By Tammy Scileppi
Sadly, fables have become an almost forgotten genre of reading, what with the plethora of modern-day children’s books written for a new generation of precocious kids.
But now, some of those wonderful, enchanting tales that have sparked youngsters’ imaginations since days of yore have been brought to life through dance, in “Fables,” a production every family should experience.
Thanks to the Queens Borough Community Dance Project — a new initiative launched by RIOULT Dance NY — lucky students between the ages of 8 and 16, who either live or go to school locally, will have a rare opportunity to rehearse and perform alongside RIOULT’s professional dancers. Performances, presented in partnership with LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, will take place in the Mainstage Theatre at 31-10 Thomson Ave. in Long Island City May 19 at 3 p.m.
Dance education and giving more children access to dance has always been at the heart of RIOULT’s mission as an organization, and in a few months doors to their new home at RIOULT Dance Center on Steinway Street will open, establishing residency in Astoria’s popular Kaufman Arts District.
“Fables” is their first performance as a Queens-based company but audiences have been enjoying a myriad of productions presented at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center and at Queens Theatre for many years.
“We are very excited to begin working with our new community. We hope that this experience, offered free to the student participants, will broaden their horizons and encourage them to continue dancing throughout their lives,” said Pascal Rioult, RIOULT Dance NY’s founder and choreographer.
As a co-producer of “Fables,” LPAC’s executive director Steven Hitt joined forces with the dance company to make this project possible. The collaboration follows a long history of presenting free lecture demonstrations for New York City students in LPAC’s theater and also serves as a resource for RIOULT Dance NY in producing their annual New York Season, according to Rioult.
While RIOULT’s modern-day dances a la fables of olde were created around elements of fun and whimsy, all are inspired by the 17th century poet Jean de la Fontaine, whose delightful Fables rank among the greatest masterpieces of French literature. He offered young readers valuable messages that were as relevant then as they are today.
Deeper meanings can be found behind thought-provoking, imaginatively told and beautifully illustrated tales, in which animal protagonists always have a lot to say. The main theme of his book series has been described as “the everyday moral experience of mankind throughout the ages, exhibited in a profusion of typical characters, emotions, attitudes, and situations.”
“My piece, ‘Fables,’ celebrates the timeless stories that teach children life lessons embraced by the many cultures found in the borough of Queens,” Rioult said. “Being from France originally, I read and was inspired by the rhythmic narrative of Fables, so I wanted to use the universal language of dance to bring to life familiar tales including the ‘Crow and the Fox,’ ‘Tortoise and the Hare,’ ‘Oak and the Reed,’ ‘Ant and the Grasshopper,’ and ‘Animals Sick with the Plague.’ There is a twist to my interpretation of these tales in that Jean de la Fontaine used animals to portray human behaviors and in my piece the dancers represent contemporary people who find themselves in the same situations.”
The audience will hear music written especially for “Fables” by the composer Paul Salerni. The costumes are contemporary clothing designed by Pilar Limosner after the original designs by Russ Vogler; the sets were designed by Harry Feiner, and light design was created by David Finley. “All of these theatrical elements create a very special, magical world where the dancing takes place,” Rioult said.
Among the schools that have students who are performing this weekend are: PS139 Q; PS113; PS85Q; PS165Q; PS199; PS/IS 113Q; PS144; PS/MS 164; J.H.S. 190 Russell Sage; BELL Academy; PS169; PS/MS 164; Q300; Garden School; Frank Sinatra School of the Arts; Forest Hills High School; And Manhattan’s PS 199.
For tickets, visit the LPAC box office or go to www.lpac.nyc/event/0b047530ed7f1414f8a51134fcb675f4.