Springtime Ballet by California Contemporary Ballet
Presented at Glendale Community College, June 27th, 28th and 29th
Los Angeles, CA–You would never suspect that the black and chrome Harley-Davidson Softail Deuce parked in front of California Contemporary Ballet (http://www.CalBallet.com) in La Canada, would belong to the composer of a new ballet. When Dwight Bernard Mikkelsen, of Lakeview Terrace, walks into a rehearsal with long hair, tattoos, an earring, jeans, leather boots and a denim vest covered with patches, he looks oddly out of place among the leotard clad, leggy ballerinas.
California Contemporary Ballet and its Artistic Director, Aerin Holt, enlisted Mikkelsen to compose this ballet which debuted in June 2013. The story of Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen was one of Holt’s favorite fairy tales. “I have always dreamed of creating a ballet from the story”, says Holt. Since its sold-out premier in 2013, the company has been buzzing about whether the ballet would be seen again. But after the show’s success last spring and constant requests for the ballet to return, Holt was persuaded to present the ballet for a second time this June.
For Mikkelsen, a professional composer for films and many classical artists, creating the musical score for Thumbelina required his creative energies for five months. He composed the music for a fairly traditional orchestra: 9 Woodwinds, 11 Brass, 3 Percussionists, Timpani, 2 Harps and a large String section. Mikkelsen says, “Of all possible venues, ballet is my preference. And working with Aerin makes it even more delightful. Her realizations are always surprising, yet when I look back, they appear inevitable and perfect. Then there are the CCB dancers! My, oh my! They are, one for one, light, lithe, strong and committed, and their characters are always wholly convincing."
Holt says, “I think it is a very fortunate situation when a choreographer and composer work so well together. He has a knack for composing music that breathes movement.”
Ms. Jaclyn Stryker, a resident of La Crescenta, is returning to the starring role as the tiny fairy, Thumbelina. Ms. Stryker, a professional dancer who has enjoyed roles with companies locally and in San Francisco, honed her technical skills as Holt’s remarkably gifted dance student. Jaclyn is now one of California Contemporary Ballet’s leading performers. Ms. Stryker will be on stage throughout the entire ballet, as she encounters both friend and foe, based on the story’s characters.
Ms. Stryker will face a toad who steals her away to a swamp, and a swarm of nasty beetles. She meets a match-making mouse performed by Julia Houser, a La Canada resident and graduating senior at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. She also meets a spider that performs high in the air on an aerial net, performed by professional dancer Alyssa Thompson from Canyon Country. Finally, she will dance with a Swallow, performed by Kelinda White of Los Angeles, who whisks her through the air to a handsome Prince, performed by Nicholas Zerman of Altadena.
The ballet begins with a witch, performed by dancer Tina Yedgarian of Glendale, and ends with the Vale of the Fairies created by collaborating choreographer, Lynn Bryson Pittenger of North Hollywood. As a young dancer, Pittenger was personally selected by George Balanchine to join the ranks of New York City Ballet where her professional career began. Pittenger clearly helps to deliver the final message of the ballet where soloist ballerinas, dubbed the “Fairies of Good Character,” represent the qualities which Thumbelina calls upon from within, as she is forced to confront and ward off adversity. And by doing so, Thumbelina earns her acceptance into the fairy kingdom.
Throughout the ballet, Mikkelsen’s music creates themes for each character. “He is brilliant at expressing the emotion required for ballet characters. What I attempt to do with movement, he does with music to help the dancers create their roles”, says Holt.
In addition to the music, choreography and characters, the ballet features large sets created to maintain a tiny fairy-like perspective. This includes 12-foot-high flowers, 5-foot-high toadstools, and the large tulip from which Thumbelina is born. The tulip operates by means of a hydraulic system, enabling its petals to open at the appropriate moment. To boot, these large sets were offered as a donation, giving Holt the impetus needed to go forward with her production and demonstrating that a tiny fairy can make a big show!
With a melding of contemporary dance, classical ballet and aerial arts, this ballet is a sure springtime bet for the entire family. Thumbelina by California Contemporary Ballet premieres at Glendale Community College (1500 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, California) on June 27th at 7:30pm, June 28th at 2pm and June 29th at 2pm. Tickets are $20-$30 at www.CalBallet.com Group ticket prices are also available. Call 818-583-7406.