Rochester City Ballet to present newly choreographed “Peter & the Wolf” 

click to enlarge A scene from "Peter and the Wolf" during a recent performance with the RPO at Hochstein.

THOMAS RODRIGUEZ.

A scene from "Peter and the Wolf" during a recent performance with the RPO at Hochstein.

When Rochester City Ballet’s co-artistic director Shannon Rodriguez observes rehearsal, she doesn’t stop moving. Her feet bounce to the beat of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” as her hands gesture along with the dancers’ movements.

She shifts side to side, her torso and shoulders following along with the choreography. Though it’s not unusual for a choreographer to demonstrate or dance a bit on the sidelines, Rodriguez is unique in the way she fully embodies her creations. Rodriguez and her co-artistic director, Megan Kamler, are not only directors, but current dancers with the company as well.

click to enlarge From left, Shannon Rodriguez and Megan Kamler, the first co-artistic directors in Rochester City Ballet history. - ROCHESTER CITY BALLET.
  • ROCHESTER CITY BALLET.
  • From left, Shannon Rodriguez and Megan Kamler, the first co-artistic directors in Rochester City Ballet history.

Kamler and Rodriguez are Rochester natives who both grew up studying at the Timothy M. Draper Center for Dance Education, the official school of the Rochester City Ballet. In August 2023, they were named the first co-artistic directors in the company's history.

click to enlarge A rehearsal for "Peter and the Wolf," which runs February 3 and 4 at Fort Hill Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua. - THOMAS RODRIGUEZ.
  • THOMAS RODRIGUEZ.
  • A rehearsal for "Peter and the Wolf," which runs February 3 and 4 at Fort Hill Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua.
“It felt very natural,” Rodriguez said of the transition. “We know what Rochester needs and understand the community. As directors spend more years away from being a dancer, it’s common for leaders to forget what it’s like to be as a dancer. We put the dancers’ needs ahead of everything — their communications, needs, and desires.”

The late January rehearsal has a sense of collaboration, during which dancers gratefully take notes and even offer their own input. Rodriguez demonstrates her corrections fully and speaks a language that only dancers understand. The result is a collaborative environment with a sense of both hard work and lightheartedness; the other company members respect Rodriguez and Kamler as both peers and leaders.

Originally choreographed by Tim Draper, “Peter & the Wolf” is a staple of Rochester
click to enlarge A promotional photo for "Peter and the Wolf," which features brand new choreography by Shannon Rodriguez. - ERICH CAMPING.
  • ERICH CAMPING.
  • A promotional photo for "Peter and the Wolf," which features brand new choreography by Shannon Rodriguez.
 City Ballet. The magical tale follows a boy and his animal friends who must figure out how to outsmart a wolf. This year’s version will feature all new choreography by Rodriguez, and this is the first time dancers will perform her work on a main stage.

“We decided to update this piece to better reflect our current dancers,” she said. “The choreography is more challenging, reflecting the immense strength and artistry of the performers.”

The performance promises to be a perfect outing for families. The story teaches concepts of bravery and friendship as well as how music influences movement. In addition to “Peter & the Wolf,” Rochester City Ballet will perform excerpts of the ballet “Sleeping Beauty,” choreographed by the legendary Russian and French ballet master Marius Petipa. These excerpts will contribute classical tutu-clad dancing, while the "Peter and the Wolf" features a quirkier, character-focused style.

click to enlarge A scene from "Peter and the Wolf" during a recent performance with the RPO at Hochstein. - THOMAS RODRIGUEZ.
  • THOMAS RODRIGUEZ.
  • A scene from "Peter and the Wolf" during a recent performance with the RPO at Hochstein.

In addition, RCB is offering a free special sensory-friendly show on February 4 at 2 p.m. Since 2015, they have held annual sensory-friendly performances to accommodate those on  the autism spectrum or those with developmental disabilities or other enhanced sensory restrictions. The adapted performances include elevated house lighting, reduced noise, safe spaces, a "no shushing" policy, and allowances for electronic devices within the theater. Sensory-friendly productions have become a crucial part of RCB's mission, and they are one of the first ballet companies in the U.S. to provide these shows for audiences.

“Peter & the Wolf" will take place February 3 and 4 at Fort Hill Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua. Tickets are available at rochestercityballet.org.

Sydney Burrows is a freelance contributor to CITY. Feedback about this article can be directed to [email protected].
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