Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company’s ‘The Wizard of Oz’
is a delightful show for all ages
By Adrienne Warber
The journey of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion to Oz is an iconic childhood tale beloved by many. Now fans of the classic story can see “The Wizard of Oz” ballet performed by Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company. The school company just completed a successful opening weekend on Feb. 23-25 of their world premiere of “The Wizard of Oz” ballet and will perform three more shows on March 3-4 at the Peter Martin Wege Theatre. Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company’s “The Wizard of Oz” features a talented cast of student dancers, inventive choreography by school director Attila Mosolygo and delivers a professional-level show that is truly fun for all ages.
The Wizard of Oz Experience
There was an excited energy in the audience on the opening night, Friday, Feb. 23. People of all ages, couples and families came to the show. They could take fun Oz theme photos with masks and props at the selfie camera stand in the lobby. The “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” book by L. Frank Baum, crowns and magic wands and Oz theme gifts were on sale. There were little Dorothies walking around in pigtails and blue gingham dresses with ruby slippers, children waving Glinda style magic wands, and a small tin woodman with a toy ax. Everyone was ready to be transported to Oz, and Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company took them there with a heart-felt performance.
The set, props, backdrops, projections, lighting, costumes and music all worked together beautifully to create Kansas and the world of Oz. Glenn Gould’s lighting design and Krystle Formsma’s projection design were well-crafted to create the mood of the scenes. Sadie Rothenberg’s costumes were perfect for each character. Grand Rapids Ballet School and Junior Company Director, Attila Mosolygo designed and constructed the set. His set added artistry to certain scenes in creating the setting and moving the plot. For example, during the tornado, the house comes apart around Dorothy, and pieces dance around the stage. It helped create the sense of the tornado’s destruction and Dorothy’s journey to Oz. Another great example of set design artistry is the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle. The flying monkeys were suspended behind the castle and flew around the stage. Each poppy in the field was handmade. Every small detail was put together with great care.
Mosolygo also put together the music collection for “The Wizard of Oz” ballet. The music included the works of the composers Silvio Amato, Edvard Grieg, Francesco Lettera, the Trio and Phil Wilson. This diverse selection worked well with each scene and character interaction. The jazz music by the Trio and Phil Wilson helped create some enjoyable upbeat dance numbers.
Grand Rapids Ballet School provides an excellent opportunity for talented student dancers to work on professional-level productions, and “The Wizard of Oz” is a great example of the benefits of the Grand Rapids Ballet School experience. The talented cast of student dancers were all members of Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company, working under Attila Mosolygo’s artistic direction. The Junior Company dancers did a great job in both dance technique and acting skill. All elements of this student company show came together as well as any professional ballet production.
Mosolygo’s Clever Choreography and a Strong Dance Cast
Attila Mosolygo’s clever choreography helped tell an entertaining story and created memorable characters. Each character had their own set of unique movements that identified them and helped them communicate. For example, Scarecrow had a distinctive loose-limbed way of moving and motioned to his head to indicate his desire for a brain. Another example is the way the Wicked Witch of the West moved slowly through each scene stalking Dorothy, and sometimes moved her arms, and fingers, using undulating movements. Each character clearly communicated the story with their movements.
Julia Rudlaff played a sweet Dorothy and danced with beautiful classical ballet technique. Ellie-Rose Waldvogel was an entertaining Scarecrow and danced with great skill. Grace Jones did an excellent job as Cowardly Lion and danced with strong technique. Bearenger Petrella was a wonderful Tin Woodsman and showed exceptional dance skill. Celeste Lopez-Keranen was a scary Wicked Witch of the West, danced with superb skill, and her solo was of the most memorable numbers of the show. Rudlaff, Waldvogel, Jones, Petrella and Lopez-Keranen all created their characters with a high level of dance and acting skills.
Mosolygo combined classical ballet with some contemporary movement and jazz in “The Wizard of Oz.” The addition of jazz movement and music may have been a nod to the Jazz Age since the movie originally came out in 1939. There were some enjoyable and creative dance numbers where Dorothy performs typical jazz dance movements in pointe shoes. The audience really enjoyed many of the upbeat dance segments, even clapping in time with the music during the dance performance.
The scene where Glinda the Good Witch of the South and her attendants help send Dorothy home is a beautiful classical ballet scene. The flowing white dresses and lovely dancing en pointe had children and adults leaning forward in the seats with a sense of awe. Clara Crossley’s Glinda and the corps de ballet of attendants danced with grace and strong classical ballet technique.
The Wizard of Oz is a wonderful addition to Grand Rapids Ballet School’s repertoire. Hopefully, they will continue to perform this entertaining production for many years to come.
The Wizard of Oz March Showtimes
Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company will perform three more shows of “The Wizard of Oz” next weekend, March 3-4. Tickets are available for purchase online at TicketMaster or through Grand Rapids Ballet’s website. For more information, visit Grand Rapids Ballet School’s Facebook Page.