Old meets new

Chambersburg Ballet Theatre Co. updates traditional Irish folk dance in 'Gambol'

Chambersburg Ballet Theatre Co. updates traditional Irish folk dance in 'Gambol'

January 29, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg Ballet Theatre Company will debut an original piece, "Gambol/Dances for Irish Pennywhistle" at The Capitol Theatre on Friday.

The company will also perform "The Firebird," bringing to the stage two guest artist from the Boston area. The performances continue through Saturday and are part of the borough's IceFest activities.

Chambersburg dancer Victoria Marthouse is the lead soloist in "Gambol/ Dances for Irish Pennywhistle."

"She's a very strong dancer," said choreographer Lavinia Reid, artistic director of the company and school. "She's beautifully, classically trained, at ease en pointe."

"Gambol" is a collection of nine short dances, set to the music of a flute choir and a pennywhistle soloist.

The music was composed by Shippensburg University music professor Dennis Ritz, who directs the Shippensburg University-Community Orchestra and Woodwind Ensembles.

Though the music and dance are inspired by traditional Irish and Celtic folk styles, Reid said the idea was to give them a modern-day feel.


Unlike the other classical pieces the dance company has performed at IceFest, "Gambol" lacks a concrete storyline and there is no pas de deux, a male-female duet that is a mainstay of classical ballet choreography. Instead, there's occasional interaction among the dancers - who are all female - and the pennywhistler, Tom Reese, who occasionally joins them onstage.

For the music, Ritz said he wanted to preserve the foundation of the traditional Irish style. "The flavor is unmistakable," Ritz said.

But he said certain chord progressions natural to Irish music leant themselves easily to jazz chords. These undertones are punctuated by Reese, who is a jazz and folk artist from the Lancaster, Pa., region.

Bringing back 'Firebird'

The ballet company is also performing "The Firebird," which the company has performed at IceFest before.

"Firebird" is based on a Russian folk tale about a princess who is turned into a firebird by an evil wizard. Adding to the theatrics are black lights, fancy props and elaborate "monster" costumes, Reid said. The piece is set to the music of Stravinsky.

But this time Reid tapped Cambridge, Mass.,-based Jos Mateo Ballet Theatre for two guest soloists.

Male lead Henoch Spinola is trained in traditional Malian dance and modern dance technique. Reid said she was interested to see how those influences would manifest themselves in a classical ballet piece.

"Firebird" calls for a strong male lead, as Spinola will be on stage for 45 minutes straight, Reid said.

Female lead is one of Lavinia's former students. Erin "Lotsie" Cash, who now dances with Jos Mateo Ballet Theatre and attends Harvard.

"I brought her down because I want my students to see that they can go on to a professional company," Reid said.

Regional dancers affiliated with Chambersburg Ballet Theatre Company fill out the rest of the roster, with Chambersburg resident Brie Anne Asbury taking the role of lead Princess.

If you go ...

WHAT: "The Firebird" and "Gambol/Dances for Irish Pennywhistle," presented by the Chambersburg Ballet Theatre Company

WHEN: Debuts 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, with additional performances at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31.

WHERE: The Capitol Theatre, 159 S. Main St., Chambersburg, Pa.

COST: Tickets cost $15 adults; $10 children and students; and $5 for children 5 and younger. Tickets to the Saturday afternoon performance cost $10, all seats. Ticket prices do not include the $2 service fee, charged on all tickets.

CONTACT: For tickets, call The Capitol Theatre, 717-263-0202, or go to

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