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May 13, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, May 13, 2005

Western Ballet marks 30th year Western Ballet marks 30th year (May 13, 2005)

Dozens of dancers to perform 'Sleeping Beauty' this weekend

By Katie Vaughn

This weekend, to celebrate its 30th anniversary, Western Ballet is performing "Sleeping Beauty" at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. It is a classic dance that exemplifies Western Ballet's approach and highlights its talent.

"'Sleeping Beauty' is one of the great classical ballets," said Mark Foehringer, artistic director of Western Ballet. "It has the message of waking up for the rest of your life, and we thought that would be great for an anniversary."

Since its founding 30 years ago, the premier Mountain View ballet company and school has emphasized preparing dancers for professional dance careers. Although Western Ballet utilizes a range of dance styles and rhythms in its classes, its emphasis lies solely in ballet, whether classical, neoclassical or contemporary. Ballets the company often revisits include "Coppelia," "Romeo and Juliet," "Cinderella," "The Nutcracker" and "Sleeping Beauty," which the company last performed in 1998 and 2001. This latest "Beauty" will be performed Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 13-15.

Many of Western Ballet's students -- now numbering approximately 450 child and adult dancers -- participate in college dance programs, with some continuing on to professional companies throughout the country. Mountain View native Katherine Wells began her dance training with Western Ballet at the age of 13 and is now part of the Mark Foehringer Dance Project. A frequent Western Ballet soloist, she plays the lead dancer Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty."

"It's quite an undertaking," Wells said of her role. "It's one of the big ballerina ballets. All the greats have done it."

Presented in three acts, with two intermissions in between, "Sleeping Beauty" uses joy, sadness, longing and celebration to tell the story of a beautiful young princess who is cursed to sleep for 100 years. When a prince eventually breaks the spell by kissing Aurora, a grand celebration is held in the pair's honor. The ballet premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1890 with a score by Peter Tchaikovsky, and has long been considered one of the greatest works in the classical ballet repertoire.

Western Ballet's production is an adaptation of the ballet's original choreography by the company's former artistic director, Alessandro di Piero. Additionally, Foehringer has added a few touches, including a piece for young dancers set to the theme song from Disney's movie version of the story.

"It's so elegant and perfect you really want to keep things intact," Foehringer said. "But I try to put my own touch on it."

The 60 dancers performing "Sleeping Beauty" include children ranging in age from seven to 18, as well as 12 professionals, such as Jekyns Pelaez from Diablo Ballet as the male lead and Ramon Moreno from Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley in the male bluebird role.

Wells said the ballet's inclusion of performers of such varying ages has been a pleasant experience for both new and veteran dancers.

"It's really nice to see the tiny ones," Wells said. "They're so bright-eyed and enthusiastic."

But the ballet also provides an opportunity for audiences, Foehringer said. It allows them to see a professional-level performance of a classical work of art, a production that embodies the goal the company has held from its start three decades ago.

"It's not about trends," Foehringer said. "It's about keeping the art form alive."
Information: What: "Sleeping Beauty" presented by Western Ballet Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St. When: May 13-15, with performances Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Call: (650) 903-6000 or visit

E-mail Katie Vaughn at [email protected]

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