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ART BEAT: Northeast Atlanta Ballet finishes the season with 'Beauty and the Beast'

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Photo: Penny Lee Northeast Atlanta Ballet performs a new production of "Beauty and the Beast" May 18 and 20 at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center.

A brand-new ballet version of "Beauty and the Beast" will hit the stage of the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center as the Northeast Atlanta Ballet presents this classic tale May 18 and 20. The three-act production was choreographed by award-winning choreographer Allison Geary.

The performances will take place May 18 at 7:30 p.m. and May 20 at 3 p.m. Ticket prices are $13.50 to $16.50 in advance and $16.50 to $19.50 the day of the show. Group rates are available. Tickets are available through the Gwinnett Center Box Office or at www.ticketmaster.com.

"Beauty and the Beast" features all-new colorful costumes, an enchanted castle full of dancing teacups, forks and spoons, and a serene French village where Belle's story begins. All of the favorite elements of this story are found in the ballet. Belle's father makes an appearance, as do her flirty and goofy best friends, an unwelcomed suitor, some cunning gypsies and, of course, a prince who has been turned into a beast.

"Beauty and the Beast" is a sumptuous new production. Sets were designed by Jolen Bain, former scenic artist for the Alliance Theatre and Tobins Lake Theatre. Costuming was designed and executed by All Stitch and MJ Designs. There are nearly 200 costumes in the production.

"We are all really excited about our original designs that are a huge hit with our audience," Artistic Director Jennifer Gordon said. "How many times do you get to see a dancing fork on the stage?"

Another aspect of the performance is the number of participants who get to dance.

Gordon said, "'Beauty and the Beast' is a wonderful production as it gives so many dancers an opportunity to perform their first character role."

Two ballerinas will be sharing the role of Belle: Aria Colangelo and Katelyn Smith. Colangelo was given a scholarship to the prestigious Harid Conservatory for its summer intensive. Smith received a scholarship to the Nashville Ballet for the summer.

Other lead characters include Gretchen Hughes as the Enchanted Rose, Cynthia Hardegree as the Teapot, Emma Button as the Candelabra, Mackenzie Cown as the Clock, and Jessie Williams as the Feather Duster.

Ian Schwaner will perform the role of Gaston. He has received several notable summer scholarships such as to American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet and the Nashville Ballet. He will be leaving this area to become a full-time student at the University of North Carolina School for the Arts this fall. He was one of only six men selected for their ballet program.

Portraying the Beast will be Patrick Schambach, a dancer with the Georgia Ballet.

The program also features a beautiful short ballet that will come before "Beauty and the Beast." "Paquita" will feature 10 corp de ballet, six soloists and a principal couple performing the traditional choreography with music by Minkus.

"The costuming is absolutely stunning with design and execution from our Russian costume maker," Gordon said.

For more information, visit the website at lilburnballet.org/northeast-atlanta-ballet/.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.