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Ballet Fantastique celebrates a pair of premieres

Anthony Rosario is Aladdin. Photo by Stephanie Urso.
Anthony Rosario is Aladdin. Photo by Stephanie Urso.

Ringing in the new year, Ballet Fantastique (BFan) launches two exciting premieres, with stagings of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Aladdin.

EW recently caught up with the company’s mother-daughter artistic team, Donna Marisa Bontrager and Hannah Bontrager, to learn about their collective vision for bringing these beloved tales to life.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a classic piece of martial arts fiction (known as Wuxia), runs March 3-5 at the Hult Center.

“True to BFan form, we’re drawing on diverse movement inspiration and source material in creating our new choreography,” says BFan artistic director and chorographer-producer Donna Marisa Bontrager. “We’re immersing the company in martial arts and classical Asian dance material to start the embodied experience of moving in a new way.”

The Oregon Mozart Players will collaborate, and the performance features notable double bass player DaXun Zhang.

“In Crouching Tiger, we’re pushing the envelope and creating a world with our space in the intimate Soreng Theater,” says BFan executive director and choreographer-producer Hannah Bontrager. “One of the surprises in this production is the logistical challenge of accommodating 25 musicians, including a harp.” 

The creative team says the costumes, sets and props for the extraordinary Crouching Tiger universe inspire their creativity.

“Our design team is being stretched in new ways — including extensive historical sword, martial arts and fashion research — for this project,” Donna Bontrager explains. “As a designer, I am especially in love with the fabric mix and bold color palette I’m using for Crouching Tiger. We’re playing with a lot of juxtaposition — lines, colors, textures — and it’s so much fun.” 

And May 12-14, the company premieres Aladdin, set in the disco era of the 1970s. The new work features the Satin Love Orchestra playing music by Queen.

“Aladdin is a ragamuffin champion for social unrest, indomitably optimistic in the midst of rigid socio-political dictates,” Hannah Bontrager says. “Jasmine is a girl tired of being confined, resolutely defiant. She’ll make her own choices and craft her own destiny. An act of stupidity, or bravery, meets with a trick of fate and everything changes.”

Aladdin is a well-known story, thanks to the 1992 Disney animated film, but its source is much older and culturally rooted, Donna Bontrager says.

“Yes, it’s the ancient tale of Aladdin, beloved from the Islamic Golden Age to the golden age of Disney,” she explains. “But — here’s the BFan twist — this is also the story of the U.S. in the 1970s. It’s the story of social unrest, protest and campaigns for social justice for women and minorities, and underdog activism, bravery and the luck represented by a draft card.” 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon premieres March 3-5; Aladdin premieres May 12-14. Both shows are at the Hult Center. Tickets available at balletfantastique.org. — Rachael Carnes