Ballet tells ‘Little House’ tale

mschultz@newsobserver.comFebruary 16, 2013 

  • If you go

    Tickets are $9 for adults and $6 for students and seniors, are available at the Ballet School, 1603 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, and at Dance Design, 1728 N. Fordham Blvd., Chapel Hill, as well as at the door.

— Opera may be better known for high drama, but Bizet never met Laura Ingalls Wilder.

This weekend’s ballet version of Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” has a blizzard, near downing and raid of green leotard locusts.

“There’s a lot of drama,” says Katie Wakeford of Chapel Hill Dance Theater.

“Her life was exciting.”

Now in its 16th season, the performance company of the Ballet School of Chapel Hill will present its original production at Chapel Hill High School at 3 p.m. Sunday.

The story follows Laura – played by three dancers – from schooldays to adulthood, and is set to Americana music by composers Aaron Copland and Stephen Foster.

Molly Yeo plays adult Laura and says audiences will easily relate, even if it’s their first ballet.

“I think it’s just a lot of fun,” said Yeo, 17, a home-schooled student who dances six days a week and has been accepted into the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City.

“When I tell people I’m Laura, they say, ‘Oh, I loved the show’ or ‘I read the books when I was young.’”

The production is directed by M’Liss Dorrance, Diane Eilber, Wakeford, Laurie Yeames and David Alan Cook.

Dorrance “really pored over the books,” said Wakeford, who studied at the Ballet School as a child and now teaches there.

“Much of it was really her idea.”

The story is accessible, but the work is challenging. The students have to act, as well as dance.

“We watch feet,” Wakeford said. “But we also try to remind kids all the time that most people watch faces. It can be a challenge.”

“Ultimately the goal is for the audience to enjoy it and be captivated by the story.”

The company has been rehearsing for this weekend since September.

“It’s been hard work,” Wakeford said. “We’ll all be glad for the performances to come.”

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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