By Larissa Cohoe
Ancient Ireland – a land of mystery, adventure, and legend. The perfect setting for Ballet Fantastique’s groundbreaking world premiere The Dragon and the Night Queen. In an innovative collaboration with the faculty of New Hope Christian College’s Creative Arts Department, Ballet Fantastique has created an ancient Celtic world for the 21st century that is fraught with mystery, action, and romance that will amaze audiences with its artistic sensibility and technical prowess.
Donna Marisa and Hannah Bontrager, choreographer-producers, creative masterminds, and founders of Ballet Fantastique, have reimagined the ancient Celtic epic tale. The story centers on the hero Cian, who begins a quest to find a Golden Apple for his love, Annora. Cian’s objective shifts focus as he is called into service to save the kingdom from the evil tyranny of the dragon Stoorwyrm.
This newly-forged Celtic myth employs an eclectic musical score played by a stellar cast of Eugene performers. Musically, The Dragon and the Night Queen brings together arrangements of the German folk ensemble Faun, original music from Gerry Rempel (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bouzouki), original compositions from world-renowned Irish musician and NHCC Creative Arts Director Dr. Eliot Grasso (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle, fiddle), rock elements, world music, and traditional Irish melodies.
In an interview, Dr. Grasso remarked “This is one of the most exciting projects of the year, and one conceptualized at a very high level of creativity and skill. We have been working intensively since June 2015 on these arrangements, and they have been quite engaging for us in the band. We hope that audiences will be moved by this unique partnering of music and dance.”
The Creative Arts Department is well represented in the band for The Dragon and the Night Queen. NHCC Chair of Dance and Drama, Cindy Kenny (accomplished vocalist, stage performer, director, teacher, and creative arts pastor) will be soloing, while Creative Arts percussion instructor, Merlin Showalter, will provide a highly diversified rhythmic backdrop. Creative Arts faculty have teamed up with Gerry Rempel and an all-star team including John Polese on keyboard, accordion, and recorder; Rick Carter on bass; and Alyse Jamieson on vocals.
This collaboration between NHCC faculty and Ballet Fantastique is a testament to the Creative Arts Department’s exceptional faculty, dedication to excellence, and commitment to high-level artistic collaboration with organizations in the city. Dr. Grasso, Cindy, and Merlin are integral members of the professional music and theater communities, both in Eugene and world-wide, and are invaluable instructors, mentors, and guides for the students at NHCC.
The Dragon and the Night Queen opens February 26 at Eugene’s Hult Center. With its talent, creativity, vivid design, unique story-telling, and stunning quality, this new ballet is an event unthinkable to miss. Captivating for adult and young audiences alike, come support our faculty and enjoy a wondrous journey of dancing and music through ancient Ireland. Tickets are available at: Balletfantastique.org