If you like dance, you will love this weekend. Both primary ballet companies in greater Portland offer performances featuring original choreography.
Portland Ballet revives its original interpretation of the Washington Irving tale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center. Maine State Ballet presents its version of the classic story “Hansel & Gretel” at 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday and Oct. 22 at its theater in Falmouth.
Both feature large casts, high production values and family-focused entertainment.
“I like doing something kid-friendly in the fall,” said Maine State artistic director Linda MacArthur Miele.
Portland Ballet artistic director Eugenia O’Brien described her show as “appropriate for children and adults, but it is not a children’s production per se. It is family friendly.”
Miele choreographed “Hansel & Gretel” and set it to music that she borrowed from the Engelbert Humperdinck opera, as well as other music by composer Adolphe Adam. It includes a cast of about 50 dancers and a large intricate set.
While “Hansel & Gretel” includes some classical ballet, it also requires the dancers to act their parts with pantomime and other techniques. “It has a lot of acting, which is really fun,” said 13-year-old Alyssa Bryan of North Waterboro, who dances the role of Gretel. “It’s pretty challenging. It’s a little bit demanding for the acting, but it’s really fun.”
For Portland Ballet, Saturday’s presentation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” represents the second time it has staged the dance in a year. Resident choreographer Nell Shipman created the show with music by Kirt Mosier. An orchestra, conducted by Robert Lehmann, will accompany.
Portland Ballet will present the show at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center, a new 1,000-seat theater.
“We needed a little more space for the dancers to feel they could expand the movements enough to make it delicious for them physically and to make it look like pure joy for the audience,” O’Brien said.
Although it’s thoroughly modern, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has the feel of a classical ballet.
“We are telling Washington Irving’s story through movement,” O’Brien said. “We see it as something that talks about love, but also about peer pressure and choices made as adults that impact who you are and how you live your life.”
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: [email protected]