MacKenzie Zarecki, left, and Ariel Warrick of the Toledo Ballet.
As the Toledo Ballet moves toward its big 70th anniversary season later this year, the company wants to celebrate its classical past by pushing the dance envelope in myriad new directions.
Saturday's production, "Outside the Lines," at 7:30 p.m. in the newly renovated Notre Dame Academy auditorium, 3535 West Sylvania Ave., should show better than words what's happening inside its Westfield Franklin Park headquarters.
"It's Not Swan Lake," is the subtitle of the eclectic program planned by Michael Lang, who has been involved with marketing and other areas for 15 months since his wife and dance partner, Lisa Mayer Lang, took over artistic direction of the venerable company.
"This in no way is intended to disrespect classical ballet," said Lang during a recent rehearsal. (Ironically, a full production of Swan Lake was just presented by the North American Ballet in Tecumseh, Mich., a company just created by Arkadiy Orohovsky, who left the Toledo Ballet in 2007.)
"This year's production happens to have more of a contemporary flair that includes quite a few different genres and styles of dance, but it is more a sign of what the girls have added to their repertoire and does not reflect the idea that they have abandoned their classical training," Lang explained.
"What we are doing is building on that tradition by expanding the possibilities of dance of all kinds," says Lang, who has danced on Broadway and who also serves on the faculty of the Toledo School for the Arts. Since joining the TB staff, he has created a contemporary performance group, Magie du Theatre, although that company will not perform Saturday.
As an example of the idea behind "Outside the Lines," Lang created "Fallen," an intense work based on a contemporary situation - a single mother facing consequences of a difficult decision - set to contemporary music.
His choreography juxtaposes classical ballet and sinuous modern dance and some dancers will be barefoot, others en pointe.
Four segments track the torment of the mother - danced eloquently by Ariel Warrick - through interactions with her child, sensitively portrayed by Meridith Heckler, and an angel, MacKenzie Zarecki.
A corps of dancers and several men -Ariel's dad, Michael Warrick, a longtime Toledo Ballet dancer, and Tim Zdybek - assisting with lifts and carries complete the casting for this 15-minute work depicting what Lang calls different planes of existence. Dramatic lighting by Jim Hill and extensive use of silhouetting will no doubt add to the impact of the piece, set to close the first half of the production.
For Warrick, who just graduated from high school, the number offered a challenge she has embraced wholeheartedly.
"It's one of the only pieces I've ever done that lets me dig into my soul," she said.
It's also the first time she's done modern dance. "I love it," Warrick says. "It's so much easier to put emotion into it. In ballet scenes, you're always just happy."
Also featured in the Saturday program will be original dance by Chelsea Koenig, Erin Parseghian, Lisa Lang, Loganne Bond, Steven Brown, Talina Tolson, and reprises of choreography by Michel Fokine and Bob Fosse.
The Madd Poets Society will present original verse and violinist Thomas Stuart is to perform a solo by Lalo.
Tickets for "Outside the Lines" are $20-$23 at Toledo Ballet headquarters, 419-471-0049 or at the door.
Contact Sally Vallongo at firstname.lastname@example.org.