State Street Ballet stops by Granada for a one-night only performance of Jungle Book
STATE STREET BALLET: THE JUNGLE BOOK
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Granada Theatre, 1214 State St.
Cost: $36 – $104, $24 children 12 and under
Information: granadasb.org or 805-899-2222
It’s been 10 years since the premiere of State Street Ballet’s “Jungle Book,” the dance adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s children’s stories.
After performances in other cities, this revival — featuring brand-new choreography in many places — returns to its home town for a one-night only, Sunday night performance at the Granada.
This “Jungle Book” is nowhere near the Disney version, but centers on Mowgli, the jungle boy who lives in a wonderland of snakes, panthers, monkeys and wolves as he grows into a man and inevitably moving to the world of humans. State Street Ballet’s Rodney Gustafson simplified the stories and streamlined them back in 2009. But since that first successful year, Mr. Gustafson and company have meant to update the show. The company turned to three in-house choreographers to update the work.
Kassandra Taylor Newberry has redone a fight scene and the monkey section, bringing an upbeat and funky vibe to the proceedings. Megan Philipp worked on the peacock section; and William Soleau redid the entire ending, along with work from Marina Fliagina.
“A lot of choreographers don’t want you to touch their choreography,” Mr. Soleau says. “But Rodney trusts us and he has that kind of personality that just wants something to be better. That’s pretty amazing.
“This is going to be — I don’t want to say ‘Jungle Book 2’ — but this is definitely an update, a much better one. … We also have dancers that do things now that others could not do.”
For example, they didn’t have a Mowgli who could do triple tours before, and now they have Francois Llorente, the Cuban dance sensation who’s been with the company for one year. Mr. Soleau is continually amazed at Mr. Llorente’s skills compared the dance world Mr. Soleau came up through.
“He’s also one of the most modest guys you’ll meet. He really carries it,’ Mr. Soleau says, “as does Sayori Yamashita. They are so beautiful together, a perfect pairing.”
Audiences who saw State Street Ballet’s “Chaplin” will recognize the return of James Folsom, who played the lead — he returns as antagonist Shere Khan, the tiger.
“I wanted this (new version) to be more bittersweet,” Mr. Soleau says. “Because it ends with him leaving the jungle, leaving all his friends before to go into the human world. So we reworked the story to pull the heartstrings more.”
What hasn’t changed is the jazzy score by Czech composer Milan Svoboda, who is going to be in attendance for Sunday’s show. Originally used for a separate production for the National Theatre in Prague, Mr. Gustafson brought it over for his show.
Christina Giannini designed the original costumes, but for this version Nicole Thompson has come to reimagine costumes, such as the peacock.
Previous to this Granada visit, the tour had just gone to Flagstaff and Fresno, just like they do with their tours of “The Nutcracker” during the holidays.
“But for this production, this is it for now,” Mr. Soleau says.