‘Peter and the Wolf’ dances in Dover

Dancers from left are Phoenix Riehl, Hannah Nagyski, Paige Synoski, Andrew Matte, Kristina Alexander, and Anna Pavon. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — While most kids are taking it easy and stretching out in the sun, the opposite is true for the dancers of the Ballet Theatre of Dover who have been working hard in the studio for almost six weeks now for a summer intensive camp.

The six-week session will be topped off with a performance of “Peter and the Wolf” Thursday at Dover High School.

“When you’re a dancer, you just want to dance,” said Phoenix Riehl, 13, of Dover. “Unlike a sport, dance doesn’t have a season, it takes hard work all year.”

Dancers Andrew Matte as Jeanne de Briene and Anna Pavon as Raymonda. Along with “Peter and the Wolf,” the Ballet Theatre of Dover will present excerpts from “Raymonda” and “Seven Deadly Sins.” (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Phoenix and her fellow dancers spend up to six hours in the studio per day perfecting their technique for the first several weeks before transitioning to even longer days of rehearsal for the upcoming show.

“Sometimes we are here for seven hours or so but we love it,” said Ana Pavon, 17 of Chestertown, Md. “Otherwise we’d just be bored at home but we are here working hard and rehearsing. It’s all worthwhile because after a performance, you have such a sense of accomplishment.”

And the piece is unique with each role “voiced” by an instrument and acted by a dancer.

“I really like the performance and I think people will be able to follow it a lot easier than a classical ballet because it’s an easy to understand story, not abstract,” said Ana said who will be playing the role of the cat in the production with music written by Serge Prokofiev.

“Playing a cat is really different,” she said. “The choreography keeps me low to the ground and is unlike anything I’ve done before, but that makes it fun.”

The acting aspect of “Peter” is also a joy for Hannah Nagyiski, 14, of Hartly, who plays the title role.

“I’ve played the parts of boys before and they’re typically naughty, mischievous characters which makes them a lot of fun,” she said. “I love acting and dancing so shows like this are great for me.”

Most of dancers are longtime students of Teresa Emmons, artistic director of the Ballet Theater of Dover, but she recruited a special guest for this summer’s performance in Andrew Matte, a professional dancer with the First State Ballet Theatre.

“I dance with some people who were longtime students of Mrs. Emmons and she discovered me through that connection and I’m glad I agreed. It’s been really exciting so far,” he said.

“I love working with the young dancers because it takes me back to when I was their age and I feel the adoration of the art all over again.

Although well seasoned with shows throughout 19 years of dancing, “Peter and the Wolf” is the first time Mr. Matte has performed the show, playing the role of the wolf.

Even if you’re familiar with the story of “Peter,” Ms. Emmons promises a unique ending that parts with tradition.

The performance of “Peter” will be paired with selections from “Raymonda” and excerpts from “Seven Deadly Sins.”

“We don’t cover all the sins, but I think it’s important to show all the children that they can do things to excess and should exercise their behaviors in moderation,” Mrs. Emmons said.

All three performances use different styles of dance — a challenge the dancers welcome.

“The variety of dance is what makes it a passion,” Mr. Matte said. “There is always something to improve and something to strive for because you can never perfect every aspect of each style.”

“It’s always interesting to work with different styles because we each have different strengths.
So when you have a performance like this and rehearsals with multiple styles, you can learn not only from Mrs. Emmons, but from each other and we can all improve,” Hannah said.

Dancers from left, Alexandria Pelltier, Phoeenix Riehl Hannah Nagyski, Ryan Smallwood, Renee Friend and Kristina Alexander. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

While Ms. Emmons runs the show, the young dancers all look up to Mr. Matte and his perseverance to turn his dancing into a career.

“Andrew is a partner for the show, but he’s also a teacher,” Ana said. “It’s amazing to see the kind of talent he has and we can all learn from him during this short time we’re spending together.”

Thursday’s show times for “Peter and the Wolf” are 2 and 7 p.m. at Dover High School off Del. 8. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $10 for students and may be purchased by calling 734-9717 or at the door.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

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