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Culture news, 21.01.2005 13:07

St. Petersburg Ballet to Perform at Wharton

St. Petersburg Ballet Shakespeare's famous play about star-crossed lovers is coming to Wharton Center this weekend, but instead of the usual script and acting, this rendition will be a bit more lively.

The St. Petersburg Ballet, as part of its first-ever U.S. tour, is performing "Romeo and Juliet" Sunday at Wharton's Great Hall.

"'Romeo and Juliet' shows technical brilliance and expressive style and movement," said Barbara Banasikowski Smith, artistic director of the Greater Lansing Ballet Company.

The St. Petersburg Ballet has produced the best dancers in the world, Smith said.

She said the rigorous training and techniques formed by the ballet teachers have created an amazing company.

The ballet company, which is centered in Russia, has traveled throughout Asia, Africa and Europe and consists of 40 members. This rendition of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" will include music by Sergei Prokofiev and choreography by Serge Vikulov.

"It is the life of the theater; the artists enjoy bringing the ballet to many different places," said Yuri Petukhov, artistic director of the company.

Bob Hoffman, spokesman for Wharton Center, said dance is a genre everyone can enjoy, and the show is a good ballet to begin with because of the well-known plot.

"It's a love story; it's passion and romance and it will never be out of style - you don't have to understand ballet," Hoffman said.

Members of the St. Petersburg Ballet can perform moves such as multiple pirouettes numbering up to five or six in a row without much effort, Smith said, adding that the dancers study from the time they are 8 years old.

"The school was a scientific process of gathering all the information from the teachers that taught. Then, the development of the (dancer) is complete - the placement of the head, the eyes," Smith said. "Their movements are exquisite in terms of dynamics; they study the artistry of movement."

The atmosphere within the ballet school is highly competitive, Smith said, and a percentage of dancers is dropped from the school at the end of each year. But the ones who graduate transition to the Kirov (Mariinsky) Theater or the St. Petersburg State and Academic Ballet Theater, where classical and contemporary ballets are studied. Classical ballets include "The Nutcracker," "Dracula" and "Romeo and Juliet."

Petukhov said that the ballet follows the plot of William Shakespeare's tragedy. Although words are not used in the show, the choreography and music convey the original emotions in the play.

Smith added there is a growing appreciation for the art of ballet in the Lansing area. This has been seen at community dance programs as well as the ballets at Wharton Center, she said.

"The more the audience attends, the more they learn," Smith said. "Even if they can't understand the story - and 'Romeo and Juliet' is not difficult to follow - the sheer joy of watching the dancers at this exquisite caliber of technique is really worthwhile to come out."

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