Enchantment and beyond

The Jerusalem Ballet School rings out 'Enchanted Bells'

As the audience filed into the hall at Beit Shmuel last Tuesday night to see the the Jerusalem Ballet School's production Enchanted Bells, many of the viewers, who were mostly parents and friends of the 35 performers, were probably more nervous than the dancers, who ranged from age six to adults. In addition to the students, also performing were the school's co-founder and artistic director, Nadia Timofeyeva, as well as two celebrated guest dancers, Vladimir Kuklachov and Ruslan Burundukov. The first half of the program comprised a variety of classical pieces: a pas de quatre to the music of Vincenzo Bellini and segments from Mikhail Glinka's Jota Aragonesa; Cesare Pugni's Esmeralda and La Vivandiere; Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite; Saint-Saens's The Dying Swan; and Leon Minkus's Don Quixote. Added to the mix were two modern pieces - one set to the music of Tom Williams and the other to Don Davis's The Matrix. According to Timofeyeva, this part of the program was designed to demonstrate the technical skills of the students. Indeed, the assorted arabesques and jetes, eleves, fouettes, plies, sautes, pirouettes, releves and retires that are the core of classical ballet were executed with varying degrees of precision. Sometimes the movements were tentative and unsteady, while other times they were performed to sheer perfection. But the audience provided a steady stream of support, applauding and cheering at every opportunity. After intermission, the show took on a different tenor with an inventive adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep," set to the music of Francois Poulenc. In this version of the story, a host of household items come to life when the porcelain figure of a chimney sweep falls in love with the figurine of a shepherdess, but he must battle for her affections with a rival suitor, the statuette of an army captain. In addition to the masterful performances by Kuklachov and Timofeyeva, as well as admirable work by the other dancers in the vignette, the outstanding stars of the piece were the costumes. Dressed to the hilt were dancers outfitted as armchairs, a mirror, a table set with knives and forks and plates of apples, a bottle of Chanel perfume, a mouse, a little demon and two kittens. In fact, the kittens were so realistic in costume and antics that when they frolicked off the stage at the end of the segment, one forgot that there were actually two little children under all that fur. The show's grand finale, entitled "Enchanted Bells," brought together all the dancers in a modern piece choreographed by Kuklachov and set to the music of Nino Rota, a composer best known for his work on film scores, notably The Godfather and many Fellini films. All in all it was an enjoyable evening, with a well-balanced mix of professionalism and potential.