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Northeast Atlanta Ballet's 'Peter Pan' encourages audiences to feel young again

If You Go

• What: Northeast Atlanta Ballet’s presentation of “Peter Pan”

• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 14, 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 15, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 16

• Where: Gwinnett Performing Arts Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth

• Cost: $13.50 to $16.50 in advance and 16.50 to $19.50 the day of the show

• For more information: Visit northeastatlantaballet.org

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From left to right are Emma Button as Tiger Lily, Melissa Bassett as Tinkerbell, Erik Gordon as Captain Hook, Julie Davis as Peter Pan and Nicole Koontz as the crocodile in Northeast Atlanta Ballet’s production of “Peter Pan.” (Special Photo: Scott Nilsson)

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Melissa Bassett, left, will dance the role of Tinkerbell and Julie Davis, right, will dance the role of Peter Pan in Northeast Atlanta Ballet’s production of “Peter Pan” this weekend at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center. (Special Photo: Scott Nilsson)

Growing up is hard, and it’s easy to see why many people would never want to. With the Northeast Atlanta Ballet’s upcoming performance of “Peter Pan,” audiences young and old can delight in the magic of childhood.

According to Jennifer Gordon, artistic director for the show, the desire for childhood is what resonates with audiences of all ages.

“People don’t want to grow up, we all want to be kids in the end,” she said.

The ballet’s three-day presentation will stay true to the traditional story line of the Darling children, mischievous Peter and tiny Tinkerbell, but with dance twists to highlight the beauty of ballet. An underwater scene with three characters dancing while 12 others create the illusion of water is a visual spectacle and a part of the performance that really shows off the kind of storytelling of which ballet is capable.

Northeast Atlanta Ballet will be accompanied by the Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra. Having its own live orchestra sets Northeast Atlanta Ballet apart from other community dance companies. Within Georgia, only the the Atlanta Ballet has its own live orchestra.

As well as quality sound, the performances will have detailed costumes and scenery and special effects, such as five characters flying through the air. The special flying effects are provided by Hall and Associates from Chicago, with flying director Tracy Nunnelly coming to Atlanta the week of the production to train the dancers herself.

The show was designed to give dancers of all ages a chance to shine. There are two complete casts of dancers from within Northeast Atlanta Ballet’s dancing school, with showtimes split between the casts.

“Each cast has a slightly different way of performing the show, which makes for more interesting performances,” Gordon said.

For example, a special scene in the forest includes dancers as young as 6 from dance schools all over the region. They perform as forest animals, and while they are small parts, they give them the opportunity to get on stage and develop their interest in dance.

“We always try to include the younger children in all of our performances,” Gordon said. “It helps them when they are on stage at a small age because as they get older they are more comfortable on stage.”

Since both of the dancers portraying Peter Pan started their dance careers as toddlers, it’s easy to see why letting youngsters get a taste of the limelight can be helpful for their future in the arts.

Ballet has become more than just a hobby for Parkview seniors Aria Colangelo and Julie Davis, who both portray Peter in the production.

They both recently performed at a three-day event for breast cancer, which affected them in ways they didn’t expect.

“We performed for people who either had cancer or were trying to support the cause,” Colangelo said. “It really impacted me and made me feel like I was helping people feel good.”

Davis felt affected as well and realized a special quality about her art.

“I really liked doing the performance because we got to see all of these women and families that were going through such hard times, and we were performing a dance that kind of communicated with them (because) it was about losing someone,” she said. “Dance isn’t just for entertainment; it’s also a way of communicating.”

For both young women, it won’t be difficult to communicate fears about growing up. With high school graduation this May, they will be moving into a new part of their lives. Regardless of where their journeys take them, they both plan to keep dancing.

Davis, Colangelo and the rest of the Northeast Atlanta Ballet will communicate and entertain with their performance of “Peter Pan” this weekend.