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Ballet to be ‘gift to the community’

This December, local citizens will get a chance to discover the magic of a live performance of the children’s classic “Peter and the Wolf.” Sonya’s Dance and Fitness will present two performances of this lively winter’s tale on December 9 and 10 at Greenville’s Ritz Theater. With both music and text penned by noted Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev for a children’s theater in 1936, the production has been called an “ideal introduction to ballet” for youngsters.

Dance studio owner/teacher Sonya Rice sees the hour-long ballet as a holiday gift for attendees of all ages, with no admission fee charged to see the production.

“Our studio wanted to do something special during the Christmas season as a gift to the community. We’d love for this ballet to become a holiday tradition here in Greenville,” Rice says. “We are also excited about the opportunity to share ‘Peter and the Wolf’ through three daytime half-hour performances for local schoolchildren. We hope they will love it so much they’ll want to come back and bring their families with them for the full nighttime performances.”

PATW recounts the tale of a Russian lad, Peter, who lives with his grandfather in the country surrounded by his animal friends including Duck, Cat and Bird. Peter hears constant warnings to watch out for a certain menacing creature who is no friend—a great, gray wolf roaming the woods near their home. The boy ignores his grandfather’s admonitions, leaves the front gate unlocked and goes into the meadow to play.

Soon enough, Grandpa has Peter back at the house behind a sturdy locked gate.

However, his grandson fancies himself a fine hunter in the making. When the wolf shows up at their home, the headstrong Peter is determined he will be the one who captures this wily enemy . . . only he will use cunning instead of a gun.

Many versions of Prokofiev’s story have been produced, including animated and live-action films, and versions with rock, punk and jazz variations on Prokofiev’s score.

Fans of the holiday film “A Christmas Story” will recall Ralphie’s yellow-eyed nemesis, schoolyard bully Scut Farkus. The scenes featuring the character actually use Prokofiev’s music from PATW (Farkus is a variation of the word “farkas,” Hungarian for “wolf”).

The studio’s young dancers have been rehearsing for weeks to perfect their steps for the holiday performance.

Rice and her daughter Courtney, who is artist in residence at the studio and choreographer for several of the principal PATW characters, have moved their rehearsals from the downtown studio space to the Ritz stage for the final two weeks before their performances—all the better to polish this festive gem for the community.

While there is no admission fee to see the show, Rice is asking for PATW patrons to consider bringing a new unwrapped toy to the theater lobby before the performances. The donated toys will be presented to the Butler County Department of Human Resources as part of their annual Christmas outreach program.

“This is a classic children’s story we are sharing, and the holidays are the perfect time to help bring happiness to children right here in our community,” says Rice.

The curtain will rise at the Ritz at 7 p.m. each night December 9 and 10  for “Peter and the Wolf.”