A Conversation with the Creative Team
Storybook themes of good versus evil and living happily ever after will literally dance across the stage after months of preparation in Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s production of Hansel and Gretel.
The lavish world-premiere production, which includes new sets and costumes, was the brainchild of CPYB’s Chief Executive Officer and Resident Choreographer, Alan Hineline. From the witch’s giant oven to the intricate feathers on the bird’s tutus, this show is all in the details.
“We bring this story to life,” says costume designer Betty Smith. “It’s movement, color, and interaction.”
“When the details come together, it makes the story vivid,” says Hineline. “It’s difficult without words to set the story up completely through movement.”
Hineline says that the fairy tale is one that stuck with him from childhood. “In the generation I grew up in, ‘Hansel & Gretel’ was very popular,”
But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t exciting for today’s children.
“In the beginning there was a lot of curiosity,” says Smith, who has long worked at CPYB’s Warehouse Studios. “Kids weren’t familiar with the show, but a lot went out and bought books and started to imagine their characters.”
“I sat in on a work-through, and ballerinas were talking about who and what The Sandman is. The kids were having an excited conversation about this classic fairy tale,” says New York City-based set designer Lewis Folden.
The ballet closely follows the age-old adventures of Hansel and Gretel. Hungry and lost in the forest, they stumble upon a house made of delicious confections and find themselves welcomed by a witch whose keen interest in them has a sinister motive.
With the refreshing folk music of Edvard Grieg, Hineline’s hour-long production offers the ideal setting to introduce children and their families to the world of dance and theatre. This performance begins CPYB’s 55th anniversary season – a season deeply rooted in Founding Artistic Director Marcia Dale Weary’s mission to inspire and educate its students.
“Kids leave here so far ahead of their peers because they’re experiencing the making of a ballet at every level,” says Hineline. “The experience helps them develop a poise and confidence that they can then carry into adulthood.”
“It’s a fantasy come true for these kids to be part of such a big theatrical experience,” says Folden.
And the students aren’t the only ones learning something in this production.
“This is my 11th season with CPYB,” says lighting director Josh Monroe, who is based in Newark, N.J. “It’s always been about providing a professional atmosphere. I’ve gotten an education on ballets that other companies just don’t take the time to do anymore.”
That long-time relationship has been helpful, particularly in this production, as Monroe, along with Folden, interacted with Hineline from a distance. Hineline used a YouTube site where the production team watched regular updates of the production’s progress prior to their arrival at the studios in Carlisle, and finally to the Whitaker Center’s stage where they put their finishing touches on Hansel and Gretel.
“Without email and the ability to exchange information electronically, pre-production would have been difficult,” says Monroe. “It allowed us all to be remotely located but still come together.”
“It’s a new age,” says Folden, “But it’s always a leap from imagining what it will look like to what it actually becomes.”