Part dance, part theater and all enchantment, Los Angeles Modern Dance and Ballet premiered "Twelve Dancing Princesses" Saturday at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in an ideal marriage of venue and work. An equally propitious combination of talents helped to transform this sylvan outdoor space into a glittery fairy tale for the 21st century.
Created by company artistic director Naomi Goldberg and Mark Taper Forum associate artistic director Corey Madden, with playwright Donna DiNovelli adapting the story and text from the Brothers Grimm tale of the same name, "Princesses" captivated from beginning to end in this 90-minute retelling of female royalty who mysteriously wear out their dancing shoes after their father tries locking them in their bedrooms from dawn to dusk.
Further enhanced by the inimitable presence of charismatic performance artist John Fleck as father-narrator, the 12-part work made use of dancers of ages 9 to 84. As prologue, suitors were invited to participate from the audience (comporting themselves with dignity and dash), and from there the suites--set to glorious music ranging from Henry Purcell and Arvo Part to Rossini and Benny Goodman--sprang to life.
Included among them: "The Sound of Dancing," in which company dancer Karen Acosta and guest artist Kenneth Hughes soared in a high-energy swing duet; "Costume," wherein the feisty lasses show off tutus and velvet gowns (Roxanne Steinberg's whimsical garb); and "The Lake," with the princesses seated on chairs, their evocative arms a-flutter, becoming rolling waves.
The mystical finale, "Crowns of Light," saw each princess slowly turn and move gracefully across the stage that Lynn Jeffries skillfully had divided into several ramps--the better for wheelchair-bound Joy Mincey Powell to navigate. Also stellar: 9-year-old Luisa Levy; elder dancers Miriam Rochlin and Betty Schoenberg; and a very pregnant Marie Bergenholtz.