Former Cleveland Ballet principal dancer Pamela Pribisco credits the dancers of Verb Ballets with helping her create her choreography for Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, the beloved piece of music and narration that has introduced so many children to orchestral instruments.
"Creating dance involves a lot of improv," says Pribisco, who left the Cleveland Ballet in 1980 and built a freelance career as a ballet mistress and choreographer in New York. "You can tell them, 'Do this and do this.' You can tell them, 'The bird is terrified. He has to get from this place to this place. He has to go past the wolf. Now let's make that believable.' But after that, it's up to them."
The company premiered the dance in 2008 with the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra. They will revive it this weekend in a performance at St. Ignatius High School's new $12 million Breen Center for the Arts (which, with a dance floor among its assets, seems poised to become a regular venue on the local dance calendar).
Peter and the Wolf — to be performed with the Leonard Bernstein recording — is part of a program that mixes company favorites with a pair of ensemble premieres. One of those is ballroom-dance champion Gary Pierce's Lady Be Good, set to music by George Gershwin — Verb's nod to the ballroom-dance revival inspired by shows like Dancing With the Stars.
The other, Le Corsaire Pas de Deux, was created by the famous 19th-century Russian choreographer Marius Petipa, who took the story of a social reject turned pirate from Lord Byron's poem of the same name, setting it to music by Riccardo Drigo. It's been passed along essentially by word of mouth for a century and has become a staple of the ballet repertoire. But this is the first time Verb Ballets has attempted it.
Also on the program are Ulysses Dove's Vespers, created for the Alvin Ailey company in 1987, with a beat-driven score by Mikel Rouse, and Hernando Cortez's Speed, an adaptation of the Icarus myth, set to music by Alpha Team and DJ Keoki.