Columbus Dance Theatre Premieres New Holiday Ballet, ‘Wonderment’
Two children make an extraordinary journey and encounter otherworldly beings in magical lands along the way.
Columbus Dance Theatre‘s new holiday ballet, Wonderment, is a classic tale of good overcoming evil, of innocence lost and found. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” Wonderment features a modern take on costumes and classical ballet choreography, set to music by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov.
The ballet’s story centers around two children, Gerda and Kai, and the journey Gerda takes to rescue Kai from the clutches of the Snow Queen.
“Gerda takes an adventure through these different scenes and places to get to her friend and rescue him from the Snow Queen,” said Jaime Kotrba Wilson, executive director, choreographer, dancer and instructor with Columbus Dance Theatre.
Over the course of the ballet, Gerda encounters a nymph in an enchanted garden, a robber and a raven, and she makes a magical trip through the Northern Lights to arrive at the Snow Queen’s castle.
Wonderment replaces Matchgirl, the long-running holiday ballet created by former Columbus Dance Theatre Artistic Director Tim Veach. The company performed Matchgirl for 20 seasons and was ready to start a new tradition.
“It felt like it was time for something new and something fresh and for us to come together and just create a new ballet for the holidays,” said Seth Wilson, artistic director, choreographer, dancer and instructor with Columbus Dance Theatre.
Converging Arts Columbus will perform the ballet’s music. A new organization on the Columbus arts scene, Converging Arts Columbus was founded by tenor and conductor Jason Hiester and soprano and conductor Rachel Parfenchuck with a mission to create new art through multidisciplinary collaborations.
“We wanted to create an organization that would converge different art forms together – multimedia, dance, vocal music, instrumental music, visual art, sculpture. All different forms of artistic expression, to converge them into cohesive productions,” Hiester said.
Hiester conducted at least the last 10 seasons of Matchgirl. For this year’s performances of Wonderment, he will lead the musicians and dancers through selections from Glazunov’s orchestral works in reductions for two pianos and strings.
“As long as I’ve done Matchgirl, Jason Hiester has been the conductor, and we’ve had live music,” Seth Wilson said. “So it was a natural thing to say, ‘this is our last year doing Matchgirl, but whatever we come up with next, we want to work with you on whatever the music’s going to be.’”
For Hiester, Wilson and Kotrba Wilson, this year’s performances of Wonderment are just a starting point. They say they envision expanding the ballet – its music and its visuals – in future seasons.
“We hope that this ballet will last a long time like Matchgirl did and that we can make it evolve throughout the years,” Wilson said.
The Columbus Dance Theatre premieres Wonderment Saturday, Dec. 18 at 3 and 8 p.m. in the Riffe Center’s Davidson Theatre.
Transcript of video:
Jaime Kotrba Wilson: When you go back into thinking about what you thought was incredible as a young child, I think Wonderment is, again, going back to children or young children and the idea that everything is so new and exciting and magical. And so trying to capture that in a ballet, but then also trying to capture it at holiday time is really beautiful.
JKW: We are basing Wonderment off of the story “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen. And it’s a tale about Gerda and Kai, who are our central characters. They are best friends living in a town, and Kai gets taken by the Snow Queen. And she takes him to her castle. Gerda takes an adventure through these different scenes and places to get to her friend and rescue him from the Snow Queen.
JKW: There’s a little pre-prologue of the evil magician who has a mirror that he breaks into thousands of pieces. And the mirror fragments get into the hearts and the eyes and the minds of townspeople – children, people in the ballet.
Seth Wilson: Previously we did “The Little Matchgirl.” And before we retired it, it went for 20 years, it ran for 20 years. That is also a Hans Christian Andersen tale. It felt like it was time for something new and something fresh.
SW: We hope that this ballet will last long time like Matchgirl did and that we can make it evolve throughout the years.
JKW: As adults, we aren’t always in wonderment of our life or our surroundings. And I think that is a good reminder for people to think about that at this time.