All Russian program also features 'Circus' and 'Romeo and Juliet' this weekend at BSU Special Events Center

BOISE - A magical woman who transforms into a bird, light-hearted circus animals, clowns and acrobats blend with romance and tragedy in Ballet Idaho performances this weekend.

Ballet Idaho will present its all Russian performance of "Firebird," balletmaster Alex Ossadnik's original creation "Circus," and the Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye choreographed "Romeo and Juliet" in four shows at the Boise State University Special Events Center, located on the BSU campus.

"Firebird" is one of the classic ballets of the early 20th century brought to life by Ballet Idaho's artistic director Peter Anastos and one of the troupe's two female principal dancers, Heather Hawk.

Anastos said he has wanted to present the Russian inspired "Firebird" with music by composer Igor Stravinsky his entire career, but never felt he had the dancer who could pull off the lead role as the magical woman-turned-bird "Firebird."

"I've never really proposed 'Firebird' to any company when I was freelancing or when I was running other companies," Anastos said. "Frankly, I don't think I had the right girl. Now I have the right girl in Heather. This is a perfect moment for her to create the role. She has the maturity as an artist to dance a brilliant Firebird. You know, it's not only about technique. It's about magic and presence. It takes someone special to dance this role. For Heather this is coming full circle because she studied with the legendary Maria Tallchief, the great Native American ballerina who had such a huge career internationally in the middle of the 20th century. Tallchief was so big she appeared on the cover of Time magazine as the Firebird.

"Many can execute the ballet technically, but do they have that kind of inner fire and inner power?" Anastos said. "It's about magic and presence. I just hope I've done justice to the score and I hope Heather, who takes this role very seriously, can take this extremely difficult role and make it a great personal triumph."

Anastos said all three ballets, set to the music of famous Russian composers, are storybook fairy tales created by three separate choreographers. They offer romance, beauty, magic and delightful fun.

"What's fun for Boise audiences with 'Firebird' is that it's a ballet they probably haven't seen performed before because it is done so rarely these days," Anastos said. "It's the fairytale story of Prince Ivan, who discovers and captures this magical creature ... this Firebird ... and traps her. To escape she gives him a feather and tells him to pull it out if he ever needs her help and she will come. The music in this ballet is so different from many others in how descriptive it is. I think you could put in on a CD and you could tell what's happening even if you'd never seen it."

Ossandnik drew from his childhood experiences in East Germany when it was still part of the Soviet Union in creating the delightfully fun and entertaining "Circus," set to the music of Demtri Shostakovitch.

"When I was growing up in what was formerly East Germany the Russian circus came through," Ossadnik said. "This is a very fun showbiz kind of ballet where the dancers are transformed into horses, clowns, tigers and acrobats all set to the music of Shostakovitch who was a very misunderstood composer. He could write very deep music, but he also could write very light music. I have chosen a collection of very fun, hummable tunes and combined them into a suite. It's really fun, toe-tapping music. You can almost see Bugs Bunny running across the screen when you listen to the music."

Ossandnik said he has always been fascinated by Las Vegas-style shows, good Broadway productions and Cirque du Soleil, and that he has incorporated much of that magic into his 'Circus' ballet.

"This has been so different and fun for me and for our company of dancers," Ossadnik added. "I think all dancers are curious and adventuresome and like to be different people all the time. This is just a fun piece that I think compliments the evening's other two more classical ballets."


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