Beauty & The Beast
Léo Delibes (selections from Sylvia, 1876, and La Source, 1866)
Concept & Choreography
Bruce Wells and Michele Curtis
Atlanta Ballet Costume Shop
Joseph R. Walls
55 minutes (when danced without intermission)
Pacific Northwest Ballet Premiere
March 15, 2020
Long ago, a handsome young prince lived in a magnificent castle. Though he enjoyed a life of riches, he was rude and unkind to his subjects. One fateful day, an old beggar woman approached him. Because his heart was cold, the selfish Prince turned the poor woman away. To the Prince’s surprise, the woman then transformed into a beautiful enchantress. She put a curse on the Prince for his ugly behavior, turning him into an equally ugly beast. The Enchantress’ curse could only be broken by one thing—a true love’s kiss.
Now, in a nearby village, there is a beautiful young girl named Belle who lives with her father, a merchant in town. A vain and selfish huntsman named Gaston often visits this small village, always followed by adoring women. However, Gaston only has eyes for Belle. He attempts to woo Belle, but she has no interest in him. As Belle’s father prepares to leave the small village for the markets of the big city, Belle requests that he bring her back a rose, and they bid each other farewell.
Along the way, Belle’s father loses the path to the city but remembers his daughter’s wish for a rose. He stops to pluck a single rose from a garden just outside a weathered castle when the Prince, now the Beast, confronts him. Belle’s father begs for his life, pleading that he must return to his daughter. The Beast then negotiates the merchant’s release in exchange for his daughter. “It must be your daughter’s decision,” demands the Beast, who gives the old man a chest of gold before sending him on his way.
The merchant returns to the village. There he tells the story of his encounter with the Beast. Everyone is horrified except for Belle, who is determined to save her father. With a heavy heart, the Merchant returns to the rose garden with Belle.
They meet the Beast, and Belle agrees to stay in her father’s place. The Beast gives two bags of gold to the merchant before he takes his leave. The Beast then commands his court to prepare for the evening’s ball. First, they must decide upon a beautiful gown for Belle. When the Beast returns, Belle hesitantly accepts a dance with him. Embarrassed by his appearance, the Beast calls for a performance for Belle and disappears.
Interrupting the performance, Gaston enters the garden with Belle’s father and tries to force Belle to leave with him. She refuses, and the Beast returns to protect her. Gaston and the Beast begin to fight. Gaston pulls out a pistol and shoots the Beast. Belle’s heart is so touched by the Beast’s bravery that she kisses him. With only a few breaths of life left in him, the curse is lifted and the Beast magically transforms back into the handsome Prince he had once been.
The couple dances together and lives happily ever after.
Choreographer Bruce Wells has created more than 50 ballets. His career as a dancer began under the direction of George Balanchine at New York City Ballet, where he danced as a soloist.
Mr. Wells’ choreographic career began in workshops that Mr. Balanchine coached in the early 1970s. From there, he was resident choreographer for Connecticut Ballet from 1975 to 1979, choreographing his first full-length production, Coppélia in 1976. From 1979 to 1989, he was resident choreographer for Boston Ballet under the direction of E. Virginia Williams and Bruce Marks. He created more than 20 works for the company, including The Nutcracker, La Fee Mal Gardée, Swan Lake, and a highly acclaimed A Midsummer Night’s Dream. From 1984 to 1989, Mr. Wells was also Associate Artistic Director of Boston Ballet. He next joined Patricia Wilde’s Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for six seasons as resident choreographer, creating new productions of Romeo & Juliet, The Firebird, and The Great Gatsby, among others. Mr. Wells has also created works for the Australian Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet Chicago, Cincinnati Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, and Jacob’s Pillow, among others.
Mr. Wells was on the faculty of Pacific Northwest Ballet School for 18 years. His first children’s ballet for the School was Snow White in 2001, followed by Hansel & Gretel and Pinocchio.
Ryan Sbaratta is an Atlanta-based designer who has designed sets for theater, museums, and film, and is known for his fabrication work done under the brand Lost Dog Customs. Previous theatre designs for The Center for Puppetry Arts include Pete the Cat, Anne Frank: Within Without, The Cat in the Hat, Click Clack Moo, Mother Goose, Aesop’s Carnival, The Ghastly Dreadfuls and The Canterville Ghost. His exhibit work includes Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Journey to Goblin City and, most recently, Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: World of Myth and Magic. For the Alliance Theatre’s 2014|2015 season of Theatre for the Very Young, Ryan created the two-dimensional set of Little Raindrop Songs. His film and television work includes “Escape Plan 2,” “Stuber” and, most recently, the art direction for Lifetime’s “American Beauty Star” season 2. Bruce Wells’ Beauty & the Beast is Ryan’s first commission for Atlanta Ballet.
Joseph R. Walls
Joseph R. Walls has designed several pieces for Atlanta Ballet, including Ricardo Amarante’s The Premiere, Gemma Bond’s Denouement, Tara Lee’s blink and Andrea Miller’s Push. He has also designed for STEPS Panama, Staibdance, RAIIN Dance Theater, Inland Pacific Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, and The Washington Ballet at the Kennedy Center. This past summer, Mr. Walls designed for Sundance Mountain Resort’s Summer Theatre. He has also been nominated for the prestigious Premios Escena award for best lighting design in Panama. In January 2019, Mr. Walls designed the lighting for the World Youth Day 2019 with Pope Francis in Panama. www.jwallsdesign.com