Seeing the Atlanta Ballet present renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp’s production of The Princess and The Goblin was the equivalent of being invited into an artistic dream sequence filled with simplistic magic, star dust imagery, and cheery children. Even though the goblin horde in this ballet tale stole the children, it was the local children’s performances that really captured the heart of the audience. With just a weekend left (February 17-19) at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, the Atlanta Ballet presents the World Premiere of Twyla Tharp’s The Princess and The Goblin will surely dazzle young and old hearts alike. Opening night was introduced by the Artistic Director of the Atlanta Ballet John McFall who explained how this ballet conceptualized and the partnerships that it took to make it a reality – an artistic partnership with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, one of the grand dames of ballet – Twyla Tharp’s choreographing genius, and thirteen local students from the Atlanta Center for Dance Education to play the part of the children in this ballet. It was a super special treat seeing the cast, prominent members of the Atlanta Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Atlanta Center for Dance Education’s youth, and the fabulous Twyla Tharp come out to take a bow at the closing of opening night.
The Princess and The Goblin ballet was created by Tharp for the Atlanta Ballet and Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Based on George MacDonald’s 1872 fantasy novel of the same name, the story centers around Princess Irene and her quest to rescue kidnapped children from the goblin. (Please note, the use of “goblin” here and throughout the story can mean more than one.) The ballet starts with Great-Great-Grandmother Irene (Princess Irene’s namesake) (Christine Winkler) spinning en pointe and dancing in all white. As the story unfolds, Princess Irene (24-year old Alessa Rogers) discovers that the goblin are stealing children, including her two little sisters – Stella and Blu (Stella McFall and Flannery Bogost), while Irene’s father, King Papa (John Welker), and the rest of the adults carry on enjoying their garden party without a care in the world. Brave Princess Irene and her male friend Curdie (Jacob Bush) head into the Goblin Kingdom to confront the King and Queen of the Goblin (King – John Welker; Queen – Tara Lee) and save the stolen children. With each being captured at different moments and goblin goons at every turn in the lair, it’s a wonder that they ever figure out how to rescue the children and escape the goblin. During one poignant scene, Great-Great-Grandmother Irene gives Princess Irene pointe shoes, which give the Princess strength, confidence, and magical ballet powers to fight the goblin horde. (And truth be told – what young woman does not want a fabulous pair of new shoes to fight off villains with?) Two main goblin guards, Helfer and Podge (Christian Clark and Jesse Tyler), become both intrigued and enamored with Princess Irene, providing comedic distraction and making it possible for Irene and Curdie to escape with the children. Then Curdie learns to see Great-Great-Grandmother Irene in all her dancing glory, beautifully silhouetted behind a white sheet. Princess Irene then teaches the children to dance and all are reunited with King Papa and the adults. There is a sweet ending twist with a red flower – one of the only color bold color elements throughout the continuous 75-minute ballet – and a melting of the audiences’ hearts as the cast of young girl and boy ballet dancers mix it up with their adult counterparts and show off their bright budding talents.
The artistic element was a lot to take in and interpret for someone who is not a ballet aficionado, but with the above synopsis and a few quick sparkling notes about the props, stage dressing, and costumes – you’re sure to enjoy the ballet with little to no prior ballet knowledge. Besides, who wouldn’t want to miss a cultural and artistic World Premiere that will only happen in Atlanta? The stage dressing and props were kept to a minimal – white sheets to reflect light; streamers (that appeared like hanging lights) to offer elements of rain, nightfall, and the darkness of the goblin’s lair; and a minimal, black staircase in the background of a few scenes. Costuming maintained a simple elegance with Princess Irene’s kingdom in white; goblin in goony, earth-toned rags; the Goblin King and Queen in regal black robes versus King Papa and Great-Great-Grandmother Irene’s regal white robes; Princess Irene and Curdie in white with neutral-toned belts; and the children in a wide variety of colored outfits befitting of children. The outfits and colors denote and help distinguish which ballet dancers are playing what part at what time because a few of them play several characters at different times during the non-stop performance.
With only a few days left to see this ballet, it is a perfect place to take your sweetheart, your daughters and other young children, or anyone who loves fairytales and dancing!
The Princess and The Goblin will be performed by the Atlanta Ballet from February 17-19 at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre:
Friday, February 17th – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 18th – 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 19th – 2:00 p.m.
Atlanta Ballet
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30339
(770) 916-2800