by Joshua Ryan Taylor
Every two years, over one hundred dancers join forces to present an original, full-length, professional-caliber ballet just for the Central Valley. Since 1975, the Garden Ballet has carved out its own space in the Valley’s arts scene, creating a brand-new, unique experience with each outing. Previous Garden Ballets have included The Little Mermaid, Wizard of Oz, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe. This year, California Arts Academy presents Beauty & the Beast.
This is not the beloved Disney film of your childhood or the new live-action one of your child’s childhood. Adapted from the original fairy tale, director Daniel Chavez Jr. has constructed a magical, dazzling story told entirely through dance. Don’t let the Garden Ballet name fool you, though, the production includes jazz, tap, Irish step, gymnastics, contemporary, and more!
The cast of 112 is composed entirely of students from California Arts Academy, many of whom have studied at the Fresno studio since early childhood. “Watching these dancers grow from toddlers to adults,” says choreographer Margaret Hord, “is one of the great joys of this profession. Garden Ballet is a rite of passage in many ways, helping the dancers mark their progress both in technique and maturity.”
Director Daniel Chavez Jr. couldn’t agree more. “The most exciting part of Garden Ballet is watching the students progress year after year. It’s amazing to remember where they were two, four, or even six years ago and compare to where they are now. To see and be a part of how much they’ve grown as dancers and individuals is the most rewarding experience.”
By blending the original fairy tale and some fanciful Disney elements, the production “can attract the inner child in everyone who attends,” says Chavez Jr. “It also adds a bit of playfulness to a fairly serious tale. Without a little whimsy, the story lends itself to a mature, well-read audience.” With a little bit of magic, though…
“It’s a genuinely enjoyable show for all ages,” says Hord. The costumes are bright and original, designed by costumer Debra Anderson and hand-made by an army of parent volunteers. The large Roosevelt Theatre allows for a state-of-the-art technical razzle-dazzle, including flying set pieces, vibrant lights, and ground-shaking sound. The complex, intricate movement is sure to captivate both dance aficionados and newcomers.
“This is my fifth Garden Ballet,” says dancer Amy Doan, who dances the Enchantress. “With each new show, I get larger parts with more advanced and challenging choreography, and it helps me grow.” “Oh for sure,” chimes in Rebekah Kahn, who dances the Rose. “Being pushed and rising to the challenge of each new part is the fun of Garden Ballet.”
There are four performances.
Friday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday April 29 at 2 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m.
Tickets available at www.calarts.ticketleap.com/beauty.
Directed by Daniel Chavez Jr., Choreography by Hannah Anderson, Malinda Asbury, Daniel Chavez Jr., Marcia DeBenedictis, Zach Garcia, Jasmin Kloos, Carla Lippert, Margaret Hord, Meredith Moreno, Aubree Robbins, Corinne Smith.