Central Ballet Theatre of Greeneville is celebrating its 10th anniversary with the production of “Prince Caspian: Return to Narnia” Jan. 17-19 at Tusculum College.
Set to emotionally stirring music, the ballet tells the timeless tale of faithfulness, belief and courage, based on “Prince Caspian,” the second book in the popular Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. This ballet is Central Ballet Theatre’s second world premier and its eighth original ballet. More than 90 local children and adult dancers and four professional dancers will perform in the ballet which will run from Jan. 17 – 19 at the auditorium of the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Building on the Tusculum College campus.
“Prince Caspian: Return to Narnia” is the powerful sequel to “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” The tale finds Narnia amid a Civil War as the villainous King Miraz prevents the rightful heir, his young nephew Caspian, from ruling the land of Narnia once his own son is born. The story details Caspian’s journey to claim his rightful place in the kingdom.
“This is a very powerful ballet because there is so much depth to the story,” explained Lori Ann Sparks, artistic director and choreographer for Central Ballet Theatre. “Certain selections really make the audience think about the very meaning of life. This ballet is a challenge to all people to live for truth. It is told through the story of C.S. Lewis, one of the best storywriters of all time, set to powerfully stirring music and presented in a most beautiful art form – a world-premier ballet. This ballet is definitely not for the weak of heart. It has real sword-fighting, strong dancing and acting, and beautiful relationships that bring to life a story that is no longer a fairy tale but rather lessons the audience will both enjoy and take home with them.”
A professional dancer, Sparks will be performing in “Prince Caspian.” She will be dancing the lead of “The Council of the Dancing Lawn” in which she accompanies three local dancers, Kim Berry, Parke Brumit and Chia Hui, as well as performing a pas de deux with Joshua Kurtzberg.
Hui moved to Morristown from China as a dance teacher and dancer and currently teaches in Newport. Berry, formerly a trick skier for Sea World in Florida, choreographs Marilyn duBrisk’s musicals with Acts, Arts, and Academia each fall and is once again joining the ranks of the ballet company. Brumit, a principal dancer in Central Ballet Theatre, will be dancing the role of Nurse and various ensemble selections. She trained in ballet technique under Sydney Warren at Virginia Intermont College.
In addition, Tanya Rathbun, the co-director of Trinity Arts Center and a professional dancer, will be making a guest appearance. She will be disguised as Dr. Cornelius, a man-dwarf and close friend of Caspian. Rathbun recently traveled to Hong Kong to work with the Project Dance Team. She has 25 years of performance and teaching experience with companies including Chicago City Ballet, Joffrey New York, and Finnish National Ballet.
Joshua Kurtzberg, who played Mordecai in Central Ballet’s “Story of Esther” and the Prince in “Snow White,” will return for his third season with Central Ballet Theatre to portray Prince Caspian. Originally from Atlanta, Kurtzberg began his training on full scholarship with Atlanta Ballet. After four years, he was offered a company position but pursued his training with the Houston Ballet Ben Stevenson Academy on full scholarship. He has danced with American Repertory Ballet for five years and has been the master teacher for Central Ballet’s last two summer intensives along with three other teachers.
Dante Adela is also rejoining the cast, returning to one of his former roles as Trumpkin. Adela currently tours with Cirque du Soleil and has taken time out of his schedule to travel from Portugal to dance with Central Ballet and will return to St. Petersburg in Russia to another performance. He was the popular break-dancing jester of “Sleeping Beauty” and was featured as Pharoah in Central Ballet’s production of “Exodus.” He studied at the North Carolina School of the Arts and continued training in New York City at Steps on Broadway. Adela previously danced with State Ballet of Missouri, The Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, Cedar Lake Ensemble, and BalletNY.
Fourteen additional dances with new choreography have been added to the ballet since it was originally performed by Central Ballet Theatre. In addition to her original choreography, three of the dance selections were choreographed by Richard d’Alton of International Ballet of Houston, who has received the “Outstanding Choreographer” award by the Youth America Grand Prix competition judges for many consecutive years. In addition, Marilyn duBrisk, director of Tusculum College’s Arts Outreach, choreographed a piece called Old Stories for this ballet.
An original ballet for Central Ballet Theatre is one in which Sparks writes the scripts, selects music for various scenes, creates original choreography and decides what characters, props and costumes are needed. Many local artists participate in the process including Jody Johnson and Jeanette Duryea, who design and fabricate costumes, and former professional actor Brian Starks and duBrisk, who stage acting for the scenes. Sparks and Blair Berry design sets and oversee construction. As production manager, Berry also oversees the backstage processes. Frank Mengel, technical director of Arts Outreach, is lighting designer and assists in set production. The ballet board of directors provide leadership for the undertaking and parents of dances provide many volunteer hours to bring the ballet to the stage.
In celebration of Central Ballet’s 10th anniversary, there is an opportunity to win a beautiful quilt, handcrafted by Kymberly Boschee and created from the t-shirts from the past 11 ballets Central Ballet has performed in its 10 years. Tickets may be purchased in the lobby during the shows.
For the seventh year, Central Ballet Theatre of Greeneville is part of Tusculum Arts Outreach’s Acts, Arts, Academia performance/lecture series. Central Ballet Theatre is supported by the Tennessee Arts Council, the Greene County Commission, Arts Fund of East Tennessee, and many area businesses, industries and individuals and is a 501c3 non-profit organization. The company was created to produce original ballets with wholesome or Biblical values.
“Prince Caspian” will be performed at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17 and 18. Matinee performances are scheduled at 2 p.m. on Saturday and on Sunday, Jan. 19. All performances will be in the auditorium of the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Building on the Tusculum College campus. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at Three Blind Mice, Evans Jewelry, The General Morgan Inn and Richland Creek Gifts as well as at the door. For ticket reservations, please call 724-7014 or 798-1620. For more info, visit www.centralballet.com.