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Dancers lure Islanders to a new ‘Pied Piper’
Two dozen young Island dancers will bring the medieval tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin to the stage this weekend, in a brand new production created by Island dance teacher Betsy Frazee for members of Vashon Junior Civic Ballet.
The dance company, a Saturday morning program of Vashon Park District, provides young Island dancers with a chance to dance in an annual production of “The Nutcracker Ballet” staged each December, and a spring production that changes from year to year. The program is free of charge, except for a nominal charge that helps cover the expenses of mounting each production.
At least part of Frazee’s inspiration to mount a production of “The Pied Piper” was purely practical.
“We’re being green,” Frazee explained in a recent interview. “We like to make use of all our costuming, and there are so many mice and rats in “The Nutcracker.’”
The stories of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet and “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” are very different, though.
Frazee laughed as she reeled off a long list of characters her fresh-faced young students will portray in the show.
“There’s the Grim Reaper, Black Death, rats, mice, mushrooms, skeletons, villagers, magistrates, merchants, amorous cats, three cooks who are being bothered by a baby rat, and a flea-ridden dog — that’s probably my favorite character,” she said.
And according to Frazee, the production is perfect entertainment for all ages.
“There’s nothing there to scare tiny little kids,” she said. “And some of it is so cute and funny,” she said, adding that her adaptation of the classic fairy tale includes something most other versions omit — beautiful fairies.
Frazee culled the music for “The Pied Piper” from 22 different sources, with baroque music predominating in the production’s soundtrack.
The young dancers in “The Pied Piper” range in age from 3 to 19 years old, and have been at work on the production since January.
Principal dancers include Keanu Roush, 17; Annelise Bogue, 17; Meredith Wade, 18; and Eliza Holmes, 19.
The youngest dancer in the company is Lyra Shannon, 3, who recently joined her big sister Bright Shannon, 7, as a member of the troupe.
The girls’ mother, Julie Shannon, had high praise for the program.
“Betsy has a very, very strong desire to create an ensemble cast and to have the older kids mentor the younger kids,” Shannon said, add that she appreciates Frazee’s willingness to “use dancers of all skill levels in all the roles — she makes a point of it.”
The result, Shannon explained, has been an experience that has been cherished by her older daughter.
“She gets so much more out of it than just the dance education,” she said. “This is a family thing to her — she’s grown up with it.”
Shannon also believes that Frazee’s philosophy and inclusive style result in audience-pleasing productions.
“There’s a raw energy that runs through the whole process that results in performances that are emotionally charged,” she said. “The dancers are invested in what they are doing.”
Shannon is excited to see “The Pied Piper,” and hopes other Islanders will come out to see the show.
“For all we invest, we’d love to see our audiences grow,” she said. “We’re asking people to support this, because it is worthwhile.”
“The Pied Piper” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 18 and 19, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 20, at the Vashon High School Theater. Tickets are $6 and $10 and can be purchased at the door. Children 5 and younger are admitted free.