• July 28, 2014

Newcomb school presents ‘Hansela and Gretel’ ballet at VLA

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Posted: Friday, May 30, 2014 4:30 am

This weekend’s ballet performance at Killeen’s Vive Les Arts Theatre combines several artistic sources for a mounting of “Hansela and Gretel.”

That’s not a misprint — it’s “Hansela,” with the “a” added, deemed appropriate in this production, according to director Renee Gillenwater, since the male role of Hansel is danced by a female. The plot, adapted from the venerable fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, is brought to life through a musical pastiche. The score, from the popular opera written in 1893 by German composer Engelbert Humperdinck, his most famous work, is augmented by music from other composers.

“It’s an opera, so we used additional music,” Gillenwater said. “This is the second time the Newcomb school has done ‘Hansel and Gretel.’ The first was in 1994. This production has the whole school plus the company onstage.”

And if the spectacle of 100 dancers on the VLA stage isn’t enough, special effects are touted as a don’t-miss attraction.

“There is a beautiful gingerbread house, and some fantastic water effects,” she said. A realistic, imposing “flames and fire” set piece “is really pretty cool, and if everything works, we’ll have remote-controlled fish, too.”

The technical and lighting design elements were created and directed by Dawn Hellman, and Gillenwater collaborated with Marcia Beeksma, an instructor at the Newcomb school, for all-new choreography.

The pair’s finished show, accompanied by recorded music, is made up of two 45-minute acts with an intermission.

“We’ll have refreshments for sale, T-shirts and roses for purchase from your favorite dancer,” Gillenwater said.

Both women work at the Newcomb school in Killeen, where classical ballet lessons have been offered since 1958. Founder Margaret Newcomb, a native of Hamburg, Germany, was the youngest soloist with the Carla Sydow Ballet and toured throughout Europe. The school follows American Ballet Theatre’s national training curriculum and presents the annual VLA production of “The Nutcracker.”

Costumes for the corps de ballet, ballerinas and ballerinos are described as “stunning.” About the plot, Gillenwater emphasized: “It’s a great story, and this show is very kid-friendly. There is a witch, but she’s not overly scary.”

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