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Leap of originality

Ballet CdA’s artistic director adapts fairy tale, using music, choreography created for the piece

The new ballet “Adalia,” to be performed Saturday by the students at Ballet Coeur d’Alene, has a fairy godmother and a palace in the clouds.

But it strays from the princess stories told and retold on stage and screen.

Brooke Nicholson – the studio’s artistic director and a former dancer for San Francisco’s Smuin Ballet, the New York City Opera, the Boston Ballet and other companies – adapted an “obscure little story” by the Brothers Grimm to write the ballet.

The result is “kid-friendly,” Nicholson said, “but not exactly pink sparkles.”

“Adalia” makes its premiere Saturday in Coeur d’Alene, in a program featuring the studio’s students that also includes a contemporary spin on Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals” and a series of variations, or solo performances.

Nicholson said she relished the opportunity to create new choreography and work with new music. Matthew Pierce, a New York-based composer, wrote the score. “I didn’t want to regurgitate more museum pieces,” said Nicholson, who took over as director at Ballet Coeur d’Alene last summer when longtime instructor Ceci Klein retired. “I didn’t want to regurgitate ‘Giselle’ or ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ I spent my career dreading those ballets.”

Adalia is a good fairy who escorts Aya, a poor girl she finds in the forest, to a palace in the clouds, a sort of home for former waifs. Aya faces and fails a test of truth-telling, and pandemonium and evil fairies ensue.

In an email interview, Pierce said he and Nicholson read many fairy tales before choosing “Fairy Tell True” as their ballet’s basis. They wanted to create a strong platform for young dancers to learn new choreography, he wrote, and to “inspire deep expression in the narrative language of classical ballet.”

So he wrote music with an accessible structure, clear rhythm and a soaring musical line to spark creativity, he wrote.

Pierce writes for professional companies including the San Francisco, Boston and Washington (D.C.) ballets. Nicholson worked with him as a dancer in San Francisco.

“He said, ‘Sure, I’ll write you a ballet,’ ” Nicholson said. “He charged me peanuts and a handshake and wrote me this beautiful score.”

Sixteen-year-old Chelsea Thronson, of Spokane, will play Adalia as well as an evil fairy. She’s in the studio’s new pre-professional program, in which students dance and study related topics six hours a day. She does her traditional schoolwork online.

Thronson said she and other students collaborated with Nicholson and Pierce to create the choreography and score, exchanging bits of music and video of choreography via email with Pierce.

“It was always so exciting when we got a new bit of music, but I think I was really excited when we got the music for the evil fairy,” Thronson said, “because I could really envision the choreography and feel the character I was supposed to portray in that music.

“I’m not supposed to smile during that dance, but I always end up smiling a little bit because I just love it so much.”

Nicholson said she expects an immediate response from the audience during Saturday’s performance of “Adalia.” She’s proud of the use of lighting and other effects to show the difference between its earthly “universe” and the one in the clouds.

“When the curtain opens, it’s going to be really beautiful,” Nicholson said. “It’s not going to be anything that Coeur d’Alene has seen before.”

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