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Land of Oz entertains aesthetics of childhood

Briana Van Schuyver is Dorothy and Bezel is her dog Toto in Ballet Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.” (Courtesy of Jeff Giese)
Briana Van Schuyver is Dorothy and Bezel is her dog Toto in Ballet Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.” (Courtesy of Jeff Giese)
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An original ballet of “The Wizard of Oz” will arrive on the KiMo stage with inspired hard work and perhaps some magic.

“It was an insane amount of work, but it’s come together. Maybe we’ve had a little help from whomever is flying around up there,” says choreographer Alex Ossadnik of the Ballet Repertory Theatre of New Mexico, where the spring production opens Saturday.

“It’s our largest production to date,” says Katherine Giese, the company’s artistic director. “Alex is quite the master. He’s created a new original ballet that is entertaining for today’s audiences.”

If you go
WHAT: “The Wizard of Oz”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 and March 2; 2 p.m. Feb. 24 and March 3
WHERE: KiMo Theatre, 423 W. Central
HOW MUCH: Tickets $17 to $27, $5 discounts for seniors 60 and older and college students with ID, $10 discounts for children 12 and younger. Reserved seating available through 768-3544 and Hold My Ticket, 886-1251 and www.kimotickets.com

She says the design and production crew have overcome the limitations of the KiMo stage to recreate a three-dimensional Land of Oz.

“It’s huge. It’s in the quality of the sets and the special effects. The KiMo has no fly loft, so we needed sets to work in the tornado and the Wizard’s hot-air balloon,” she says of the design and production of Valeria Rios-Giemakowski and Richard Hess, who created the sets with the help of University of New Mexico drama students. “The Yellow Brick Road is actually vinyl roofing material.”

Principal dancer Briana Van Schuyver, who plays Dorothy, says the ballet, “is absolutely beautiful. The music fits perfectly.”

Ossadnik rearranged the music of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev from a little known ballet, “The Stone Flower,” for the performance.

In the Oz story, Dorothy transforms from a frightened girl to a self-empowered young woman by discovering knowledge, courage, love and the power of friendship, Van Schuyver says.

Along with her fellow company dancers, Antonio Lopez as Scarecrow, Irmaal Davis as Tin Man and Giacomo Zafarano as Cowardly Lion, she has her canine sidekick, Toto. Toto is played by Bezel, a 7-year-old border terrier, owned by local dog trainer Dee Falk.

“He’s been good for the most part,” Van Schuyver explains. “He weighs about 20 pounds and I pick him up a couple of times. He’s the variable, so it’s been interesting.”

Ossadnik, who has choreographed hundreds of ballets in the United States, Canada and Mexico, has always dreamed of staging the “Wizard of Oz” as a ballet. Growing up in Soviet-occupied East Germany, the story is the first book he recalls his parents reading to him.

“I can close my eyes and see the illustrations. It’s the aesthetic of my childhood. It was a story I wanted to tell,” he says.

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