Manitoulin Secondary School is transformed into magical Arabian night as Classic School of Dance performs Aladdin

Genie, played by Keisha Panton, is freed from the lamp by Aladdin, performed by Cassandra Kuntsi. photo by Yana Bauer

M’CHIGEENG—Come with me, take a ride, hop a carpet and fly to another Arabian night. Manitoulin’s Classic School of Dance performed their 23rd production, Aladdin, for family and friends Saturday afternoon, May 5. With over 60 performers, three acts and multiple costume changes the ballet took over and transformed the stage at Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) into “the magical lands of the East.”

Yana Bauer Kuntsi, Student Fund treasurer, introduced the performance and summarized each scene before the curtains rose.

“Ballet is told through action, costume, dance and music. There is no dialogue or voices, so you want to be able to understand the story and appreciate the beauty of the whole production,” Ms. Bauer said. “Our dancers have been working really hard since January, they come from all across Manitoulin Island and range from 7 to 18 years of age. It is quite the production and we really hope you all enjoy the show.”

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Maja Mielonen, artistic director of the Classic School of Dance, thanked the mothers who helped with the performers’ costumes, “to make them look so beautiful.”

“It’s so good to be at MSS. We’ve been using this facility for 23 years now, it’s been a long run and a good run. It is such a privilege to be teaching your children.”

Portraying Palace girls are Phoebe Aeschliman, Nyala O’Connor and Grace Tuerk.
photo by Yana Bauer

The first act follows Jasmine and Aladdin through the busy market where they meet and fall in love. Jasmine, played by Alina Arthurs, floats through the market stalls in her disguise as she peruses the wares of spices cloth and fruit. 

“Jasmine escaped over the castle wall because she was tired of her duties and being watched all the time. She is watching the busy market, the monkeys and the entertainers when Aladdin spies her from across the market square. He instantly falls deeply in love with her and wants to show her by using his best moves,” Ms. Bauer explained.

The street urchin Aladdin, played by Cassandra Kuntsi, displays his best dance for Jasmine as each take their turn in between the street performers, the snake charmers and the two monkeys, Emma Chator and Amara Wilson-Zegil who had the audience laughing out loud.

Aladdin hides Jasmine before the soldiers come, but in the closing of the first act, the soldiers capture Aladdin and arrest him for stealing fruit from the market that morning. 

Aladdin, played by Cassandra Kuntsi, is dragged away to find the Genie’s lamp by Jafar, played by Jocelyn Kuntsi.
photo by Yana Bauer

The lighting and sound for each act transported the audience to Arabia, the market square, the cave of wonders and the Sultan’s Palace. Isaac Gosse and Tyson Otosquaiob handled the seamless transition between individual dances and scenes.

Jocelyn Kuntsi as Jafar, the Sultan’s evil vizier, uses Aladdin to access the cave of wonders during the second act.

“Jafar realizes that Aladdin has a good heart and is going to use him for his own agenda,”  Ms. Kuntsi said.

Jafar convinces Aladdin to enter the cave in search of an oil lamp. After a little convincing shove into the cave, Aladdin is transported to a glowing world of dancing coins and jewels. He watched in awe as the nine silver and gold coins, played by the younger troupe, skipped through the cave around the tall red jewels who danced in synchronicity while the flying carpets whipped around the stage. The Genie, Keisha Panton, in turquoise blue, emerges after Aladdin rubs the oil lamp. Genie and Aladdin perform dizzying spins as the lights flicker and the cave begins to crumble, but not before Aladdin makes his wish to become a prince.

Market people and entertainers played by Lilly Tilston, Sloane Tilston, Ryan Kuntsi, Dylan Kuntsi, Avery Barnes, Violet Aelick, Evelena Mainprize and Mya Roy.
photo by Yana Bauer

The ballet comes to a grand finale in the Palace of the Sultan. The Sultan, who is played by returning MSS alumni Michelle Campbell, explains to Jasmine she must choose between three suitors, performed by Lauren Goddard, Jocelyn Kuntsi and Tierra Abotossaway, who were also jewels in the cave of wonders. 

The spotlight followed Jasmine, then each suitor, casting their shadow against the Palace backdrop as they performed their best moves for the princess. 

“She looks upon them as they present themselves and dance their heart out for her trying to impress her, but Jasmine knows deep down in her heart that she cannot marry any of them, because her heart belongs to another,” Ms. Bauer explained.  “Everyone hears of another prince from a distant land and Aladdin is introduced in fine new clothes; a Prince thanks to the Genie.”

Snake charmers at the market outside the palace.
photo by Jason Forrest

Jasmine recognizes Aladdin and they dance for each other. The Sultan can see the love between them and allows his princess to marry.

“In the finale, all ends well in the magic lands of the East, where genies are set free, flying carpets bring you to paradise and true love conquers all,” Ms. Bauer said.

The final scene left the audience clapping in unison as the entire dance troupe came out from stage left and right, dancing around the happy couple before settling into a group centre stage for the final applause.

“Thank you all for dancing, it was just bringing me to tears backstage, it was so great,” Ms. Mielonen said. “Thank you for letting me teach them to use their body and be proud of themselves and their movements; how we can tell stories with our bodies, without a word. We don’t always have to say things.”

Aladdin the street urchin dances for Jasmine the princess, confessing his love for her in the market outside the Palace gates.
photo by Jason Forrest

Ms. Mielonen thanked all of the backstage help, Ms. Bauer, the parents, her husband, and gave special notice to Cassandra Kuntsi who has been dancing with Mrs. Mielonen since she was young. She praised her for her wonderful dancing and performance as Aladdin.

“I have been dancing with Mrs. M for 15 years, and I’ve gone from playing a little daisy at 3 to being Aladdin today.  I wouldn’t have come this far in anything let it be school, my social life or ballet if it wasn’t for her so thank you for helping me become the woman I am today,” said Cassandra.

The Classic School of Dance’s 24th season will start September 2018, if you wish to register your child contact Mrs. Mielonen through the Classic School of Dance Facebook page, or calling 705-377-4471.

The finale of the show shows the entire company celebrating.
photo by Yana Bauer