Old Flame

The Portland Ballet - The Firebird

Courtesy of Portland Ballet

The Portland Ballet tiptoes its way to reimagining The Firebird.

Time Flies

1910 The Firebird makes its world premiere in Paris — and turns previously obscure composer Igor Stravinsky into an international sensation.

1926 Les Ballet Russes puts on a Firebird revival in London, featuring Michel Fokine’s original choreography.

1949 The struggling, fledgling New York City Ballet, directed by George Balanchine, scores its first major success with The Firebird.

1970 French choreographer Maurice Béjart reimagines The Firebird as a political allegory for the Paris Opera Ballet.

1975 Russian choreographer Boris Eifman puts on The Firebird for the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg.

1979 Portland Ballet artistic director Nell Shipman is born.

Composer Igor Stravinsky’s classic 1910 ballet, The Firebird, has been handled by some of the past century’s greatest choreographers. Now, Portland Ballet artistic director Nell Shipman is putting her own spin on the story of a Russian prince aided by a mythical avian in his quest against an evil sorcerer. Shipman isn’t spurning her creative forebears’ approaches, but neither is she letting the weighty history of the ballet constrain her thinking. She’s tweaking elements of the performance according to her own vision of the story. For instance, the sorcerer’s monsters are no longer just individual adversaries for the prince, as in past stagings, but rather parts of a wall separating the prince from his princess. “You have the opportunity to take that classical base but put yourself into it,” Shipman says. “It’s a fun challenge, finding things linked to the past but that you can bring out new again.”

April 27–28. Westbrook Performing Arts Center, 471 Stroudwater St., Westbrook. 207-772-9671. 

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Frances Killea

Frances Killea, a former editor at Ohio Magazine, lives in Appleton. When she's not at her writing desk, she works on a farm.

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