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Published: Sunday, 3/18/2007

Aladdin's magic lights up the Stranahan

BY SALLY VALLONGO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Maria Snell and Tony Dandino, center, and other dancers in the Toledo Ballet Theatre's original work, <i>Aladdin</i>. It premieres Sunday afternoon. Maria Snell and Tony Dandino, center, and other dancers in the Toledo Ballet Theatre's original work, <i>Aladdin</i>. It premieres Sunday afternoon.
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Dance master Nigel Burgoine loves both a good story and exciting music. For years, he's had a dream of shaping a ballet to music by Rimsky-Korsakov, the Russian composer.

Now, just as in the story and music Burgoine chose for his original ballet, Aladdin, dreams sometimes do come true.

His colorful new production will have its world premiere at 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday in the Stranahan Theater.

Working with neither magic lamp nor ring, Burgoine became his own genie.

"I've always wanted to choreograph to Rimsky-Korsakov," the energetic Englishman said recently, as his Ballet Theatre of Toledo company swirled in around the big, mirrored studio at company headquarters in Holland. The dancers were in bejeweled costumes rippling, sparkling, and twinkling.

Compiling a patchwork of exotic excerpts by the Russian composer - a musical mix that is sumptuous and compelling - Burgoine reworked the popular story from the classic 1001 Arabian Tales.

Of course, many already know the Disney version of the rags-to-riches tale, itself a hybrid of a hybrid of a hybrid. Folk tales do tend to evolve and morph depending on the teller.

Burgoine replaced cartoons and voiceovers with real people in real time moving to real music. It looks like a winner, but only the performances on March 25 will tell.

What is clear and remarkable already is that working with a collection of six dozen dancers - from age 7 to "Don't Ask" - one person can shape a complex and demanding fantasy involving every art form but the spoken word.

Watching his dancers - students with his troupe and community company members - prepare for a run-through, Burgoine was candid about his aspirations and the demands they place on his company.

"We expect them to do professional work," he said with wonder in his statement.

The only true professional dancer in the cast is his wife and co-director, Anne Marie Getz, in the critical role of Aladdin's crafty mother. Getz has been a frequent soloist on Toledo dance stages for decades; her experience shows clearly here.

The rest, dancers-in-training, would-be dancers, diverse people sharing one stagestruck dream - students, a social worker, a professor, an undertaker, an engineer, and others - are realizing dance dreams of their own.

First, they auditioned to be princes, sultanas, odalisques, marketplace girls, and grandees. Then, they diligently attended class and rehearsal, learned steps and blocking, and agreed to be part of Burgoine's project, whatever it took.

Ready for them was the Ballet Theatre of Toledo version of the old story: A pickpocket named Aladdin is drafted by evil magician Mustapha to enter a remote cave and recover a magic lamp. Before leaving, Aladdin conveniently falls in love with a princess, in this version named Adiva. Mustapha loans him a magic ring for protection.

Using wile, guile, and faith in the ring's power, Aladdin completes his mission and gains the hand of Princess Adiva. Mustapha isn't finished, though. He tries to strip Aladdin of his rewards and demean him. But truth and love win out and there's a happy ending, after two acts - 17 scenes - of dramatic dancing.

Burgoine named his mythical city Bashani, a made-up name, he admits. (Scholars aren't sure where the original city was. It could have been in China or the Middle East, they say.)

"I didn't want to repeat Disney's Princess Jasmine, so I called the princess Adiva, which means 'she who moves gracefully,'•" he added.

His only challenge in creating a taped score was which excerpts to choose by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a 19th century scholar and composer whose favorite metier was opera. His music is so colorful and evocative, not to mention adaptable, that most people recognize his melodies through the popular tunes or film scores.

"It just calls out for dancing," notes Burgoine.

Among the operas and symphonic works Burgoine tapped for his score are Scheherazade, The Golden Cockerel, The Snow Maiden, and Flight of the Bumblebee.

Performances are at 1 and 4 p.m. March 25 in the Stranahan. Tickets are $14, $24, and $34, with children under age 12 half-price. For tickets call 419-381-8851 or visit the Ballet Theatre of Toledo Web site www.ballettheatreoftoledo.org.

Contact Sally Vallongo at svallongo@theblade.com or 419-724-6101.



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