‘Wizard of Oz’ premieres in Colorado Ballet shows

L. Frank Baum tale from 1900 is adapted for classical dance


As a forward to his original “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” published in May 1900, L. Frank Baum wrote: “A time for a newer set of wonder tales ... without stereotypic genie, dwarf and fairies ... together with all the horrible and blood curdling incidents created by the authors to put a fearsome moral to every tale ... Modern education includes morality, therefore the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incidents.”

Baum’s thoughts are a good lead into thinking about his wonderful storytelling more than a century later.

From Feb. 1 to 10, the Colorado Ballet will present a new classical ballet, “Wizard of Oz,” based on Baum’s stories, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts downtown. (Baum published 14 Oz books.)

A concept floated by famous choreographer Septime Webre (presently artistic director of the Hong Kong Ballet, formerly with the Washington National Ballet) led to Colorado Ballet’s collaboration with the Kansas City Ballet and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to bring those Oz characters dancing along the Yellow Brick Road again.

Gil Boggs, Colorado Ballet artistic director, observed that “a company of our size might be able to contribute to the creation of a new full-length work every 20 years ... this is an extremely exciting time for Colorado Ballet to be part of something so special and extraordinary ...”

American composer/violinist Matthew Pierce, who has found his groove in composing scores for ballet companies, was commissioned to create a score, and a team from across the nation was assembled to create the additional stage magic. Liz Vandal designed costumes; set and lighting design were developed by Michael Raiford and Trad Burns; and puppeteer Nicholas Mahon added his skills to the new production, while video and projection skills of Aaron Rhyne round out a package. The resulting production package, owned by the three companies, can in the future generate revenues as it is rented to other ballet companies who are looking for new material.

Colorado Ballet hosts its annual gala on Feb. 7 in the Land of Oz, with cocktails along the Yellow Brick Road, an auction and meal in the Emerald City. Attendees will be invited to click their heels together in dancing on the Ellie stage. Call for tickets.

The 10 performances are grouped on weekends and tickets cost $30 to $155. Some dates are sold out, so advance reservations are in order, to avoid the prospect of a dismayed little dancer, dressed up in her special outfit, being told “No seats are available.” Or a grownup wonder tale fan!

The season continues with two additional productions:

• March 8-10: “Tour de Force,” featuring Colorado Ballet, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance and Wonderbound at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

• April 5-14 “Ballet Masterworks” at Ellie Caulkins Opera House.


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