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Setting the wolf free: In this version of a classic, the duck-devouring animal relocates to the Gila

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Students from the National Dance Institute will present the story of Peter and the Wolf at the Hiland Theater. (Courtesy of insightfoto.com)

Students from the National Dance Institute will present the story of Peter and the Wolf at the Hiland Theater. (Courtesy of insightfoto.com)

The National Dance Institute’s version of “Peter and the Wolf” comes with a PC spin lifted directly from the news.

“We’re telling the story of setting the wolf free into the Gila Wilderness because that’s what’s done here,” said National Dance Institute director Evelyn Cisneros-Legate.

Cisneros-Legate will direct about 60 students from NDI’s four after-school and pre-professional classes in the Russian classic starting tonight.

“Prokofiev did an amazing job of making the story of ‘Peter and the Wolf’ into the music using the musical instruments as the characters,” Cisneros-Legate explained. The flute voices the bird, the oboe the duck; the clarinet becomes the cat, while the wolf roars through the horns. The strings double as Peter.

“I think it’s a great vehicle for learning,” the director added. “It was a personal favorite of mine when I was a child.”

The ballet opens with Peter disobeying his grandfather to enter the meadow, where he meets his animal friends. When the wolf suddenly approaches, the grandfather runs to shut the gate, scolding his grandson. The wolf quickly devours the duck.

The hunters emerge, ready to shoot until Peter stops them. This is a decidedly happily-ever-after story, Cisneros-Legate said.

“He swallowed (the duck) whole, so the animal can come back alive. After all, it’s a fairy tale.”

The group traps and releases the wolf into the wild.

Cisneros-Legate grew up in California, eventually becoming a principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet. She began her formal studies at 16, then developed what became a 23-year dance career. She was the country’s first Mexican-American prima ballerina.

“There were very few darker-skinned female ballet dancers” in 1976, she said. “Today, that’s not the case.”

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