Coyotes, magic and a dance potpourri

JDU's new ballet 'Albert's Play' is made up of 21 short scenes telling the story of the creation of a play

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2001

T he story of a goose with a dream will be told in dance.

Alexei Badrak, ballet master and director for Juneau Dance Unlimited, has modified the children's book "Albert's Play" to create a ballet with 21 short scenes. This weekend, JDU presents a "Winter Dance Concert" including "Albert's Play" and other performances by JDU students. The three performances will be at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at the JDU studio.

Badrak, 51, first produced "Albert's Play" almost two years ago in Lodi, Calif., with a nonprofit dance school he founded there, the International Ballet Theatre Institute. Badrak, a classically trained dancer, immigrated to the United States from Russia in the early 1990s and was hired in August of this year to teach at JDU.

Badrak said he worked with the book's author, Leslie Tryon, in California several years ago to create the ballet.

"She let me change everything we needed for the ballet," he said.

The ballet tells the story of a farmyard goose who decides to produce a play with his fellow barnyard animals. He holds auditions and casts his actors. Rehearsals proceed but before the play opens the troupe is transported to a magical island.

Badrak added elements from his native Russia, a scene with a cossack and a scene with Baba Yaga, a witchlike character.

Monday night amid the chaos of dress rehearsal Seneca Harper waited in his colorful cossack costume for his cue to go on. Harper, a Ballet III student, is one of the few males taking dance at JDU. Ballet I and II students, young girls dressed as hedgehogs, bustled in and out of the studio. Three swans, girls in Ballet IV, watched the animals and waited for their scene, a slow adagio contemporary dance.

"Ballets are remade plays - stories told with movement," said Whitney Rickards, 15. "Half of ballet is acting."

In the studio, Badrak emphasized that point, reminding the dancers to be terrified in a scene where two coyotes stalk about the magical island. His heavy accent often made it difficult for the dancers to follow his direction and he would take to the floor, demonstrating the moves and the subtleties of the dance.

A recital will precede "Albert's Play" at which dancers from tap, jazz, preballet and modern classes will perform. JDU dance teachers have choreographed the pieces.

"There will be a series of about four or five short pieces, about 20 minutes, then 'Albert's Play.' " Badrak said. "We want all our students to perform."

The JDU winter performance will last about an hour and a half. Tickets are $10, $6 for children. The JDU studio is in the Scottish Rite Temple at Fourth and Seward streets.

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