Ballet Fantastique Creates a New Holiday Tradition With "Babes in Toyland"
Eugene, Oregon–based Ballet Fantastique debuts a forgotten holiday classic December 14–16. Babes in Toyland, co-choreographed and produced by mother-daughter duo and company directors Hannah and Donna Bontrager, pulls from source material ranging from Victor Herbert’s original 1903 operetta to Disney’s 1961 film. “We watched all the movies and read as many different versions of the story as we could find,” says Hannah. The pair distilled the elements they liked best to create their own amalgamated plot. “The story is filled with joviality and lovable, familiar storybook characters,” adds Donna. The cast also pays homage to the world’s best-known holiday ballet, The Nutcracker. “We’ve added a character called Mother Gingerbread, and some gingerbread kids,” says Hannah.
Donna, who also designed the costumes and sets, drew inspiration from the lavish, Technicolor world of 1950s and ’60s Hollywood. “It has this soft nostalgia,” she says. The ballet will be set to a custom big-band score, including pieces from Duke Ellington’s jazzy Nutcracker, performed live by the Swing Shift Jazz Orchestra. The production features Ballet Fantastique’s 17 dancers, as well as 20 students from the company’s academy. “This has the potential to bring that holiday sense of community and wonder to our audience,” says Hannah.