News Column

Laurel Ballet to perform 'Don Quixote'

June 12, 2014

By Mary Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



June 12--The legendary comical but noble knight-errant Don Quixote will be brought to life by the Laurel Ballet in two performances Saturday at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg.

"The music is wonderful," said Laurel Ballet resident choreographer Judy Rae Tubbs. "It's a wonderful score and it's a youthful score and we're a young company. Romantic comedy suits us."

It has been a decade since the Greensburg ballet company performed "Don Quixote," based on the 17th century novel by Miguel de Cervantes. It tells the story of a nobleman on a quest to restore chivalry to the world, accompanied by his squire Sancho Panza.

In many productions of the ballet, Don Quixote is a non-dancing role. But Mark Parker, who portrays Don Quixote for both performances, was so impressive that he is exceeding the norm in the role.

"Mark Parker has absolutely amazed us," Ms. Tubbs said. He is a local actor with 20 years experience in the broadcast industry but has not danced previously, she said, "and his ability to develop this role has impacted this ballet. He has a wonderful sense of timing." The company began working with some of the leads at the end of February and "he's grown with us," she said, "the role evolved and developed while we were doing it."

The cast includes five professional male dancers and a professional female dancer who performs the role of Death. One of the dancers, Alan Obuzor, who is also a choreographer and artistic director of Texture Contemporary Ballet company in Pittsburgh, was named one of the top 25 dancers to watch by Dance Magazine, Ms. Tubbs said. "He's just fabulous."

The ballet has a large cast and a long and complex score, she said. The cost of engaging musicians for such an effort is one reason the cast won't be accompanied by a live orchestra, which is a trend in ballet. She noted that the ballet has performed "The Nutcracker" with the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra annually for more than two decades.

She also applauds the "really strong young people" from the ballet school who perform. Marlee Grant, who dances Kitri in the evening performance, is a senior who is heading to Georgetown University on scholarship next year to pursue international studies and dance. "She was interested in dance from the time she was tiny. She probably started dancing when she was around 6," Ms. Tubbs said.

Katie Hayden, who will be Kitri for the matinee performance, is a junior who is strong academically, Ms. Tubbs said.

"The company girls are such a disciplined lot," she said. Many are on the honor roll in school. They practice at least five days a week, a minimum of three hours every time, she said. She has had at least four valedictorians among her students at the school.

Laurel Ballet stresses the value of a well-rounded education to its students.

"You can have an injury at any time, and it's important to have the education to back yourself up," Ms. Tubbs said. "We're a very different kind of ballet school, but we're not willing to sacrifice their academics."

But she knows the passion her young dancers feel, having been a dancer herself with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre among other companies.

"I still remember what it was like, when I was a young dancer, to walk out on stage and just feel 1,000 people watching. You can't really see them; the lights are in your face. But you can feel them. It's an energy."

"Don Quixote" will be performed at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15, $20 and $25 and may be ordered through the Palace Theatre at www.thepalacetheatre.org or 724-836-8000.

For more on the ballet company: www.laurelballet.com or 724-837-7230.

Mary Thomas: mthomas@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1925.

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(c)2014 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)


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