SAN DIEGO — Move over, Shamu. You and the other aquatic stars at Sea World will have to share the spotlight with some toe-shoed landlubbers from the California Ballet this weekend.
To celebrate the start of its 20th anniversary season, the San Diego-based troupe will dance "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Sea World's Nautilus Bowl. The full-length ballet, featuring a cast that rivals "The Nutcracker" in size, will run at 8 p.m. Saturday and at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" has been part of Cal Ballet's repertory for years. The company danced Shakespeare's comic romp at the East County Performing Arts Center in 1982, and in the Starlight Bowl back in the '70s.
Artistic Director Maxine Mahon, who did the choreography, noted that even without Shakespeare's poetry, "the story is very easily depicted in dance, and the lovers' costumes are color-coded to help you sort things out."
"I have a tendency to be more literal, which is why the critics sometimes criticize the ballet, but audiences love it because they can follow it," she said. "The choreography gets the gist of the story . . . and with its fairy sprites and elves, 'Midsummer Night's Dream' really lends itself to dance. The important thing is the humor of three different worlds that get mixed together."
The music is all by Felix Mendelssohn, but it wasn't all taken from one composition.
"Mendelssohn's music for 'Midsummer Night's Dream' is only 45 minutes long," Mahon said, "but I made a three-act ballet by listening to all of his music for days and days and finding other pieces that fit."
In Balanchine's famous staging of "Dream," the stage is alive with pint-sized dancers dressed as bumblebees, butterflies and other woodland creatures. But Mahon insists her kiddie cast will be dancing seriously.
"I have a lot of bumblebees, dragonflies and caterpillars, and I have them all doing distinct choreography, not just running around flapping their hands. The younger dancers are good dancers, and it's a shame to waste them," she said.
Company principal Karen Evans will dance Hippolyta, with Pacific Ballet Theatre's Joe Wyatt as her Theseus. Young Marla Navarrete will enact the elfin Puck. Paul Giovinazzo (back from a stint with the celebrated Trocaderos) will play one of the lovers, while Patrick Nollet will don a donkey head for the role of Bottom. Denise Dabrowski and Kevin Engle will battle it out as Titania and Oberon.
This staging of "Dream" represents a first for the company.
"It's the first time the ballet will be presented without a proscenium stage," said Mahon.
This meant several changes had to be made in the choreography--and a few new technical challenges.
"Since we'll be dancing on a platform stage--almost like in theater in the round--there are no wings, so we can't have the typical entrances and exits. I've had to change the choreography to suit the new stage. It's a huge stage, so that won't be a problem . . .."
As you might expect, Mahon's choreography pounces on every opportunity for formal dance, so the wedding scene becomes a classic ballet.