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An acclaimed new Peter Pan ballet makes its Pittsburgh premiere. 

"I went for a lot of realism as a better foundation for the imagination to take flight."

click to enlarge Alexandra Kochis and Christopher Budzynskiin Pittsburgh Ballet's Peter Pan - PHOTO COURTESY OF DUANE RIEDER

In 2005, Royal Winnipeg Ballet artistic director Andre Lewis commissioned RWB School instructor Jorden Morris to choreograph a new Peter Pan ballet.

 Lewis wanted a production with both audience appeal and artistic integrity -- a combination he felt was missing in existing versions. 

The ballet that Morris, a former RWB principal dancer, delivered in 2006 became the biggest box-office success to date in RWB's long history, and a huge critical success as well.

Local audiences can experience Morris' vision as Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents the area premiere of Peter Pan, with a live orchestra, Oct. 28-30. Peter is danced on different nights by Christopher Budzynski and Luca Sbrizzi, Wendy by Alexandra Kochis and Christine Schwaner.

Morris spent eight months researching J.M. Barrie's classic Peter Pan play and novel and other Barrie works, getting to know the author and his Edwardian time period.

"I went for a lot of realism as a better foundation for the imagination to take flight," says Morris.  

That quest extended to Morris' choice of period costumes for the ballet's London scenes, and in music: The ballet is set to music by a host of British composers who were active when Barrie was writing Peter Pan, including Benjamin Britten and Edward Elgar.

"It was an important connection for me to make in creating the ballet," says Morris. "Conceivably, in my mind, J.M. Barrie could have listened to the music of Elgar or Britten when he was writing the book."

Still, Morris did take a few liberties with Barrie's story. He made the character of Tiger Lily a sort of magical aboriginal princess who can communicate with the animals in Neverland, and created a scene where Tinker Bell and a corps of fellow fairies dance.

Like many other Peter Pan ballets, Morris has several characters flying, sometimes four at a time.

"It's a big challenge coming into a new theater to have enough time to get the flying sequences to a point of perfection where it looks effortless and not too manufactured," says Morris.

Hailed as a Peter Pan for all ages, Morris' production abounds with the adventures of the ever-youthful Peter Pan, the Darling children, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys and Captain Hook in Neverland. It's a destination audiences may want to treat themselves to this Halloween.

 

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents PETER PAN Fri., Oct. 28-Sun., Oct. 30. Benedum Center, 719 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $22.75-90.75. 412-456-6666 or www.pbt.org

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