Plano Met Ballet’s The Jungle Book

Peek behind the curtain with a Plano Met Ballet dancer

For me, the holidays tell of Aquanet hairspray, red lipstick, a sprinkling of bobby pins and the giddy feeling of peeking out behind stage curtains. These experiences are my annual tradition as a dancer in Plano Metropolitan Ballet’s “The Jungle Book.”

Around 70 student ballet dancers, between the ages of 10 and 18 and training at Plano’s Gotta Dance studio, comprise Plano Metropolitan Ballet (PMB), a not-for-profit ballet company established in 1987. Under Artistic Director Cindi Lawrence Hanson, along with choreographers Madelaine Boyce, Diane Grace Line and Jennifer Larsen, the organization celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

A few of the dancers from Plano Met Ballet’s “The Jungle Book:” (left to right) Adeline Howell as Rashka, Phoebe Salas as Baloo, Stephanie Yamauchi as Mowgli, Jenny Zhu as Effie, Hannah Beaudreau as Bagheera

Performances span the month of January, but the 30-year tradition of an original holiday ballet starts much earlier. After our thematic reveal in August — an event that always draws a throng of parents — we rehearse between three and five hours every Saturday until December.

PMB’s version of “The Jungle Book” is undoubtedly magical. It takes the audience into the thumping rhythms of an animal kingdom populated by creatures with larger-than-life personalities — Mowgli herself, the witty Bagheera and a belly-rubbing Baloo. A playful show for all ages, “The Jungle Book” also digs deeper into the escapades of additional characters like the ruler elephants of the forest and the buzzing honeybees.

“This ballet is just full of girl power, because so many of the characters in the movie are portrayed by girls,” Artistic Director Cindi Lawrence Hanson says. “It’s a real tale of adventure, and it’s definitely going to be a favorite.”

Plano Metropolitan Ballet dancers getting ready backstage // photos Jennifer Shertzer

While the audience will find magic in the performance, dancers also find magic in the process. The first reveal of a costume always carries excitement for all the girls in the studio, who crowd around just to catch a glimpse of a jeweled headpiece or a glittery tutu.

By the time we dancers reach the stage in January to perform our final ballet, we will have spent countless hours together in the studio and in the dressing rooms. Our collective experiences in hard work and pointe shoes lead us to form indelible bonds. PMB is above all family, and I think it shows on stage. Dancing with close friends infuses the show with joy, and that’s what always makes PMB’s fairytale ballet unique.

Our director Ms. Hanson agrees: “We just have some amazing cameraderie and friendships. When you see these dancers on the stage together, you know that they really have a connection.”

“The Jungle Book” general audience performances are at 7 p.m. on January 7, 3 p.m. on January 14 and 3 and 7 p.m. on January 21.

Special Girl Scout performances, which are also open to the general public and include a Q&A with the dancers after the show, are at 3 p.m. on January 7, 7 p.m. on January 13, 7 p.m. on January 14 and 7 p.m. on January 20.

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