Creating "Peter Pan"'s Magic
Pennsylvania Ballet presents Trey McIntyre's Peter Pan for the first time this May. PAB soloist Lauren Fadeley, who'll dance the part of Wendy, is guest-blogging the rehearsal process for Pointe. Read her first post here.
Peter Pan rehearsals are well underway. With the company premiere in a week, gone are the days of learning counts and choreography, hoping to remember everything for the next day. Now we're into full run-throughs, complete with scenery and props. Dancing the ballet is starting to feel like second nature, which seemed unfathomable three weeks ago.
A lot has happened since that first week of rehearsals. Recently we've been working on transition scenes. I find these in-between acting phrases to be the hardest to portray as there isn't much actual dancing. As dancers, we're trained and accustomed to learning steps, so when we're told to act naturally, it can be a bit of a struggle. But it's a welcome challenge for me, as I find it fun to come up with different ways to express Wendy's emotions. In the beginning she's very childish, arguing with her brothers and playing pranks on the nurse. But as the ballet progresses, she takes on a more motherly role and ultimately decides that's what she wants for her life as opposed to staying a child forever. It's important to show that growth of character throughout the performance in a way that's believable to the audience.
We've also started to add in the outside elements that make this production so magical. As I mentioned last time, all the Darling children, Peter, and Tinkerbell get to fly. I have to say the harness system we use was more painful at first than I had expected, but you eventually get used to the pressure--and it's too much fun to let any of that get in the way. It's taken a lot of time to get everything in the flying scenes cued perfectly with the choreography and music. I heard that when Peter Pan was danced by Houston Ballet in 2002, there were eight men in the wings pulling ropes to make everyone go up in the air! Now, in the days of smart phones and touch screens, we're using a computer system where someone just presses a button for each action.
Other special effects include full-size moving beds and a boat battle between Captain Hook and Peter. Since the props are so large, we have to practice these scenes at our company's production warehouse. There are also many light effects that are done by the dancers onstage to mimic the fairies flying. It's funny now to see the dancers in rehearsals waving flashlights, but the overall effect in the performance is pretty cool. There are tons of these kinds of little details all throughout the show that make it amazing. I'm looking forward to seeing it all come to life on stage next week!