The Maine State Ballet’s opening night of “Peter and the Wolf” and “Western Roundup” asked audience members – children and jaded adults alike – to embrace the silly and young at heart. The performers offered a step back from the real world, an invitation to let dance transport you to a musical forest filled with animals or a cowboy saloon full of dancehall girls.

The classic 1936 Russian story of “Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev is an orchestral children’s tale that features characters represented by various musical instruments. The flute is the bird, the oboe the duck, and the French horns represent the wolf. The animal dancers were beautifully costumed by Gail Csoboth with whimsical full-head masks designed by Frederick Bernier. As Peter, danced by Nick Anderson, leaves his home and goes into the meadow, he meets many animals, with choreography by Artistic Director Linda MacArthur Miele. A duet with the bird, portrayed by Adrienne Pelletier, is sprightly and sharp, using quick lifts and flutters as the bird tries to teach Peter how to fly. The duck, danced by Janet Davis, is the opposite: slow, gangly and quirky rather then graceful.

Next came the wolf, the stand-out character danced by principal dancer by Maiki Saito, offering a wolf that was dark, conniving, sinister and so low-to-the ground with stealthiness that he was clearly the bad guy. The hilarious antics of the two hunters had the audience really laughing at their slapstick antics, and Meile’s reimagined ending makes this show especially kid-friendly.

The second dance, “Western Roundup,” was a more straightforward dance number, but it appealed to a younger audience with its theme and exaggerations. Male dancers in cowboy hats stuck their thumbs in the belts as female dancers in satin dancehall dresses vied for their attention. In particularly rowdy moments, the cowboys danced with huge leaps and bravado and the girls one-upped them with dynamic spins and pointe work.

Meile’s choreography in nine sections had the full company of 19 dancers performing to traditional folk songs like “Yellow Rose of Texas” and “Don’t Fence Me In.” The stand-out duet was danced by Rhiannon Pelletier and Glenn Davis to the song “Shenandoah,” a slow lyrical dance that featured complex partnering with difficult balletic turns and balances that came off effortlessly, displaying true professional ballet grace and strength.

Jessica Lockhart is a freelance writer who blogs about dance at talkingaboutdance.blogspot.com. She can be contacted at:

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