Bringing children into the theater is a priority for the Sacramento Ballet. But they can’t do “The Nutcracker” 12 months a year. So the ballet has turned to a well-known children’s book, a bedtime story famous for its pictures of monsters. Moving the fantastic creatures drawn by illustrator Maurice Sendak from page to stage involves costumes – lots of costumes – and Sendak helped design them. The monsters stand ten feet tall, with huge heads, feathers and fur, and feet the size of snowshoes. It’s something different for a dancer like Michael Vester, who typically wears costumes that allow him to move freely.
It’s almost like dancing in a spacesuit. But there are also challenges for the dancers who have human roles. In many shows, ballet dancers portray passionate lovers, and other adults. But this time, many of them are portraying kids – and in the case of 19-year-old dancer Nicole Haskins, she needs to set aside a lifetime of experience, and behave like a boy.
The central character is the boy Max – danced by Colby Damon, a slender adult who stands five foot three. He’s the one who starts the monsters on their Grand Rumpus, and also tangles with one of the creatures. But their conflict becomes comedy.
Sacramento Ballet is counting on this show’s association with a popular children’s book, and half-priced tickets for kids 12 and under, to bring in hundreds of youngsters for their first experience with dance.
The Sacramento Ballet presents “Where the Wild Things” Oct. 26-29 at the Sacramento Community Center Theatre.