Spring ballets take adventurous take on dance classics

As diverse as dance is these days, the most common image of a youth ballet performance still is probably a love story with a romantic pas de deux and a corps de ballet consisting of a gaggle of little girls in tutus.

The spring ballets by Ballet Northwest and Studio West Dance Theatre take classical dance in a decidedly more adventurous direction.

In the case of Studio West, that direction is up. The company is bringing back its popular “Peter Pan,” which gives dancers the opportunity to fly as high as 18 feet above the stage.

Ballet Northwest, meanwhile, is embarking on a quest with “Don Quixote,” its first production of one of ballet’s classics. The ballet, telling the story of a most eccentric knight, mixes romance, adventure and comedy.

And there’s no need for dance fans to choose between productions, either. “Peter Pan” takes the stage this weekend, with “Don Quixote” coming next weekend.

‘Peter Pan’

Just about everyone knows at least part of the story of the boy who never grew up, his fairy sidekick and his pirate nemesis.

In the ballet, as in the theatrical versions, the obvious challenge and highlight is the fact that several of the characters fly. In the Studio West production, the dancers will soar with the help of Las Vegas-based Flying By Foy, who have worked with performers Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and U2.

Although the Studio West dancers wear harnesses and are steered around the stage by The Washington Center for the Performing Arts crew and volunteers, the experience was a little bit like the real thing for those who left the ground during the company’s first production of the ballet in 2011.

“It was like a dream role,” said Stephanie Wood, the company’s co-director. “They got a little sense of what it must feel like to fly.”

The show was a favorite with dancers and audiences, she said. And she’s equally enthusiastic. “It’s my favorite show,” she said. “I got goose bumps the first time we did it.”

Dancing the role of Peter is freelance dancer and ballet teacher Nathan Cook, who’s danced with Studio West as the Nutcracker and as the prince in “Cinderella.” Wood met Cook when she taught dance at Washington Contemporary Ballet.

‘Don Quixote’

Originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, the man behind “Nutcracker,” “Don Quixote” is a ballet classic that hasn’t been seen before in Olympia.

“It has great characters, beautiful music and dancing, and the element of comedy,” said Ken Johnson, Ballet Northwest’s co-director. “It’s lots of fun.”

And it’s a good ballet for young dancers to learn, he said. “It’s in the repertoire of all major ballet companies,” he said. “It’s one of those classical ballet standards.”

The Spanish theme should be fun for audiences and dancers, Johnson added.

“It’s so different than the other ballets in our repertoire. The music and the choreography are so fun,” he added. “The dancers have the opportunity to dance with fans, finger cymbals, capes and tambourines.”

A new production means all-new sets — created by Steve Bylsma with supervision from scenic consultant Jill Carter — and mostly new costumes. All of that took lots of help from volunteers, Johnson said.

Josh Grant, who dances with Pacific Northwest Ballet, will dance the role of Basilio the barber. Because Quixote is a character role, Basilio is the lead male dancer. Grant has danced with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and the National Ballet of Canada.