Richardson — Chamberlain Performing Arts presents a short and sweet offering with its Family Ballet Series at the Eisemann Center in Richardson. Katie Martin joins as guest choreographer for an enlightening yet delightful Peter and the Wolf and Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Under the artistic direction of Kathy Chamberlain, CPA boasts an impressive educational outreach program, so it seems an obvious choice to close out their season with kid-friendly fare.
A colorful set greets patrons entering the Bank of America Theater, which offers unique staging opportunities for differentiating the setting and breaking the fourth wall. Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf—his most-performed work—not only offers a lesson in music appreciation with its narration and introduction to the instruments, but as a dance, it can help reinforce certain movement qualities associated with various instruments and characters traits.
The strings represent the protagonist Peter (Brian Tseng), while other wind instruments signify the animals we meet first: the bird (Mikah Lowe on Friday night), the duck (Amit Katz, Friday), and the cat (Mary Rose Vining). A deep bassoon accompanies the stodgy movements of Grandfather (Joell Santiago), winds and brass indicate the hunters (with a booming timpani for the gunshot), and the formidable wolf (Maxwell Capper) prowls and growls to a trio of French horns.
After the introduction of characters, the story continues with Peter entering a meadow where the bird, duck, and cat engage in random antics. A green-clad ensemble of dancers acts as the grass of the meadow and a chorus of sorts throughout the ballet, creating a calming, lovely picture. Grandfather comes out, reprimands Peter, then locks the gate.
When the wolf creeps through the audience and up to the stage, mayhem ensues, and the animals must work together with Peter to catch the wolf. A hilarious gaggle of hunters assists in dragging the wolf to the zoo.
Continuing on the music education theme, Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra presents the instruments through theme and variation and a fugue, also with a narrator. Martin arranges the choreography according to the instrument families, with color-coded costumes of a simple skirt and short-sleeved leotard for the ladies. A projection of music notes on a staff remains on the cyc, while the background color shifts according to changes in the music.
A Balanchine feel pervades the work, with its costuming, musical emphasis, and a few signature steps. Martin’s transitions and timing dynamics prove to be a challenge for the dancers, but one they mostly rise to. The expected bobbles and precision issues pop up minimally, but the artists maintain a shining performance quality. The finale displays a charming picture and beautiful finish to a performance that proved captivating experience for the kids, judging from the smiles leaving the theater.