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'Peter Pan' to fly into Bakersfield

Peter Pan can fly anywhere: to London, to Neverland and even to Bakersfield.

The boy who never grows up will hit the stage of the Fox Theater when Bay Pointe Ballet’s “Peter Pan” comes to town on Oct. 1. The San Francisco-based ballet company will tell the beloved story through dance, music and yes, flying.

“The story is easy to tell,” said Bruce Steivel, artistic director of Bay Pointe. “The challenge is always the flying, to make the choreography work with the flying director. It takes two people to fly one person. It’s very complicated.”

But when the dancers take flight, it’s all worth it.

“A lot of people are surprised,” Steivel said. “They don’t realize there’s going to be flying. When Peter makes his first entrance, there’s always awe from the audience. A lot of people have never seen flying in the theater.”

Like the J.M. Barrie story it’s based on, the ballet can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, Steivel said.

“I’m hoping people will want to bring their kids and while they’re sitting there, enjoy it as well,” he said. “There’s a kid in all of us.”

Steivel first created the ballet 15 years ago in Las Vegas, complete with music specially composed for it by Thomas Semanski. Of all the classic stories to choose from, Steivel chose “Peter Pan” because he related to the boy’s never-grow-up attitude and thinks the audience does too.

“When I became a choreographer, it was a subject I liked,” Steivel said. “The Peter Pan complex, we all have that.”

In the ballet, Peter is played by Rudy Candia, and Wendy Darling is played by Edilsa Armendariz. The company started rehearsing four weeks ago, which sounds like very little time to a lot of us but is pretty standard for Bay Pointe.

“It’s all coming together,” Steivel said. “We had our first complete run-through (recently) and it went really well.”

Bay Pointe Ballet regularly casts local children in their traveling productions, and “Peter Pan” is no different. The company teamed up with Kern Dance Alliance to host an audition class last month, with 30 kids auditioning and nine being cast as Lost Boys and mermaids. The kids have been rehearsing ever since at the alliance’s studio, without the benefit of the choreographer or other dancers with them. It’s different from their usual rehearsals, but alliance president Andrea Hansen said the young dancers can easily handle it.

“Rehearsing for a show is rehearsing for a show,” Hansen said. “You have to learn the choreography and be prepared to perfect it. I think the kids are well-educated and well-trained and picked up on (the choreography).”

Working with professional dancers in a production like “Peter Pan” is a huge opportunity for the local dancers, Hansen said.

“For a lot of young dancers, having the opportunity to dance with a professional company can be pivotal in deciding whether they want to dance professionally or not — seeing people who are making their living dancing,” she said. “That’s not to even mention the confidence-building of it.”

The local dancers will round out a cast that also includes Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily, Captain Hook and even the animal characters of “Peter Pan.” After all, what would the story be without that infamous crocodile and Nana, the Darlings’ dog?

“The kids love Nana,” Steivel said of the canine character, who is played by a dancer in a specially made dog costume. “She’s a favorite of the ballet.”

Steivel’s goal with this production, and others, is to bring more people into the theater. Bay Pointe does a lot of story ballets, he said, with productions that have a broad appeal. Anyone can enjoy “Peter Pan” whether they know an arabesque from a pirouette or not.

“If we can get them in to see ‘Peter Pan’ and enjoy it, we can get them in to something else,” Steivel said. “They will be more involved in what we’re doing.”

This isn’t Bay Pointe’s first time in Bakersfield.

Last year, the company brought its “Dracula” ballet to the Fox. Although the performance didn’t get as big of a turnout as Steivel hoped for, the people who were there really enjoyed themselves, giving the dancers a standing ovation at the end.

With that reception, Steivel wasn’t discouraged by the empty seats.

“It takes time to build an audience,” he said. “We’re taking a couple years to see if we can build an audience (in Bakersfield).”

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