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'Once Upon a Time' unfolds wonder of fairy tales told through dance

Albemarle Ballet Theatre is giving youngsters an opportunity to see favorite fairy tales told through dance — and learn for themselves onstage how the magic happens.

“Once Upon a Time,” the ballet company’s annual spring gala, will be presented at 6 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday in main theater in the V. Earl Dickinson Building at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Dance fans ages 3 to 12 can get an insider’s glimpse of the stories and choreography at 11 a.m. Saturday during “Step into the Story: Behind the Scenes at the Theater,” an all-access dance experience.

Children will be able to take a ballet class with Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and the Three Little Pigs and learn some of the choreography the Crozet-based professional dancers will be presenting. There also will be tours of the set, giving young audience members an up-close look at how the stage is transformed into happily-ever-after locations.

Such interactive possibilities allow audience members of all ages to explore the possibilities of using dance to tell stories, and opportunities aren’t limited by the boundaries of floorboards, curtains, sets and lights. The dance company presented an outdoor version of “Step into the Story” on April 29 during the Tom Tom Festival, giving pedestrians along the Downtown Mall a chance to jump in and try learning the dance steps for themselves.

“It’s about telling a story and connecting with the audience, and evoking a feeling,” said Veronica Pillar, artistic director of Albemarle Ballet Theatre.

Albemarle Ballet Theatre, established in downtown Crozet in 2005, works to bring the wonder of dance to children from all backgrounds. Just as the dancers draw from jazz and tap styles to bring time-honored fairy tales to life, bringing the characters off the stage and onto the bricks of the Downtown Mall offered people a new perspective.

“It helps reframe how we see classical ballet and helps us see stories in a new way,” Pillar said. The dancers also relish an opportunity to keep learning, she said.

“It keeps things fresh for us, too. We’ve been in the ballet world our whole lives,” Pillar said.

“Step into the Story” is $40 and includes admission to either Friday’s performance or Saturday’s.

Tickets to “Once Upon a Time” are $24; students and seniors get in for $18. Learn more at; that’s where families can apply for a limited number of scholarships for the all-access dance event. Information also is available by emailing or calling (434) 823-8888.


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