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'Beauty and the Beast'
Atlanta Festival Ballet to perform classic tale

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Atlanta Festival Ballet will bring a timeless fairy tale to life for one night only at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center. On Friday, at 7:30 p.m., the Stockbridge-based dance company will perform its rendition of "Beauty and the Beast."

While many ballet companies have adapted the story to dance, the tale of "Beauty and the Beast" is hundreds of years old, with the first published version of the story attributed to 18th-Century French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.

Ten years ago, Filipino ballet choreographer Nicolas Pacaña adapted the classic love story, about a cursed beast and a beautiful village woman, for the Atlanta Festival Ballet.

This Friday, the Atlanta Festival Ballet will perform the work for first time in four years, this time with a new group of up-and-coming ballet dancers, according to Pacaña.

"The ballet is about 10 years old now," said Pacaña, who began working for the Atlanta Festival Ballet in 1994. "I got inspired because we have so many kids. We thought it would be good to do 'Beauty and the Beast.' It's a story ballet and it gives them a chance to participate."

For several years, Pacaña, who has worked as a principal dancer for both the Boston Ballet and Atlanta Ballet, has traditionally performed as the "Beast," the ballet's lead role. This year, the role will be played by Julius Lagare, 24, a rising star from General Santos City, the Philippines.

Lagare, who has performed Hip Hop dance since the age of 13, began studying ballet six years ago in order to challenge himself. In America on a work visa to study ballet, Lagare said he is honored to have the lead role.

"The part they gave me is very hard," said Lagare. "You have to be careful with your partner [and careful] not to fall. First I was scared because I'm going to take the lead role. It's an honor for me to dance with this company. It's good for your exposure and your résumé."

Judi Peterson, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta Festival Ballet, said this will be the third time the company has performed "Beauty and the Beast." She believes people young and old will be able to connect with the ballet's message.

"I think at the core of every person, what they want the most is to be loved," said Peterson. "In the end, it's a love story, and it's about looking beyond the surface of a person to see what they are really like. Even though he is a beast, her love transforms him."

Pacaña, 55, said he is happy to pass the ballet on to the next generation.

"It gives me a chance to appreciate what I've done," said Pacaña. "Hopefully, if they [young people] see it, they will be inspired to be a dancer."

The ballet will be performed at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center, located at 2530 Mt. Zion Parkway in Jonesboro. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, and $6 for children ages 6 and under.

To purchase tickets, call (770) 507-2775 or visit the Morrow Tourist Center.