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Arts and Entertainment

‘The Most Incredible Thing’ when fairytale meets pop life in Charlotte
Raven Barkley headlines American debut
 
Published Friday, March 2, 2018 5:45 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO | JEFF CRAVOTTA
Ballerina Raven Barkley, dancing with  James Kopecky in Dwight Rhoden’s “The Groove,” performs in Charlotte Ballet’s production of “The Most Incredible Thing” March 9-18 at Knight Theater.

Fairytale meets pop ballet in “The Most Incredible Thing.”


Charlotte Ballet tells a modern spin on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale March 9-18 at Knight Theater.

It marks the American debut of Javier de Frutos and the Pet Shop Boys’ 2011 production, which premiered as Sadler’s Wells largest scale production in 2011. It gained such acclaim in London they extended the performance schedule.

“You cannot sleep on it at all,” dancer Maurice Mouzon said. “You always have to be on your feet, because there is always something happening, and if you miss your cue, everything is just wrong.”

Said ballerina Raven Barkley: “It requires so much concentration both on and off stage, because if you don’t hit your mark with a set piece it’s pretty much uneven. Everything is pretty much symmetrical—a lot of the dancers are moving the sets while we’re dancing, running off stage, quick changing, and getting back on stage.”

Step into a land where the king, played by James Kopecky, hosts a competition to discover exactly what the title says, the most incredible thing. The prize? The winner earns half the kingdom and the princess’ (Chelsea Dumas) hand in marriage. Vying for the prize are Leo the creator (Josh Hall) and Karl the destroyer (Anson Zwingelberg). The protagonists’ roles are clearly defined in the kingdom.

“The thing that is very powerful about the way the story is told is it’s very clear who these characters are from the very beginning,” Charlotte Ballet Director of Artistic Operations James Ogden said. “When each character is introduced, there is a moment or something specific about their setting or their choreography that makes you understand what their archetype is. It is that fairytale/storybook that we’re familiar with in that you have these main people who have the conflict, the love story and the ultimate villain.”

The magic that goes into the performance depends on each detail.

“This is probably one of the most meticulous performances I’ve ever done,” dancer Juwan Alston said. “Some of the changes you have 50 seconds to go head to toe new shoes, new costume, and then get right back out on stage.”

Said Mouzon: “It’s all about being quick and efficient.”

De Frutos’ choreography for the piece falls outside the norm for Charlotte Ballet. Dancers have taken contemporary dance classes to help with the adjustment.

“We’ve taken Graham classes [a modern dance technique] to kind of get the idea of how our bodies should move through each movement,” Barkley said.  

An iconic piece of the story comes from the clock Leo created.

“The clock is one of the most powerful moments in the show,” Ogden said. “The clock is the device that’s used as the greatest device that Leo is going to be able to create in order to win the competition. You have to see the show to see how it ends, because the most incredible thing isn’t what is obvious to us on paper. It’s really exciting to see what happens to be the most incredible thing. Everyone is going to have a different take on it, but it’s pretty clear when you see the end. The clock is really a device that helps Leo show the judges what he thinks is the most incredible thing.”

Said Barkley: “I like how the story was written, especially when we come into the clock.” Each hour signifies a different story, from Adam and Eve (portrayed by Barkley) to the sun, moon and the stars to the four seasons, five senses, lucky six to seven deadly sins.

“There are intricate parts of life that are built into the storyline, which I thought was so cool,” Barkley said.  

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