"The Velveteen Rabbit," that tender, thoughtful story about a boy and his beloved stuffed bunny, comes to Ventura County this weekend as a dance production.
But don't expect classical ballet with tutus and toe shoes--this is far from it. The San Francisco-based Oberlin Dance Company has put together a fun, relaxed version of the classic children's story.
The modern dance company--joined by seven local children--takes to the stage at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium.
The story will be easy for children to follow because a taped narration of Margery Williams' popular 1922 book accompanies the dancing. The narrator is integrated into the performance at the beginning as the odd-looking character on stage whose head looks like an old phonograph.
That's only one of the quirky little twists that the company has put on the old story. The venerable Nana, who controls the nursery where the boy spends much of his time, is literally 11 feet tall. She is actually two people, one atop the other's shoulders--all hidden, of course, so the illusion makes the other characters seem smaller.
Daniel Sanchez, formerly with the Twyla Tharp dance company, plays the unnamed boy, romping about the stage, constantly in movement. He slides, rolls, leaps and even does flips. He's spirited, athletic, loose, but at the same time a graceful and technically skilled dancer.
And the rabbit, kids will want to take him home. Actually, a her in this case; she's played by Heather Tietsort, wearing a full-headed mask with pink satin ears that continually twitch.
The boy grows to love the bunny, playing with it constantly, taking it everywhere. They sleep curled up together. He tosses it in the air and hugs it exuberantly. All that collapses when the boy gets sick and the bunny wrestles with how he can become a real rabbit like the ones he meets in the woods.
Seven Ventura County children, ages 8 to 13, will join the 11-member cast for the show, as well as performances for local schools. They auditioned for small parts that are interspersed throughout the production.
It's been the troupe's practice to bring local children into its performances in each city. Here they are Kristin Mattavich, 13; Courtney Dickmann, 10; Alexandra Kravitz and Danielle Sharaga, both 8; Eric Davis, 11; Hallie Drake, 12, and Jennifer Whalen, 9.
"They are woven throughout the ballet," often acting as the boy's feelings and thoughts, Pilkenton said.
There are gaps in the narration where the dancing is the only thing going on. Some of it is abstract and symbolic, but it is so lively it should keep the kids attention.
The show is slightly more than an hour, not including an intermission. The musical accompaniment is taped, composed by Benjamin Britten, with songs by Bob Franke and Gunnar Madsen.
Here's a new twist on the old swap meet idea. The Conejo Recreation and Park District is holding a kids swap meet Saturday at the Thousand Oaks Community Center, 2525 N. Moorpark Road.
It's for kids 6 through 12 who want to make a little money by unloading old games, toys, sports equipment, clothes or books. The idea was so popular that the district has already sold out the 100 spaces it was offering to kids for $2 each.
The swap meet runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
* WHAT: Oberlin Dance Company's production of "The Velveteen Rabbit."
* WHEN: Saturday, 3 p.m.
* WHERE: Oxnard Civic Auditorium, 900 Hobson Way.
* HOW MUCH: $12 for children, $14 for adults. To charge tickets by phone, call 650-5900 or 374-9222. Tickets available at Kideos in Ventura, the Parenting Store in Thousand Oaks or the Oxnard Civic Auditorium.