- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It sounds like another Peter Pan is already on his way. Maybe we all have some Peter Pan in us - not wanting to grow up, chasing after adventures. Septime Webre, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, has done something about his inner Peter Pan.

He made a ballet, which opens tonight at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater for a five-day run.

The work seems a natural for Mr. Webre. His zest for celebration and festivity is well-met with the story of Peter Pan, for it was one of the earlier works Mr. Webre created for the company. Since then, his “Peter” has been danced by seven companies across the country.

Remounting the ballet “is just so darn fun - it’s not like tackling ‘Swan Lake’ or ‘Giselle,’ ” Mr. Webre says. “There’s a certain fun factor to the work. It’s been a joy.”

For this strenuous ballet - and to give a chance to many dancers - Mr. Webre has double- or triple-cast most of the major roles.

The pyrotechnic, plum role of Peter is being danced this week by three strikingly different dancers. They come to the part from different routes - Jonathan Jordan, a fresh-faced, brilliant classical dancer; Jared Nelson, a dramatic Peter in the original production who is revisiting the role; and Norton Fantinel, a new apprentice the director sees as a major dancer in the near future.

One of Mr. Webre’s biggest challenges was the choreography for a dog and a crocodile. The crocodile slithers; the dog, wearing a huge costume head, is a real scene stealer, bounding along eagerly at the prospect of any new adventure and danced with gumption by Kensuke Yorozu.

“He’s got to feel puppylike,” Mr. Webre says, “but when you’re doing all that plus wearing a huge head, it can be tough.

“I choreographed the ballet from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy - a lot of the humor is guy humor, or kids’ humor, but I think adults enjoy it.”

Along with the fun, Mr. Webre says, “I wanted to ensure there was enough brilliant dancing to make adults who’ve seen great work enjoy themselves.”

A new experience facing all but Mr. Nelson in the troupe is the challenge of “Flying by Foy.” Mr. Nelson finds it a happy repeat: “You actually feel like you’re flying, it’s really cool. If you’re hanging in the air too long, it can hurt a bit, but the fun factor outweighs the pain.”

Another part of getting ready for a week at the Kennedy Center is activating the audience. One evening last week, dancers in practice clothes did a run-through of the ballet’s first act in the company’s large Wisconsin Avenue studio before a crowd of young patrons on hand for a Beer and Ballet evening. These informal showings find Mr. Webre in his element, his natural enthusiasm making the evening a sparkling event, drawing in a target demographic that arts groups are especially trying to attract.

Another up-and-coming male dancer is the youngest member of the cast, 11-year-old Alex Sargent, who plays the youngest member of the Darling family. Throughout a long afternoon of rehearsals, he was as attentive and disciplined as anyone in the room. Asked why he was so involved in dance, he said, “Just to have that much control and freedom in my body feels great.”

Talk about a promising newcomer!

It sounds like another Peter Pan is already on his way.

WHAT: The Washington Ballet in “Peter Pan”

WHEN: Tonight through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; also Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 5:30 p.m.

WHERE:Eisenhower Theater, Kennedy Center

TICKETS: $38 to $120

PHONE: 202/467-4600

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