Guys & gals 'Play Ball' in ballet production

Chris Dorst
Six of the nine male dancers who traveled to Charleston to perform Friday and Saturday with The Charleston Ballet strike a baseball pose during rehearsal.
WANT TO GO?"Play Ball"Presented by The Charleston Ballet WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and SaturdayWHERE: Civic Center Little TheaterTICKETS: Adults $21, students and seniors $16INFO: 304-342-6541 or www.thecharlestonballet.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Ballet's performance of "Play Ball" features both boys and girls of summer going at it for nine innings, but it's fielding the male team that most challenged artistic director Kim Pauley."We have nine boys coming in from different places," she said. The international male dancers have studied in Colombia, Wales and Cuba, while others come from South Carolina, Ohio, Florida and Philadelphia.Many of the dancers have danced for Christopher Fleming, who choreographed "Play Ball." He recently formed BalletFleming in Philadelphia for performers who are dancing his works."You can tell that he's a big baseball fan," said Nick Peregrino of BalletFleming. "There's so much going on that you can't really see it all at one performance. You have to come back. It's so funny."The ballet is set in the mid-1940s when men who served in the military during World War II depleted the ranks of America's baseball teams. President Franklin D. Roosevelt urged chewing gum company owner P.K. Wrigley (as in Chicago's Wrigley Field) to form the All American Girls Professional Baseball League to keep interest going in America's pastime until the soldiers/players returned.
"It's a blast," said Peregrino. "Baseball is something real-life that everyone knows about that he's brought to ballet.""Play Ball" presents the imaginary scenario of what would have happened if the men's baseball teams would have played the women's softball teams. The comedic interplay between the female softball players and the male baseball players who are forced to play them creates an entertaining ballet."It's guy verses girl and everything you would expect from that," said Dillon Anthony. "The guys are hitting on the girls. The girls are cheating. The guys can't let them win. It's very funny."
Some of the male dancers played baseball during their high school days. Tim Sloan's father actually pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies. Because many of the guys have performed "Play Ball" in the past, learning their roles didn't present a challenge, but a new piece choreographed by Pauley did."Valse Mystere" features nine pairs dancing Pauley's waltz. Pauley didn't know how the waltzing couples would come together until the male dancers arrived in town last week. As she choreographed the waltz, she paired the girls in her company to dance both male and female parts. The girls aren't physically able to lift and handle other male roles, so Pauley tweaked the roles when she saw the couples dancing together."It's hard to imagine the dance with imaginary dancers," Pauley said. "That's a skill I've learned through the years."As the male dancers learned their parts for both ballets, many reconnected with The Charleston Ballet dancers. They've danced here before, most recently in "Janis and Joe" in October. Her dancers learn about different places and cultures from the visiting dancers, Pauley said."It's a nice opportunity for the boys and girls to interact," she said. "Growing up in Charleston, many of us don't travel that much. When you travel, it changes you. When they talk to people from other areas and cultures, they bring their personal experiences to them."The performance will also include "Games," a three-movement contemporary piece Pauley choreographed in the 1990s. The company hasn't performed it in its entirety since then. The movements are titled, "Follow the Leader," "Hide and Seek" and "Tag" and feature 12 girls in Pauley's company.
In "Play Ball," Sergio "Cookie" Alvarez, Dillon "The Slugger" Anthony, Freddie "Spider" Fourie, David "Greenbean" Greenberg, Jacob "Hammerin" Hughes, Christopher "El Nino" Miro, Nick "Scooter" Peregrino, Timothy "Shotgun" Sloan and Matthew "Big Mattie" Stern field the Charleston Bulls team.The Appalachian Dolls team includes Nadia "BammBamm" Bastron, Paige "Curveball" Carlton, Emily "Doubleplay" Duncan, Eleanor "Dandy" Gandee, Kalea "The Wonder" Gunderson, Angela "Crackerjack" Jones, Erica "Knuckleball" Knowles, Brigette "Mad Batter" Madden, Sheena "Showoff" Madden, Lauren "Teaser" Reasor, Jesse "Quicksliver" Tidquist and Riannon "Tippy Toe" Turley.Local soprano Mariel Van Dalsum Boggs will sing the National Anthem while Ric Cochran of V100 and Jim Stawn provide play-by-play commentary.Reach Julie Robinson at or 304-348-1230.
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