The Minnesota Ballet presents a narrated dancing tale based on the children’s story, Billy’s Dancing Dairy Farm, written by Alyson Chavez.
This sweet story, beautifully narrated by Sarah White, tells the true story of a young boy’s path of exposure to and desire to become a ballet dancer. The story touches on the hard issues that boys sometimes face for liking or being involved in dance, especially ballet. Sadly, teasing and bullying by others can sway a person from pursuing ballet.
Being told that “ballet is for girls” is a misnomer. This production brought light to this issue and provided ways to cope with it. With any prejudiced ideology, education is the first step to making positive change.
The story began with a farmer boy, Billy McMichaels, played by Reinhard von Rabenau. Billy happened to run into his friends, played by a team of talented dancers: Claire Buehler, Brianna Crockett, Kirsten Rye, and Dominique Jenssen, who were practicing ballet. Billy was enchanted by their movement.
When he tried to mimic his friends, his friends saw in him a hidden talent for ballet. The girls tried to encourage him, but to no avail. Billy was nervous of what his friends may think and refused to entertain it. But his time on the farm only got him thinking more about it.
In a dream, Billy came across different animals that danced for him. The Crawfish, Sophie Herron and Annie Freeman, were beautifully clad in costumes reminiscent of the Ziegfeld Follies. Their short duet was smooth and graceful. Puss n’ Boots, performed by Emily Barrows and Ken Shiozawa, was also part of the "Dancing Through" performance. I was glad to get the opportunity to see this twice. Their swaying playful movement coupled with cat gestures, was a joy to watch.
Although I was watching the dress rehearsal Saturday afternoon and no audience was present, the narrator and dancers would intermittently engage the audience directly, having the audience try different movements with the dancers. I would imagine using that time to do a little ballet education gets little people moving in their seats.
Most of the choreography was by Petr Zahradnicek and Lori McNichols, aside from a few pieces taken from other ballets. One example of this was the Dance of the Little Swans performed by Buehler, Crockett, Jenssen, and Rye. This famous piece is from the ballet 'Swan Lake,' choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with music by Tchaikovsky.
I loved how this story promoted the attributes of a dancer, and how just one person’s encouragement can positively affect another. Many dancers are physically strong, athletic like football players, elegant, flexible and storytellers, not to mention disciplined like soldiers, highlighting the important role men play in ballet.
Historically, men were the first dancers. Back in the 1600s there was no specific ballet technique; still men dominated the stage. Men developed the first performance/concert dance style and the first ballet techniques. A male dancer must be able to single-handedly (literally) hold a woman above his head with ease, turn multiple times with incredible control, and soar high into the air — all with grace, musicality and agility.
This performance mixed solid dancing, spoken word, beautiful costumes by Sandie Ehle, Minnesota culture, and dance history into a show that all audiences young and old can enjoy and appreciate. With just two simple set pieces, recognizable music and wonderful dancing, the focus remained on the message of the story. Hopefully, this show will help put to rest the notion that ballet is just for girls.
If you go
- Depot Playhouse Theater, April 25 at 1 p.m.
- Tickets available: minnesotaballet.org
Kelly Sue Coyle reviews dance performances for the News Tribune.