Ballet Quad Cities' "Dorothy Goes to Oz" and "Snow White" at thr Adler Theatre -- April 13 (photo of Ballet Quad Cities' 2021 "Dorothy Goes to Oz").

Saturday, April 13, 2 & 7 p.m.

Adler Theatre, 136 East Third Street, Davenport IA

Audiences may not hear the familiar strains of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or “Someday My Prince Will Come.” But they'll certainly be treated to music- and dance-filled enchantment when a pair of legendary heroines join forces in the one-act ballets Dorothy Goes to Oz and Snow White, the Adler Theatre's April 13 pairing of family-friendly works by the professional talents of Ballet Quad Cities.

According to the company's artistic director Courtney Lyon, who serves as Snow White choreographer opposite Dorothy Goes to Oz's Emily Kate Long, the idea for a melding of beloved children's stories had been under discussion for roughly three years before its eventual Davenport staging.

“For a while,” says Lyon, “[BQC founder/CEO] Joedy Cook has had the concept of putting two female protagonists in the same program, and I think she was originally thinking of Dorothy and Alice. Alice in Wonderland we've done a couple times before. But it has a full score to it, so there wasn't space to make it a shared program. Emily's Dorothy Goes to Oz, however, is about 30 minutes, and I thought a good second half of the program could be a Snow White. It felt like it might be a great contrast to Dorothy Goes to Oz. Emily has done her own spin on the story, but the characters look like they do in the movie, and it's very comfortable. And our Snow White is … .” She laughs. “Well, it's not the Disney version.”

As those who saw Ballet Quad Cities' 2021 staging of Dorothy Goes to Oz know, Long's ballet also isn't the iconic MGM musical. Originally created for outdoor performances at Davenport's Outing Club, and subsequently staged in six Pleasant Valley elementary schools as an opener to their bullying-prevention program, Long's one-act dance piece doesn't feature the 1939 tunes that most patrons have committed to memory. But it does, Long says, possess a similar spirit.

“It's a very, very colorful and lighthearted and bighearted performance,” says Long, who also serves as Ballet Quad Cities' artistic associate. “People won't hear the actual songs, but the feeling of the songs is in there – that wistfulness and joy.”

When she began crafting Dorothy Goes to Oz three years ago, Long says, “I started with the [Frank L. Baum] book, which is of course very long, so not everything got included. But it had been forever since I had read it, and it was really fun to get a little different sense of Dorothy than you get in the movie. I have so much affection for all of the characters in the story and in the ballet. But Dorothy is just such a good problem-solver. She's really plucky and so adventurous.

“And what I also took away from the written story,” she adds, “more so than the movie, was how all these characters think they're lacking something and are trying to get whatever they think they lack, and then they realize they had it all along. The Scarecrow thinks he has no brain but comes up with every good idea to help get them out of troubling situations. The Lion steps up to defend everybody. It was really fun to get a little different sense of Dorothy and her friends.

“Where I took inspiration from the film was in the various pieces of music that I selected. It definitely has a mid-century sound that's sort of timeless, in a way, but it definitely does put you back in that Hollywood-heyday era.”

Regarding the transformation of a full-length book (and movie) into a half-hour ballet, Long says the process largely involved “streamlining the narrative arc, and building to the climax with the Wicked Witch and the flying monkeys. In the written story, Dorothy and her friends go back and forth to Oz several times, and they have multiple obstacles that they have to face. The Witch sends bees, she sends wolves, she sends crows, and the flying monkeys are sort of the creatures of last resort.

“But for a one-act ballet,” Long continues, “there wasn't time for all that. So I decided to focus on the biggest battle, and also kept in scenes that felt danceable. So in our version, when [Dorothy and company] make their way through the poppy field, the poppies are a quartet of dancing women. We also have a dancing tornado.”

Among the ballet's prominent roles, Kira Roberts dances Dorothy; Eleanor Ambler is Glinda the Good Witch; Sierra DeYoung is the Wicked Witch of the West; Madeleine Rhode is the Scarecrow; Christian Knopp is the Tin Man; and Mahalia Zellmer is the Lion. Flying monkeys, poppies, gusts of wind, and other Dorothy Goes to Oz elements are enacted by fellow members of the Ballet Quad Cities company: Sahsha Amaut, Stephanie Eggers, Jayne Friscia, Madeline Kreszenz, Marcus Pei, Stephen Scott, and Jillian Van Cura. And yes, in case you were curious, one other major character will be around.

