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Eugene Weekly : Performing Arts : 3.24.11


Eugene Lands Only Oregon Showing of Anne Frank Ballet

Joseph Lieberman

Artistic director Toni Pimble of the Eugene Ballet Company recalls a moment in the •50s when, "sitting in my dads lap, watching the TV documentary World at War narrated by Richard Burton, the image of the corpses of Jews being bull-dozed into pits was burned into my mind.”

Photo: Janine Harris

That, plus her recollection of presenting a passage from Anne Franks diary at a performing arts school when she was fifteen, were contributing factors in her decision to invite the staging of Mauricio Wainrots Anne Frank ballet to Hult center for performances April 2-3. This will be the only chance to experience the ballet in Oregon.

In addition, the Singer Family Lecture series in Judaic Studies will present at 7:30 pm, March 30, in 282 Lillis Hall on the UO campus a talk on "Annes Voice, Mauricios Dance: An Interview of Mauricio Wainrot.”

The ballet, as befits its source material, is somber, with an ominous chord throughout. It opens with Annes father Otto returning to the small annex of an old building in Amsterdam, where the family had hidden from Nazi oppression, and finding his daughters diary. (In reality, a kind neighbor found it and kept it safe.) As he reads, the characters come alive again, beginning with their escape from Germany to Holland. Almost the entire story unfolds in the limited space of their Amsterdam hideaway, as each of the eight people who clandestinely lived there reenact episodes from Annes diary.

Against this interplay of tender and turbulent moments intrude reminders of the brutal fascist regime that exists just beyond their doorway, periodically disturbing the illusion of safety that their tenuous haven provides. This constant peril appears in the menacing form of two Nazi soldiers led by a strutting female officer who emanates cold, Darth Vader-like evil. At times, this malevolent trio simply remains in the shadows as a symbol of impending doom, or robotically advances to the incongruous strains of a vintage "Lili Marleen” recording.

The strengths and shortcomings of this production tread a delicate balance on stage. Most of Annes diary, after all, is about thought and emotion within severe confines, not about grand action. Thats a challenge for dancers in a play wordlessly put to Bella Bartoks musical score. Even during the families modest Sabbath dinner, the orchestration does not lift spirits, but rather emphasizes their tragedy. Inevitably, darkness overcomes any glimmer of light ã no spoiler for all whove read the book ã but the ending is still something of a jolt.

Wainrots own parents fled Poland for South America just a week before their escape would have been made impossible. When he was researching background material, Wainrots mother told him things shed never before revealed ã how his father was the only one of eight brothers to survive, and how only two others of her 11 siblings lived through the war. It was the first time in his life that hed seen his mother cry.

Wainrot, currently artistic director at the Ballet Contemporˆneo del Teatro San Mart'n of Buenos Aires, says the premiere of the Anne Frank ballet in 1984 changed his life as an artist and his perception of himself as a child of the Holocaust. His motivation was to illustrate and condemn racial, political and religious intolerance ã as well as the arbitrary actions of a totalitarian power that knew no limitations ã doing so through the lives of eight people condemned to live and die during the worst fascist regime ever to exist.

Wainrots free lecture is sponsored by the Harold SchnitzerFamily Program in Judaic Studies. For ballet performance tickets, visit www.hultcenter.org or call 682-5000. Theresafree"Ballet Insider pre-talk” in 45 minutes before each performance.