Raleigh Dance Theatre puts pages in motion

Members of Raleigh Dance Theater warm up recently before rehearsing for its production of "Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet." / Photo by Mary LeGere

By Doria Worden
Times-News correspondent

   RALEIGH — Fancy Nancy is perhaps the most fabulous character to ever walk the pages of a children’s book. Her personality and endless troubles come to life beneath her clever stories, written by Jane O’Conner and thanks to illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser and her avid imagination.
Raleigh Dance Theatre, headed by artistic director Mary LeGere, will transform “Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet” into a beautiful ballet to be performed at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Nov. 8 and 3 p.m. Nov. 9 as a part of its annual Storybook Tales production.
Glasser is no stranger to the world of ballet. It was only after a successful career at Pennsylvania Ballet that she became an illustrator, though she dreamed of both professions from an early age.
    ”I was very involved with ballet and really wanted to be a professional ballet dancer, but I also loved to draw and I loved art and was pursuing that as well in after school classes, drawing all the time,” she said.
After her retirement from Pennsylvania Ballet, the love of drawing led her to return to school to study illustration, beginning a rewarding career of 25 years and counting. Her tendency toward dramatic roles as a ballet dancer inspired her thought process toward what she creates today.
“I was always attracted to storytelling. I think that translated,” she said. “My very favorite ballet was a comedic ballet which made me realize how much I loved having the audience laugh at me, and I gravitate to humorous manuscripts when I choose the books that I do. I love to bring humor to the pages as well.”
This season’s performance of “Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet” will mark the third collaboration between Mary LeGere and Glasser.
“I don’t feel like I am collaborating with her. She is doing all the work, I just get to sit in the audience and watch,” Glasser said. Bringing the whimsical illustrations from the pages to the stage is no small feat and yet LeGere expertly recreates the characters and captures their personalities flawlessly each time in her original ballets. Glasser said the dancers and choreography represent her vision of the illustrated characters’ quirks and actions fantastically.
“She has done an amazing job, and I just don’t know how she does it,” Glasser said.
The blending of Glasser’s past ballet experience and her current occupation have helped her through the difficulties many dancers feel when their bodies can no longer withstand the intensity that goes hand-in-hand with a dance career.
“I find that is very hard for me to see dance, and now to see other young dancers doing something that I wish my body could still do,” Glasser said. “To now be able to go back and see dance, but how it is connected to the books that I am doing, is slightly less painful. Seeing children dance really makes my heart sing.”
Glasser and LeGere’s friendship has fashioned a wonderful project to bring the books’ illustrations to the stage, which Glasser said is “just the biggest kick in the world” to see.
“I really thank Mary LeGere for that. I am so happy that we danced together in the Pennsylvania Ballet and that she has brought my ‘Fancy Nancy’ books to life. It feels like a full circle.”
Raleigh Dance Theatre’s production of “Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet” will be accompanied by “Alice in Wonderland,” choreographed by Jennifer Sommers, and the premiere of Leslie Jane Pessemier’s original piece “Where Memories Echo.”
Performances are in Fletcher Opera Theater at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. Glasser will be at all performances to sign books purchased through Raleigh Dance Theatre.

Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 at the door. Group rates are available. To purchase tickets, call (919) 834-9261 or visit www.raleighdance.org.

 Doria Worden is a junior at Western Alamance High School and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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