The Adventures of Ballet Fantastique

The unconventional ballet company pirouettes into an exciting, cosmopolitan season

Travel. Take risks. Be a little dangerous. These are the inspirations for the upcoming 2013  season at what is arguably Eugene’s most daringly innovative ballet company, Ballet Fantastique. Comprised of seven acclaimed dancers and co-directed by mother-daughter team Donna and Hannah Bontrager, Ballet Fantastique aspires to offer expressive ballet productions full of exploratory storytelling, original choreography and masterful technique.

The company will grace the stage of the Hult Center’s Soreng Theater Feb. 2 and 3 to debut its newest effort, The Misadventures of Casanova. While the 18th-century Italian man is a well-known womanizer, this Venetian masquerade will feature strong female characters besting the masterful flirt in deft, clever ways.

“We’re very driven by the dramatic aspect of things,” executive director Hannah Bontrager says. The Casanova ballet employs some narration to enhance the storytelling, traditional baroque-era dance influences and compelling musical choices, such as recordings of the Louvre Orchestra playing on antique instruments to try to “bring the audience back in time,” Bontrager says.

As a company that simply doesn’t do traditional ballet (no Swan Lake, no The Nutcracker), Fantastique has a knack for and enjoys attracting a nontraditional ballet audience, including the elusive 19-to-35 aged crowd that so many performance arts companies are eager to please, as well as guests who’ve never been to a ballet before.

The company is equally excited to be moving ahead with research and planning for a spring premiere of the first ballet version (as far as they are aware) of author Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice — and certainly the first Pride ballet reset to the scene of Paris in the roaring ’20s. Working with local jazz musicians Gerry Rempel and the Jazz Syndicate, the production, set for May at the Hult, will be live in every sense of the word.

Bontrager says of the production, “It’s been really fun to choose shows throughout the years that we feel can really highlight the powerful women that we have in our company … We’re very excited about the production.”

Utilizing diverse stylings, brave musical choices and the impassioned expression fans expect from the artistic medium, Ballet Fantastique will surely prove as nimble as ever this season. It’s ballet like you’ve never seen it, so if you haven’t seen it yet — do.

The Adventures of Casanova shows 7:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 2, and 2:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 3. Pride and Prejudice shows 7:30 pm May 4 and 2:30 pm May 5. Both performances will be at the Soreng Theater, Hult Center; $19-$33. — Shelley Deadmond