Maine State Ballet has presented its “Peter & the Wolf” as a children’s program for years, and it certainly is accessible and entertaining for a younger audience.

However, this little ballet’s rich artistic quality is satisfying for any age, with a creatively literal interpretation of both the storyline and the musical fabric of Prokofiev’s classic introduction to the orchestra.

With such a well-known story, it might be tempting for a choreographer to overly reinterpret to achieve a personal “stamp,” or to slavishly adhere to the narration, giving the dancing a lip-syncing quality.

Instead, artistic director Linda MacArthur Miele’s ineffable musical understanding has created a true illustration of the piece, with seamless transitions between spoken word and music, and choreography embodying each character’s nature.

Gail Csoboth’s costumes enlarge beautifully upon Miele’s choreographic interpretation of each character, and Frederick Bernier’s masks for the bird, duck, cat and wolf are brilliant.

On Saturday, the company presented “Peter” along with “Western Roundup” in two matinees and an evening performance (to be repeated this Saturday). At the evening show, the dancers’ sustained energy and apparent delight betrayed how much fun these ballets must be to perform.

Michael Holden was a perfect Peter, youthful and lithe. This dancer seems to grow technically and artistically with each appearance, and in this performance he impressed with gorgeous cabrioles and leaps, and improved precision in his multiple turns.

Elizabeth Dragoni brought all her usual personality to the bird, with attention to the minutiae of her preening and posing. Courtney True performed the fussy duck with adorably flexed feet and hands. Their shared sequences showed a nice contrast between the characters’ styles.

Nathaniel Dombek as the wolf performed flying leaps as well as a very funny “Chorus Line”-style strut as he was led away by the hunters, Errol Kurtz and Maiki Saito. Kurtz and Saito provided a lot of the ballet’s comedy, especially when imitating the dancing of Peter and the bird.

Both “Peter” and “Western Roundup” highlighted the company’s growing roster of accomplished male dancers. With teenagers Holden, Dombek, Kurtz and Saito joining principals Glenn Davis and Bernier, Maine State Ballet’s repertoire will gain flexibility and depth.

“Roundup” was a swirl of nine pieces performed to traditional Western music. A coquettish corps de ballet in saloon-style dresses opened and closed the ballet, framing star turns by many of the company’s soloists and principals.

Dombek got another chance to fly in “Don’t Fence Me In,” with finely stretched feet, legs and arms, particularly in pas de chats. “Home on the Range” followed, as a sweet pas de deux for Dombek and Dragoni.

Holden opened “Whoopie-Ti-Yi-Yo” with a sky-high split leap and continued with a sweeping leap circle. In “The Heart of Texas,” he and Janet Davis danced a playful competition, with a rich array of technical feats including some very creative choreographic twists to jumps and turns.

Kate Hamilton and Glenn Davis added a classical element to the mix, in a pas de deux to “Shenandoah” that showcased Hamilton’s strength, precision and pretty line. Later, Davis brought his dramatic skills to “Riders in the Sky.”

Together, “Peter” and “Roundup” provided an evening of dance that could hardly fail to entertain. The charmingly childlike gentleness of “Peter” was complemented by the mile-a-minute pace and excitement of “Roundup,” while both ballets elicited plenty of laughter from young and old.

 

Jennifer Brewer is a freelance writer, teacher, musician and dancer who lives in Saco.