By Terry Rogers
Since February, dancers, choreographers and set designers have been hard at work at the Diamond Dance Company (DDC) as they prepare to present The Tale of the Little Mermaid, a stunning and enchanted original ballet production based on the 1837 Hans Christian Andersen tale. The performance is scheduled for Saturday, April 23, 2016 with shows planned for 2 PM and 7 PM at Milford High School. Tickets are on sale now and prices range from $10 to $20. After April 14, tickets may be purchased at the TADA studio on Northwest Front Street after 5 PM for reserved seating. Tickets sold at the door are for general admission only.
“There are some differences between our ballet production and both the original fairy tale and the Disney version,” said Misty Yencer, one of the directors at DDC. “However, it was extremely important to us to create a production that would connect with the audience, so keeping true to many of the popular elements known by families was certainly a major influence during the creative process last year.”
The directors and performers say that a tremendous amount of work goes into productions like this. Even though they have been working on the production since February, Ms. Yencer and her co-director, Kimmy Price, began planning the production in May 2014 in order to debut the show in the spring of 2015. Ms. Yencer said that they are very proud of the dancers for working so hard for the past two months to pull together a phenomenal performance. She said watching the performance on stage is worth all the rehearsal time, late nights and sacrifices.
“There is an incredible amount of coordination, collaboration and planning that go into doing a show of this magnitude,” said Aimee String. “Beyond the hours of rehearsal, there is great attention paid to music, lighting, costuming, sets and props. We want our production to transport our audience into the story with us and, in order to do that, we really place a high value on things that are seemingly small details.”
The lead role of Ariel is being played by both Brittany Poore and Jill Wilkins. Both young women have been dancing for at least ten years and put in hundreds of hours of class time in order to get to their dance level. “It is my senior year, so fitting it all in has been tough,” Ms. Poore said. “I have had to work around school assignments, projects, college visits and family time in order to fit in the many rehearsals necessary to make a show like this a success.”
None of the directors of the performance are full-time dancers and all of them either work full-time jobs or attend school. Both Ms. Poore and Ms. Wilkins are still in high school, while Ms. Yencer is the Director of the Delaware Teacher Center and Ms. String is a Senior Criminal Justice Planner for the Delaware Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. Bliss Soucek is a family law attorney in Georgetown and the attorney for the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program in Sussex County. Ms. Soucek says that one of the most difficult aspects of putting on a show like The Tale of the Little Mermaid, other than fitting in the time, is the amount of work that goes into preparing for the show.
“The dancers rehearse every weekend and some of the leads rehearse during the week,” Ms. Soucek said. “We spend hours perfecting each move and making sure the scenes run seamlessly together.” Ms. Soucek said it can be difficult teaching a large number of dancers of all ages since there are a lot of “moving parts to each scene.”
Ms. String says that students attend class two to four days per week, depending on their current level and that they are expected to rehears on weekends and evenings. She said it takes a significant amount of commitment and dedication. Ms. Wilkins agrees that productions such as this require extensive learning and dedication.
“Having to learn and do things you haven’t done before like choreography and especially partnering is difficult,” Ms. Wilkins said. “We hire professional male ballet dancers that also make scheduling rehearsals challenging. There never seems to be enough time, especially since I also have a part-time job.” Despite the challenges, the women say it is worth it to produce shows like this and present them to the public.
The dancers are not the only ones working hard to create a beautiful, stunning performance. Susan Grant, Board President of Diamond Dance Company is also known as the Costume Mistress, helps organize and create the spectacular costumes worn by the dancers during the performance. She says that she enjoys working with the young people and listening to their perspectives on life as well as managing the costumes worn on stage.
“The challenge of designing unusual costumes is fun, and there is satisfaction, along with tremendous relief, when everything comes together,” Ms. Grant said. “Sometimes, it’s finding the perfect fabric or adding a tiny last minute detail. The most rewarding part, though, is knowing that I have helped bring something magical to the stage, brightening and broadening the world of hundreds of company members and thousands in the community, from toddlers to seniors. However, it is my assistant, Jeanette, who needs just as much praise. Every costume room should come equipped with its very own, real life needle threading-fabric cutting-opinion giving-coffee providing-sewing machine operating-costume modeling-laughter sharing-humble sounding board assistant. Jeanette is so much more than an extra pair of hands.”
The directors say that there are a lot of dads, uncles, moms and grandmothers behind the scenes that help create each production. They say they are proud to have been able to bring the art of classical ballet to Milford for the past 18 years. In addition to public performances, the studio presents school performances that allow them to share their craft with young students, some of whom may never have been exposed to ballet or other forms of dance.
The performance is scheduled for Saturday, April 23, 2016 with shows planned for 2 PM and 7 PM at Milford High School. Tickets are on sale now at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/ddc-tale-of-the-little-mermaid-evening-tickets-24334657616 and prices range from $10 to $20. After April 14, tickets may be purchased at the TADA studio on NW Front Street after 5 PM for reserved seating. Tickets sold at the door are for general admission only.