Spectacular productions are the hallmark of the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, and this year’s Spooktacular is no exception. Artistic Director Gloria Govrin positively glows as she talks about this unique experience for Southeastern Connecticut.
"A few years ago, I had this idea that grew after we did a choreographed version of the book, Ballerina Swan," says Govrin. The charming children’s book was written by New York City Ballet star, Allegra Kent, and the idea to put it to dance was irresistible to Govrin.
"When we did Ballerina Swan at the Garde Theatre, I was just blown away at the audience," she says. "We’d filled the theater and all these little children were dressed in tutus to watch the performance. I thought, ‘Oh! Dressing up to see a performance. What a wonderful idea.’"
As a child, Govrin’s favorite holiday was Halloween, but not because of witches or goblins. "It was a chance to be theatrical, and that’s what I always wanted to do," she says. So Govrin met with Executive Director Lise Reardon and Assistant Director Krystin Baribault to begin talking about putting together a short program that would appeal to children.
"I wanted it to be all classical music, and we were careful to keep anything scary out of the program," says Govrin. Searching through music, she found The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by composer Paul Dukas. "It was perfect, and the cartoon was already out there, so that helped me put the dance together." Wanting to keep the performance short, Govrin only added two other numbers: Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns, and a whimsical piece featuring skeletons dancing to Charles Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette (also familiar as the theme song for Alfred Hitchcock Presents).
Three years ago, Lise Reardon chose The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook for the first performance of this innovative production. The stage is small and the theater intimate, a perfect venue. That first year, the seats were sold out, but the families kept coming. Govrin laughs and says, "Lise was going around the audience and asking people if they’d hold a child on their lap so they could see the performance." Parents stood at the back of the theater.
The delightful thing about Spooktacular is the interaction and participation of the children who attend the performance. They arrive in Halloween costumes, anything from infants wearing bunny ears to toddlers in tutus to older children in Star Wars outfits. Once the dance performance is finished, the children in the audience parade across the stage to show off their costumes. From there, they trick-or-treat through the theater, then go outside to meet the dancers. There’s often a special character there, too. Elsa from Frozen, or Cinderella have been available to have photos with the children.
Krystin Baribault adds, "We try to make our performances into events for families. By keeping the show short, we’re able to add those other activities for the kids."
Asked what is so special about this event, both Govrin and Baribault agee that it’s wonderful to be able to bring children to a theater when they’re young, so they can experence live art geared toward children. They learn how to be an audience member, they get to participate, and they get to see other kids performing.
Govrin expands on that thought: "The children can talk to and interact with our dancers, and that is something our students love," she says. "They’re down on the floor to talk to the children, look at their costumes, have pictures taken. It’s very special."
Spooktacular takes place on Saturday, October 15 & Sunday, October 16; there are two performances each day: 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Tickets are sold through the theater box office at The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (The Kate), 300 Main Street in Old Saybrook. www.katharinehepburntheater.org
Eastern Connecticut Ballet is located in East Lyme at 435 Boston Post Road. Visit www.easternctballet.com or call 860-739-7899.