopher, Pamela Gold, Ronn K. Smith, and Lena Mayfield, all in multiple roles, past and present.

Fast-paced and whimsical, “Degas’ Little Dancer” is a compelling piece for adults and an inspiring one for older children and teens. And, in Noelle Kayser, it is a showcase for a remarkable new talent I fully expect to see much more in the future (whether Julia remember her name or not).

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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