Next weekend, the Ballet Theatre of Toledo brings to life a classic tale of the wilds of India with The Jungle Book.
Artistic Director Nigel Burgoine has once again turned his sights to the world of children’s literature, melding the music of Alexander Borodin and the words of Rudyard Kipling to create a brand new, full-length, two-act ballet.
Kipling (1865-1936) was an English journalist, novelist, poet, and short story writer born in Bombay, India, during the British Raj of the Indian subcontinent. His father served as an instructor of sculpture at the newly opened Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art.
At age 5, Kipling returned to England to complete his formal early education.
However, because he was unable to obtain a full scholarship and his family lacked the funds to complete his higher education at Oxford University, Kipling returned to India to assume an administrative post arranged by his father at another university.
After a decade, he returned to England, married, and eventually found his way to a family farmstead in New England, where he began the writing that would soon make him famous the world around.
The Jungle Book is a compilation of short stories that appeared in magazines between 1893 and 1894. They were written while the author was living in Dummerston, Vt., possibly for his daughter Josephine who, tragically, died of pneumonia at age 6.
In addition to now perennial favorites, such as the tale of the mongoose Rikki- Tikki-Tavi and the story of Toomai of the Elephants, the other stories relate the escapades of the young Indian boy Mowgli, who is raised in the jungle by a family of wolves.
The individual tales are fables designed to teach basic lessons of life, respect for authority, knowing one’s place in society, and the law of the jungle. While encountering highly anthropomorphized animals and having boisterous adventures, Mowgli learns life’s vital lessons, sometimes the hard way. Eventually, even though he loves his animal compatriots, Mowgli finds he must return to the world of humans to find his own true place in the world.
As in the book, Burgoine has set his ballet on the edge of the jungle in the heart of India. Mowgli’s life is one of wonder where most of the animals of the jungle are his friends, loved as his own family. He soon learns however, that some are not to be trusted.
As the story progresses, Mowgli meets humans for the first time and unwittingly becomes the enemy of the most feared tiger in the jungle, Shere Khan. Beloved characters, known to most of us through the cels of Disney’s cartoon adaptation, also make their appearance: Baloo the bear, Bagheera the panther, and of course the wily Kaa the python.
As he worked on creating the adaptation, Burgoine says that he found that “blending classical ballet with animal movements is a fun and challenging experience. This beautiful and heart touching story of animals and human caring and defending each other is a perfect ballet for the entire family. It takes the audience on a journey filled with fun and adventures and highlights the importance of animals and humans living in harmony.”
The production is yet another collaboration of the Ballet Theatre and historic Trinity Episcopal Church downtown.
For several years, the dance company has taken over the uniquely versatile sanctuary for one week every March providing a buffet of delightful ballets for the entire family: Snow White, Peter and the Wolf, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Snow Queen, to name a few.
Next weekend’s performances of The Jungle Book are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church, 316 Adams St., Toledo. Tickets, $20 adults and $15 seniors and children under 12, are available at 419-861-0895.
As a special feature, the Toledo Zoo’s education team will offer an interactive experience for children before each performance.
Contact Wayne F. Anthony at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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