By Terry Rogers
On Saturday, April 29, at 2:00 and at 7:00 PM, Diamond Dance Company and Tatiana Akinfieva Dance Academy (TADA) will present “Beauty and the Beast” in the Milford High School auditorium. The classic fairy tale will be presented as a ballet, something that Aimee Voshell String, Assistant Director at Diamond Dance Company, said led to challenges for the dancers.
“Our dancers are in love with this show,” Ms. String said. “We have had so much fun creating it and developing the characters. It’s not every day that you find yourself discussing how a napkin, book or salt shaker would move or act, so there have definitely been some hilarious moments.”
Ms. String said that the company enjoys creating ballets out of classic children’s stories. She said this makes the ballet more relatable for children attending the performance as well as for some of the dancers.
“We actually tossed around a couple of ideas for this year’s production,” Ms. String said. “But when we realized that this year would mark the anniversary of the Disney animated film and the debut of the live-action film, it just kind of felt like this ballet was meant to be. We knew there would be a lot of excitement about “Beauty and the Beast,” so the timing just felt right for this particular ballet.”
The ballet was choreographed by Ms. String as well as the dance company’s artistic staff, Misty Yencer and Bliss Soucek. Ms. String said that although the three women have different styles, the choreography for this ballet seemed to come together easily.
“My absolute favorite moments have been when the three of us are all working with different groups of dancers who will eventually all be dancing together in a scene,” Ms. String said. “We would then put it all together and somehow it just works seamlessly. In one particular scene, the “Be Our Guest” scene, we have about 50 dancers on the stage at one time. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many hours of planning and rehearsing we have in this particular scene. Rehearsals were absolute chaos at times, but it has turned into one of my favorite scenes. It really is a show stopper.”
Ms. Soucek agrees with Ms. String’s assessment of choreographing the production. She said that once the cast and music was chosen, the choreography just seemed to come together.
“When the three of us are choreographing different pieces of the same dance and then sit back and watch it all come together seamlessly is magical,” Ms. Soucek said.
Ms. String said that, in keeping with the dance company’s tradition, original choreography created by the founder of the company, Tatiana Akinfieva-Smith, was incorporated, adding even more meaning to the show. Ms. String said it is great to see the young dancers performing some of the same choreography she and other directors danced when they were young, keeping their founder’s legacy alive.
Maintaining the integrity while bringing a well-known animated and live-action film to life is one of the biggest challenges the dancers face, Ms. String said. She said the dancers want the audience swept away in the production and to feel as if they are part of the story.
“We don’t have the benefit of words, a big budget, fancy special effects or the magic of animation,’ Ms. String said. “It has definitely been a challenge but I think that what we put together is pretty spectacular. I can’t wait to see it come to life on the stage.”
Audiences will see the beloved story and characters that they are familiar with as well as a few new additions. One addition to the story is that the rose is more central to the story line and will be performed by Taylor Kimmey and Jill Wilkins. Ms. String said that they were able to create several breathtaking scenes through the character.
“One of the major difference is that the majority of the main characters will be played by females,” Ms. Soueck said. “In the movie, some are male. Aside from that, a majority of the aspects form the story are the same or very similar. This has bene an idea of the artistic staff for years. We love bringing fairy tales to life and this was another great opportunity to do an adaptation.”
The part of Belle is being played by Nova Gaffney and Jillian Kerr while John Moller is playing the part of Papa. Tickets can be purchased online through the dance company website at www.diamonddanceco.com or at the door. Tickets are $20 for premium seats, $15 for adults and $10 for children, students and senior citizens.