Learn more about Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company’s production of Aladdin

A Q&A with Grand Rapids Ballet’s Marketing Coordinator, Julie Lesniak

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Before Aladdin opens on March 13 and runs for two weekends at Peter Martin Wege Theatre, I went behind-the-scenes with choreographer, former professional dancer, and current Grand Rapids Ballet School and Junior Company Director, Attila Mosolygo. I wanted to learn more about his creative process and what audiences can expect from his production of this classic story.

Q: Attila, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions today. Is this your first time choreographing Aladdin?

A: You’re welcome. Yes, this is my first time choreographing this story myself and on the Junior Company. It’s very exciting to bring new material to the city and to our student dancers.

Q: What inspired your choice?

A: As a child, I read Aladdin and really enjoyed it. Fast forward to now and my son and daughter are big fans of the story, too. I thought it would make a great children’s ballet since it is obviously a story that is loved by many generations. My family is the perfect example.

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Q: What are the similarities and differences between this production of Aladdin and the Disney movie with which so many audiences are familiar?

A: Though my interpretation of the story is based on a folktale from the book One Thousand and One Nights and not the Disney movie, there are similarities. For instance, our story will have some of the same characters, but a key difference in ours is Aladdin’s mom is part of the ballet. Also, there will be not one but two genies in our version: the Genie of the Ring and the Genie of the Lamp.

Q: Who doesn’t need more magical genies in their life, right? That’s great! I hear a giant dragon will make an appearance, too. Tell us more.

A:  The dragon opens our story so he’s very important in setting the tone for the entire production which is why I’ve been working so hard to create him myself. This addition was my idea as I wanted to give a little background on the origins of the magic oil lamp. Building the dragon was a challenge, since I had never made one before. But I like a challenge as people know. There was a lot of paper, foam, and glue involved and I used vibrant colors to catch the attention of the audience right away. His character is as important as any other in the show and I know he’s going to love the applause (laughs).

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Q: Wow, we are certainly excited to see him on stage! What about costumes and lighting? How will each compliment the dragon?

A: For both costumes and lighting I wanted strong, energetic colors; I want to make a big statement on stage. Costumes are designed by our costume shop manager, Ronald Altman. Once costumes are in place, we can begin designing the lighting plot, so that’s still very much a work in progress. It will be eye-catching and full of excitement, though. I can guarantee it.

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Q: Before you get back to work, how would you describe this production of Aladdin in one word?

A: The first word that comes to mind — or I would like audience members to think of when they see the ballet— is inspiring. The Junior Company dancers work very hard to bring my vision to life and they take my directions very seriously. For some, it is their first time performing with the group, so they have to give me their trust and be willing to try new things. Senior members of the company are wonderful role models for the new dancers as I am asking them to do things they have never done before. It makes for a very exciting creative process for everyone involved. This ballet is a great way to introduce children and adults to the wonderful world of costumes, lights, sets, props, choreography, storytelling, music, and the magic of dance. This is certainly a production full of adventure that you and your family don’t want to miss!

See the Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company preform Aladdin, March 13- 15 and 21-22 at Peter Martin Wege Theatre. Tickets are on sale now on Ticketmaster, our website, and our box office at 341 Ellsworth Avenue SW, or by calling 616.454.4771 x10 today.

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