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‘Root Children’ ballet showcases students from Petit Papillon

Cast members of The Root Children rehearse.

Cast members of The Root Children rehearse.

In addition to the steps, the dancers of this weekend’s ballet The Root Children needed to learn the frenetic flap of a bee, the languid flutter of a butterfly and the sleek elegance of dragonfly flight.

“When you do a story ballet, a lot of it is theater as well,” said Petit Papillon Artistic Director Patricia Walker. “So they have to be able to act. And they have to be able – because these are creatures that fly – they have to be able to indicate that they know how their little critter looks in the real world. Each one is supposed to fly a little differently than the other. They might do the same steps, but their costumes are different, and they might do their dances a little differently.”

Petit Papillon Ballet Theatre will perform The Root Children tomorrow and Saturday at the Concord City Auditorium. This is the second time the studio is performing this piece.

The ballet is based on the German children’s book Story of the Root Children by Sibylle Von Olfers. Written in 1906, the story is about root children who sleep underground the winter through but awake in the springtime. The children then spend their time cleaning and painting the beetles and bugs. When summer rolls around, they play in the fields, ponds and meadows only to sleep again in the winter. The story for the ballet focuses on the changing of the seasons and the birth and rebirth of nature, Walker said.

“There are several reasons the story appeals to me,” Walker said. “One, I think it brings to the forefront nature and the importance of taking care of this planet we live on.”

The show itself is a fantasy fable of the natural world populated by birds, butterflies, dragonflies and a few more critters added by Walker, including the beleaguered honeybee.

“One of the characters we’ve added because I am very conscious that the honeybee is having some problems with extinction, so we have two honeybees,” Walker said. “We also added a bluebird this year, since we have a senior who really needed a special solo piece. So I thought, what comes back in the summer? The bluebirds.”

Walker, along with Kelly Doremus Stuart, created the choreography for the show to the accompaniment of modern and new age music. Walker said they tried to incorporate several levels of dance expertise in the choreography, which proved at times to be a challenge.

“The dancers are supposed to resemble the kind of ideas that seasons bring,” Walker said. “I especially like to do this ballet because we get to use young dancers for the root children. So it gives us an opportunity to use pretty young children in the production. . . . But we do the choreography to give them something that’s comfortable, and with the older girls we try to do choreography that of course they can master, but also challenges them as well.”

She explained that there are two dancers – the one who plays the robin and the one who plays both the bluebird and fall –who are on point.

“Those are difficult choreographies,” Walker said. “It takes a dancer who has very good technique to dance on pointe and make it look effortless and graceful and all those things.”

The cast has been rehearsing since January and even added extra last-minute rehearsals.

“We just weren’t getting there fast enough,” she said. “This is a difficult ballet because there are a lot of parts. (But) I think it’s good for them to rise to the challenge instead of having something that’s easy for them to do. There should be some of that, too. And if I choreograph something and it’s just not coming together, I will change it, which I’ve done quite a bit of. That’s the beauty of doing our own choreography.”

The show will be at the City Auditorium located at 2 Prince St. Performances are scheduled for tomorrow at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m., with a special school performance at 10 a.m. Friday. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for children and seniors, and are on sale at Gibson’s Bookstore at 45 S. Main St. and at Petit Papillon studios, Monday through Friday between 4 and 8 p.m. The studios are located in the Green Street Community Center at 39 Green St. Tickets will also be sold at the theater box office before performances. Group rates are available. For information, visit petitpapillon.org or call 746-2990.

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