Peter Pan soars at the Vilar |

Peter Pan soars at the Vilar

Connie Steiert
Vail, CO, Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyPart of the Peter Pan cast rehearse a dance Saturday at the Eagle Dance Academy.

Do you believe in magic? Do you?

Take a magical journey back to Neverland, where everything is possible and you never have to grow up or stop believing in fairies.

“Peter Pan,” presented by the Alpine Academy of Dance Arts (formerly Eagle Dance Academy), will bring back all the enchantment of childhood and make fantasies real once more in this dance version of the perennially favorite tale.

This Friday and Saturday at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek, everybody’s favorite boy, Peter Pan, will take the stage, along with Captain Hook, Wendy, John, Michael, Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily, Smee and, of course, that sly old Crocodile. By their side will be more than 300 adorable twinkling stars, Indians, nursery children, cannonballs and pirates ages 3 to 18, to dazzle and delight.

Director Cheryl McQuaid says she chose the play for this year’s recital “because it has fun little parts and a story lots of little kids know and love.” And, she adds, because it has strong lead roles for her advanced students to demonstrate their skills.

The recital begins with Wendy, John and Michael being readied for bed by Mr. and Mrs. Darling, accompanied by their ever-faithful dog, Nana. No sooner have the children’s heads hit the pillow when in flies the fairy Tinkerbell and the ageless and irrepressible Peter Pan. Soon the whole cast ” and the audience ” are off on a rousing adventure in that special place of delight and danger, Neverland.

Play within a recital

The story is told through dance ” from ballet, jazz and tap to hip-hop and contemporary numbers ” linked together by narration, using the familiar words of this beloved story.

Students from all three Alpine Academy of Dance Arts studios ” Vail, Gypsum and Eagle ” are involved. The academy recently changed its name from Eagle Dance to embrace its new satellite studios in Vail and Gypsum and the entire valley, after years of operating solely out of Eagle.

“I think they have worked incredibly hard, and I think their acting skills have gotten better,” observes McQuaid of her students. “It’s not just their dancing, it looks like they are having fun, which is great.

Hard work

Indeed these dedicated students, from toddlers to teenagers, have been rehearsing hard for their big moment on stage. They have spent months, and in many cases, years in preparation for this moment. The highest level classes (Academy I and II) spend an average of nine hours a week at the dance studio. During recital time, that number easily triples.

“It’s tough. You have to love it,” admits Molly Crocker, a senior at EVHS, who plays Peter Pan and a Lost Boy. Not only is she taking AP tests and preparing to head off to college, she has spent 25 additional hours per week teaching for Alpine Dance these past few months. But her love of dance brings her back. “That’s what makes you come here.” And, the younger kids, who she loves working with. “Cheryl’s done so much for me and teaching is my way of being able to give back to the studio, because the studio has given me so much.”

Hilary Henry, a junior at EVHS, has been with McQuaid since she first started teaching in the valley at Colorado Mountain College, before she ever opened Eagle Dance Academy. “I love doing this, and I think Cheryl is a really good teacher and has a really good program.”

By the time a student is entrusted a lead role, they have earned it through years of hard work perfecting dance skills, and have demonstrated a tremendous amount of dedication.

Kelsey Elwood, a junior at EVHS who also is a member of her high school alpine ski and dance teams, admits it is extremely exciting to finally receive a lead role.

“I just love dancing and performing and it’s really fun when you’re the star of the show,” says Elwood, who plays Peter Pan and a Lost Boy. She admits to spending upwards of 40 hours taking classes, teaching and performing during the two weeks leading up to the recital. But says it is all worth it, and coming to the studio can turn a bad day good for her.

Everyone’s a star

To give all of her students a chance to shine, McQuaid cast a different lead in each of the three performances – two evening shows and a matinee. That means that the leads have to learn not one, but three or more different parts.

Henry , who plays Tinkerbell, Michael and a Lost Boy, says she has no difficulty remembering which character she is which night. “Every role is so different.”

Yet every student, from the pre-ballet students of 3-5 years old on up, has a moment in the spotlight and a chance to be a star. Elwood readily admits “it’s really the little kids who steal the show.” And Crocker says her favorite part of the show is the finale, when everyone is on stage together.

McQuaid stresses that it is each child and each parent, as well as the staff, that make the show always fun and always with participants and audience members alike.

“In this show, we have had the most spontaneity and parental support I’ve ever experienced. Its fun to have more people involved in the planning,” she notes. “Instead of making it more of a dance recital, making it more of a community event.

Alpine Academy of Dance Arts teacher Alicia Monahan is new to the staff this year. She admits, “I’m so excited to see how it all comes together.”

So come watch each little star, shadow, crocodile and Indian shine. Grow young once more and take a thrilling, musical-filled ride back to Neverland this weekend.

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