Review: Rapunzel, Plano Metropolitan Ballet

Stehpanie Lee as Rapunzel. Photo: Dave Seitz
Stehpanie Lee as Rapunzel. Photo: Dave Seitz

Plano — Plano Metropolitan Ballet’s (PMB) annual tradition of bringing a fairy tale to life through dance continued Saturday with its showing of Rapunzel to a full house at the Courtyard Theater in Plano. The story, based on the Disney movie Tangled, begins with the birth of a princess (Rapunzel) followed by her kidnapping by Dame Gothel who then locks her up in a tower with only a spider and chameleon to keep her company. One day a stranger (Flint Stryder) finds her and takes her out to see the world. When Dame Gotha discovers Rapunzel has escaped there is a battle of the wills, and in true fairy tale fashion good conquers evil and Rapunzel is reunited with her parents.

The risks associated with creating an original ballet such as this one are usually over-choreographing, gaps in storytelling and conflicting musical choices. PMB overcame these obstacles by making some very smart production decisions. Choreographers Cloe Wilson, Madelaine Boyce, Victoria Dolph and PMB Artistic Director Cindi Lawrence Hanson kept the movement simple (pique turnsbourreestriplets and pas de chats), but spiced things up with visually pleasing formation changes and fun use of props, including lanterns and the furniture found in Rapunzel’s tower.

Instead of breaking the ballet’s spell with awkward set changes, Hanson wisely decided to keep the story moving with the help of some friendly spiders. These young dancers kept the audience engaged with their silly antics while they discreetly moved props on and off stage. The ballet’s light-hearted tone was enhanced by the musical choices, which included Mozart, Carl Davis, Dmitri Shostakovich, Aaron Copland, Johann Sebastian Bach and Carl Orff, just to name a few. Hansen also displayed her fun sense of humor by having the little spiders perform to an instrumental version of the The Amazing Spider-Man TV theme song.

The full cast of Rapunzel. Photo: Dave Seitz.
The full cast of Rapunzel. Photo: Dave Seitz.

Now, with a student-driven ballet company like PMB audiences would expect to see a few stumbles here and a missed cue there, but that was not the case. There were some bent knees and misplaced arms, but the dancers made up for that with their energy and commitment to their roles.

Stephanie Lee nailed Rapunzel’s angelic yet feisty persona. Even though her movement appeared timid at times, her pointe work was precise and stage presence undeniable. Where Lee’s confidence really showed forth was in her partnering with guest artist Ruben Gerding as Flint Stryder. The couple’s pas de deux in the Let Me Show You The World scene was sweet and statuesque. Gerding was a reliable partner as he easily guided Lee through her multiple pirouette series. He is becoming a real asset for the local dance companies in the area.

Instead of making Dame Gothel (Katie Egger) an ugly creature like she in the movie Hanson turned her into a snake with the help of seven other dancers. Together they silently slithered across the stage on pointe executing a succession of arm reaches and leg lifts as they went. The moody lighting and snake charmer-esque music brought the whole idea home.

Standout scenes included “Growing Up in the Tower,” in which Rapunzel and her friends Pascala (Kaylie Seitz) and Spidey (Julia Duggan) danced a rhythmically splendid trio; and “The Battle of Wills” scene, where there was plenty of action and suspension among the dancers as Egger and Gerding faced off.

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