“Toto is present in the ballet,” says Long. “He's this adorable little stuffed-animal dog. So Toto will be on-stage throughout the ballet, right by Dorothy's side. They're very sweet together.”

Ballet Quad Cities' 2021 "Dorothy Goes to Oz"

Meanwhile, when Lyon turned to the original Brothers Grimm fairytale to find inspiration for her Snow White, “sweet” wasn't an adjective that came to mind.

“There are different versions of the Snow White story,” says Lyon, “and the one we usually know of has the wicked stepmother who wants Snow White sent in the woods to be killed. But somewhere I read that it was originally Snow White's mother, not her stepmother. That's pretty dark. And when the huntsman takes Snow White into the woods to kill her, the queen wants her organs brought back so she can boil them, salt them, and eat them. I was like, 'How are these children's stories?!'

“But the opening line of Snow White talks about how in the middle of winter, snowflakes are falling like feathers from the sky, and there are all these images of nature. That's what struck me. So I had this desire to bring these dark, nature-imagery passages – the literature – to life on stage.”

Consequently, in Ballet Quad Cities' Snow White, there will be no helpful animated birds, no dwarfs, and assuredly no “Heigh-ho, heigh-no, it's home from work we go.” Instead, says Lyon, “I picked for our score three composers who are of Austrian, Hungarian, and German backgrounds, and all from the same period: Gustav Mahler, Anton Webern, and Richard Strauss. Those three composers have a lot of their musical basis in nature, so that felt right for our version.”

Deciding which compositions to employ for Snow White out of what Lyon calls “hours and hours and hours of music” was an understandably daunting task.

“I've been working on this for the past two years,” she says. “And I've basically been working in the studio with the dancers with [the music app] GarageBand open on my computer, layering music to get the right effects, and the right length of how long we need to be in a certain scene before the scene changes. Sometimes I'll do a piece of choreography that I think belongs on one piece of music, but it's all wrong, and I have to pause rehearsal and change the music around and try again. So it's very of-the-moment with the dancers. I'm very grateful for them, for staying with me through this process.

“When everything is new like this,” says Lyon of her ballet's original choreography, “the dancers might have a lot of questions, like 'What do I do next?' And I have to day, 'I don't know what you do next,' because we're making it up in the moment. It's a different way to work – to be that fresh with the process – but it's really exciting.”

With the entire Ballet Quad Cities company, as in Dorothy Goes to Oz, appearing in Lyon's one-act, the work features Sahsha Amaut as Snow White, Madeleine Rhode as the Wicked Stepmother, Christian Knopp as the Huntsman, and a dancing septet composed of Eleanor Ambler, Jayne Friscia, Madeline Krezsenz, Marcus Pei, Stephen Scott, Jillian Van Cura, and Mahalia Zellmer. They won't be portraying the famed Seven Dwarfs, but rather seven elements of nature that tie into Snow White's themes and offer this grim Grimm necessary bursts of levity.

“The ballet isn't gruesome in any way,” says Lyon, “but of course, you've got to put in moments of humor and relatability. So I have seven dancers who represent the goodness of nature and safety – they bring the lightness and magic to it.

“Any time I'm making a new ballet, for the first few days, I'll work in silence. Not like a monk, where I don't speak, but no-music silence – where I work with the dancers and they don't really know what, exactly, I'm trying to get out of them. I'll just have an idea, so I work with them in the space with their bodies – making dance that I think will serve a purpose down the line.

“So I've tried to leave a lot of room for imagination,” says Lyon. “And our dancers love it because they know they're creating something new. If this goes well, different casts will eventually do it. But they'll always be the original cast, and I think they really value that opportunity to have an impact on a new piece of art. It's more than fun. It's really rewarding.”

Ballet Quad Cities will stage Dorothy Goes to Oz and Snow White is Davenport on April 13, performances are at 2 and 7 p.m., and admission is $15-25. For more information and tickets, call (800)745-3000 and visit, or call (309)786-3779 and visit

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