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Eight Compelling Reasons To See Little Dancer – Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
November 21, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times

Little Dancer (Boyd Gaines and Tiler Peck in Little Dancer, photo by Paul Kolnik)

Little Dancer (Boyd Gaines and Tiler Peck in Little Dancer, photo by Paul Kolnik)

Let’s break down this listicle to see why I predict this ballet musical will get to Broadway tout de suite before going on to Hollywood and the big screen.

#1 – The Story

Described as “part fact, part fiction” a young ballerina fights for her independence against the backdrop of the cruelly competitive world of the Paris Opera Ballet.  The musical is inspired by Edgar Degas’s fourteen-year old muse and model whom he called “the winged urchin”.

What’s not to love about a poor street urchin with a preternatural talent for ballet? New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck plays Young Marie, a girl as enchanting as a butterfly and as feisty as a mad hornet.  Think Annie.  Think Cosette in Les Miserables.  Think Billy Elliott. 

#2 – The Collaboration

For the first time in history the National Gallery of Art has collaborated with the Kennedy Center.  The show’s opening dovetails with the NGA’s Degas exhibit of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen shown alongside 14 additional works from the Gallery’s private collection that include the iconic pastel Ballet Scene in addition to monotypes and smaller original statuettes.

3# – The Cast

Little Dancer (Rebecca Luker in Little Dancer, photo by Paul Kolnik)

Little Dancer (Rebecca Luker in Little Dancer, photo by Paul Kolnik)

The word sensational barely begins to describe the talent in this world premiere production – – the aforementioned Tiler Peck as Young Marie van Goethem, a compelling actress and utterly captivating dancer whose solos will take your breath away.  Rebecca Luker as the Adult Marie, whose elegant stage presence reaffirms her Tony Award nominations in Mary Poppins and The Phantom of the Opera.  The incomparable Boyd Gaines as Edgar Degas, a crusty, nearly blind, self-doubting artist ahead of his time; Janet Dickinson, poised and sympatico as Mary Cassatt, the liberated, barrier-breaking artist; Karen Ziemba, deeply affecting as Martine, Marie’s hardworking alcoholic mother; Sophia Anne Caruso as Charlotte, Marie’s younger sister, who reveals the pitch-perfect voice of a nightingale.  Could she be related to “The Great Caruso”?  Sean Martin Hingston as Philippe de Marchal, deliciously evil, he is one of the silk hatted patrons of the ballet school; and Jenny Powers as Antoinette who blends pathos, humor and infectious charm to her role as Marie’s elder sister.  Oh, and I can’t omit the adorable “rats”, a soubriquet for the young dancers in the corps de ballet.

Little Dancer (Karen Ziemba and Sophia Anne Caruso in Little Dancer, photo by Paul Kolnik)

Little Dancer (Karen Ziemba and Sophia Anne Caruso in Little Dancer, photo by Paul Kolnik)

4# – The Creative Team

Titans of the theatre that will undoubtedly take it to Broadway: Lynn Ahrens, Book and Lyrics – Susan Stroman, Director/Choreographer – Stephen Flaherty, Composer and Arranger – Scenic Designer Beowolf Boritt – Costume Designer, William Ivey LongDoug Besterman, Orchestrations – Shawn Gough, Music Director and Conductor.

#5 – The Music

Stephen Flaherty’s memorable score studded with emotionally charged ballads, love songs and even a bawdy French bar tune.  Absinthe, anyone?

#6 – The Costumes

Long draws from the period but more directly from Degas’s own works (though a barmaid’s garb recalls Manet’s famous painting of the period).  Ballerinas are dressed in a wide array of tutus – orange with butterfly wings, white with black velvet throat ribbons and colorful satin sashes, and bright aqua.  Even the ballet master, Monsieur Corbeil (Michael McCormick), is garbed in a linen suit taken straight from a Degas painting.  Victoriana dresses and garish Can Can costumes are authentically referenced.

#7 – The Sets

Boritt envisions the mood by surrounding the stage with a gilt frame as though the audience is peering inside a Degas painting.  Some of the backdrops reflect the artist’s Impressionistic pastels.

#8 – Choreography

Totally transcendent!  Susan Stroman delves into the world of the dancer creating moments of pure magic.

Highly recommended.  If you can get a ticket!

Through November 30th at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit

And be sure to see the exhibit “Degas’s Little Dancer” at the National Gallery of Art through January 11th 2015.  For information visit

To view video “Little Dancer: C’est le Ballet” click here.


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