Back on Stage with Beauty and the Beast
Published April 1, 2022
Back on Stage with Beauty and the Beast
The third weekend of April, A.V.A. Ballet Theatre and the Reno Phil will be presenting Beauty and the Beast at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts. Beauty and the Beast is the captivating story of the handsome prince who is cursed by a witch and transformed into a hideous beast. He will remain a beast until someone falls in love with him. That someone is, of course, Beauty.
This ballet is not a Disney version of the classic story that has been made into several films – both live action and animated. A.V.A. Ballet Theatre’s artistic director, Alexander Van Alstyne, has re-staged and re-choreographed Beauty and the Beast after Lew Christensen’s San Francisco Ballet performances. Christensen’s version of the ballet was first performed in 1958 and adheres more to the original fairytale written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont and published in 1756.
Unlike Disney’s interpretation of the story where Beauty (Belle in the movie) is an only child, in the original fairytale she has jealous sisters. In almost every other version of the tale, the beast, while hideous, has a sweet and noble heart.
Van Alstyne has done some rather dramatic re-staging of Christensen’s rendition of the ballet. Christensen’s Beauty and the Beast does not show how the prince is transformed into the beast.
“I thought it was important that the audience know why the witch turned him into a beast,” said Van Alstyne. “It’s an important part of the story and one I didn’t want to ignore.”
This change in the staging created some very challenging aspects of the production. One of the reasons Van Alstyne selected Christensen’s version of Beauty and the Beast was the music. Christensen set the ballet to music by Peter Llyich Tchaikovsky. Getting the sheet music and recordings that can be used for rehearsal was relatively easy. Once you add an entire new section of the ballet, however, the music must be adjusted accordingly. Van Alstyne told me that this shuffling of the music was quite complicated and a little nerve wracking.
Starring as the Beauty in A.V.A. Ballet Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast will be Heather Nichols. Nichols began her training at West End Academy of Dance in Richmond, Virginia. In 2009, Ms. Nichols joined the Richmond Ballet as a trainee. From 2011-2015, Ms. Nichols attended Butler University and received her Bachelor of Science in Dance Pedagogy and Pre-Physical Therapy. After graduating in 2015, she accepted a contract with Ballet San Antonio, where she spent four years. In 2019, Nichols joined Kansas City Ballet.
The role of the beast is being danced by Logan Pachciarz. Pachciarz began his dance career with the guidance of Shelly Washington in Twyla Tharp’s Dance company Tharp! After extensive traveling, he continued his classical training at North Carolina School of the Arts under the tutelage of Ton Simons, Fernando Bujones, and Warren Conover. At age 18, he joined the Boston Ballet where he enjoyed performing works by such choreographers as Rudi van Dantzig, Christopher Wheeldon, and Ben Stevenson. In 2001, Logan joined the Kansas City Ballet. In his 15 years with the company, he performed leading roles in a diverse repertoire, ranging from classical and neoclassical to contemporary and modern pieces. Pachciarz has performed with A.V.A. Ballet Theatre in the past. He starred as Heir Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker in 2019 and again this last December where he wowed the audiences with this unbelievable talent.
Joining Nichols and Pachciarz on stage for Beauty and the Beast will be the large cast of dancers from A.V.A. Ballet Theatre. These talented dancers will fill the stage with color and grace. I’ve seen some of the rehearsals and the Dance of the Roses and the Lumière are sure to put a smile on your face.
The Reno Phil will be providing the score to this beautiful ballet with Dr. Jason Altieri as the conductor. The Tchaikovsky music alone is worth the ticket price. I’ve said this many times over the years, once you’ve seen and heard a ballet performance with a live orchestra there is really no comparison to one with a recording. There is something special when you see and hear two performing arts groups working together to entertain an audience.
I invite you to join me at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in a few weeks. Watch and listen as all these talented artists bring “Beauty and the Beast” to life.
Steve Trounday is a board member at A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, the resident ballet company of the Pioneer Center. A.V.A. Ballet Theatre will be performing “Beauty and the Beast” April 23rd and 24th with the Reno Phil.
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