by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Beauty and the Beast Inland Pacific Ballet

Inland Pacific Ballet brings to life an authentic production of Beauty and the Beast.  Structured closer to the classic 1756 French fairytale La Belle et la Bête by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, rather than mimicking its modern Disney musical counterpart, it is a delightfully, uncomplicated, much more adult and truer narrative.  

In its original 18th century form, Beauty and the Beast was actually a primer for young ladies facing the perils of marriage.  Your husband might seem to be a beast to you but it was your job to find something to like about him. “We’ve come a long way since then…” commented founder/directed Victoria Koenig in a pre-show jest, which garnered an instantaneous house-wide giggle.  But really in its essence the story of Beauty and the Beast, as an instructional or otherwise, universally speaks to our better selves and our willingness to look past surface and find the inner beauty of another person; in Beauty’s case, love and a fairytale marriage.

Opening a bit like a town hall meeting, the show was introduced by Arcadia’s mayor, followed by an unexpected mini-history lesson of the tale and of the ballet. In and of itself the ballet Beauty and the Beast is a rather modern creation, with a strung together musical score by composers, Shostakovich, Komzak, Dvorak, Chapi, Mendelssohn, Khachaturian, Grieg, Massenet, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Paine, and Glazunov, which although did not evince a particularly strong denouement did seamlessly and quite beautifully lead the ballet.  The first several minutes were devoted to an expressive and perfect balletic mime demonstration by dance veteran Jonathan Sharp who exampled the “language” of story ballet.

A mostly young company of dancers including some very adorable spindly fairies and roses there were initially some rough patches.  Many of the girls couldn’t keep their footing on the slippery floor.  By the second act however, the choreography and the comfort level for the performers ramped up for a gorgeous finish when by Beauty’s love the Beast turns into a Prince played by Cameron Schwanz, a sophisticated “cut above” talent for local stage, and ‘princely’ by all means. I personally shouted a Bravo, from the 5th row for his incredible technique, presentational skill and for giving Beauty (Meilu Zhai) the best part of himself as a partner, allowing her to thoroughly shine during the wedding scene finale.

There are no dancing tea cups but there are wolves, fairies and knomes aplenty. Suited for adults and children of all ages.  There are two more performances taking place in Riverside, CA today:

Fox Performing Arts Center, 3801 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501
Box Office: (951) 779-9800

Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 2:00 pm & 7:30 pm

Information & Tickets:  ipballet.org; tickets from $34 with senior/child/group discounts available

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