Ballet San Antonio is inviting people to be their guests as they bring a tale as old as time to life on stage.
Beauty and the Beast will be performed as a ballet at the Tobin Center October 13-15. The story follows from the prince’s curse turning him into a hideous beast to Belle’s discovery of the Beast’s goodness within. Along the way, other characters join them on their journey to finding true love.
KENS 5 spoke with the guest choreographer for the show and two dancers during a recent rehearsal for the production.
‘The arts are very important’
For this production, Ballet San Antonio is hosting guest choreographer Bruce Wells, who has worked with other ballet companies from around the country to put on his version of Beauty and the Beast. He brought the story to life originally for the Atlanta ballet.
“I created a series of what I call ‘special family matinees.’ They are all two half-hour acts and they tell the story-whatever I am trying to tell-as quickly as possible for a younger audience,” Wells said.
While the classic fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast is centuries-old, Wells knows current audiences would most expect to see elements of the Disney cartoon in 1991 and live-action version in 2015.
Credit: KENS 5 – Bruce Wells
“If that is the basic knowledge that the audience has, you are going to fall in that direction. And I did,” Wells said. “This is not a Disney ballet by any stretch of the imagination, but Belle does have a gold dress because that is the expectation.”
Wells hopes the familiarity with the story will help bring in families and audience members who might not have otherwise gone to the ballet.
“I think the arts are very important and in today’s world, we are losing them very, very quickly. For them to be entertained by what I would call an entry-level ballet…. but hopefully to create a younger audience who as they grow up that will appreciate more sophisticated choreography.” Wells said.
‘Such a classic tale’
Principal dancer Brenna Mulligan-Olson is a homegrown prima ballerina, having grown up dancing her whole life here in San Antonio.
She dances the role of the beautiful Belle who eventually warms to the Beast. Mulligan-Olson says she is proud to be part of the production and its unique message.
“I love this production because it has such a classic tale. A tale of redemption, a tale of restoration, just a tale of overcoming the not-so-good-parts of ourselves and being able to see other people for who they can be and their potential,” Mulligan-Olson said.
Credit: KENS 5 – Brenna Mulligan-Olson
For Mulligan-Olson, her life-long passion for ballet began at an early age, when she started to follow in her ballerina mom’s footsteps.
“I grew up in the studio, I would always watch her classes and take classes, putting on her pointe shoes and just walk around holding on to the bar and things like that,” Mulligan-Olson said.
In 2020, she says had to send in a video audition to be in the company of Ballet San Antonio because in-person auditions were cancelled in the pandemic. From there, she put in her dues to work her way up the ladder.
“I’ve worked up the ranks from apprentice about four years ago up to principal to where I am today,” she said.
She says she hopes people of all ages can enjoy the show.
“There’s so much for everyone. I would say just come and enjoy the arts, create memories together and create memories with us, too,” Mulligan Olson said.
‘I have grown up with this story’
Principal dancer Michael Agudelo’s parents were also dancers, and he grew up in dance studios. The South Carolina native has had several lead roles with Ballet San Antonio.
“So I am the Prince/Beast. It’s been really great working with Bruce. So far it’s felts really natural,” Agudelo said.
Already an experienced ballet dancer, Agudelo said he especially enjoys the character work involved in this particular role.
Credit: KENS 5 – Michael Agudelo
“The Beast has shame on how he looks and then he feels good, and everyone has those days where they feel ugly and then they feel beautiful the next day. It’s kind of just…method acting, feeling it,” Agudelo said. “It’s more about what you do than what you look like. The Beast’s actions come through that he is a good person on this inside even though he looks like a Beast.”
He said this role had some unique challenges compared to other roles he has had.
“The Beast has some freak-out moments where he goes back into himself. So, it has been a challenge to be calm…I am trying to be calm and then I go back into the Beast mode and then I go back to being calm and dancing with Belle.”
He says he is proud to bring this special production to the families of San Antonio.
“I have grown up with story, too,” Adugelo said. “But also we make it for more than just a children’s ballet, it is a full piece of art that everyone can enjoy.”
Beauty and Beast will be performed over four shows at the Tobin Center October 13-15.