'The Jungle Book' by State Street Ballet | Credit: David Bazemore
‘The Jungle Book’ by State Street Ballet | Credit: David Bazemore

The jungle comes alive with music and movement when State Street Ballet, under the artistic direction of Rodney Gustafson and William Soleau, brings Gustafson’s original ballet The Jungle Book to the Lobero Theatre on April 29. The company just finished a Southwestern U.S. tour and will head to Japan — Osaka and Tokyo — with the production in May.

“The story we tell is from Rudyard Kipling’s stories, not the Disney movie version,” said Gustafson. “We created movement styles for the dancers representing the animals they portray, and the music is by Czech composer Milan Svoboda, specifically for this work.”

The score was recorded in Prague by the Symphonic Orchestra of the National Theatre and the Milan Svoboda Jazz Orchestra, featuring vocalist Yvetta Blanarovičová.

Premiering in 2009, the whimsical ballet was immediately highly praised as engaging and technically impressive.

‘The Jungle Book’ by State Street Ballet | Credit: David Bazemore

“The real highlight of the show is the lead character, Mowgli the jungle boy,” said Gustafson. “Most of the dancers portray animals, so the choreography was inspired by the movement of animals. The personalities of these creatures come alive through movement, music, and the dynamic storytelling of some of life’s greatest moral lessons. With plenty of humor, of course.”

The elaborate animal costumes — wolves, snakes, monkeys, panthers, and more — were designed by A. Christina Giannini with additional variations by Nicole Thompson.

Jean-Francois Revon created the scenic design, including mesmerizing digital projections. The recently updated production features additional choreography by Kassandra Taylor Newberry, Marina Fliagina, Megan Philipp, and William Soleau.

“Colorful characters, beautiful dancing, and an iconic story make the ballet a fun ride,” said Gustafson. “I love to get feedback from those who tell me they never expected to enjoy ballet and were really surprised. My greatest wish is that seeing our production of The Jungle Book inspires people to see more dance.” —Justine Sutton

For more information, see statestreetballet.com.


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