For the 2017 Fall Dance Production, the Taipei American School dancers are performing the fairy tale of the Russia’s last princess, Anastasia, on October 25-28. The plot is largely based on the 20th Century Fox Animation movie “Anastasia”, which takes place in the time of the execution of the last Russian royal family, the Romanovs.
Historically, many Russians believed that Anastasia—with the help of someone within the castle—escaped the brutal execution. “But something happens to her and causes her not to remember who she was,” says Ms. Deborah Flemming, the co-director of the production. “And later years, many fake Anastasias came forward saying, ‘I am the last princess.’ In real life, of course, they found her DNA and no, she did not escape the execution. But in the myth and the romantic story of it, she reunites with her grandmother in Paris, where many of the other Romanov family and Russian nobility escaped.”
Just like Ms. Flemming, the dancers participating in “Anastasia” cannot hide their anticipation. “I am most excited about sharing the stage with all the dancers, technicians, and instructors, because we will have spent more than three months to work towards one goal: to produce the most amazing dance production,” says Jonathan Huang (‘18), who plays the male lead, Dimitri.
Holly Chen (‘19) plays the Grand Duchess of Russia, grandmother of Anastasia Romanov. She explains that the most difficult aspect of participating in the dance production was the amount of time the dancers have to rehearse. “Since the performances are a month earlier than in the past, the whole process has to be condensed… the teachers have less time to find music and choreography, and we have less time to learn and clean it.”
Unlike last year’s production, “Mean Girls”, this year’s production incorporates a wider variety of dance genres, including ballet, contemporary dance, and Russian dance. ‘Mean Girls’ was [a very modern] high school [plot] and we thought [‘Anastasia’] would be a nice fairy tale,” says Ms. Flemming, when asked about her choice.
Isabelle Sung (‘18), who will play Rasputin, adds that this year’s production is unique for the music choices: “In ‘La Sylphide’ we had a lot of slow songs, while in ‘Mean Girls’ we had a lot of upbeat ones. ‘Anastasia’ has a good mix of both and because it takes place in Russia and Paris, there’s a bit of variety and some really cool scenes!” For the dance production, Rasputin, historically a man, is played by two female dancers. When asked about this gender change, Isabelle says that she isn’t sure and believes that perhaps it is because she and Candice Lee (‘18) played antagonists – the Plastics in last year’s “Mean Girls” production, giving them more experience in projecting Rasputin’s sinister vibe.
Although the dancers are the stars of the show, the crew members behind the curtains are just as essential to the production. “Mr. Held designed amazing sets [including] … the palace in St. Petersburg, the [areas of the] Russian revolution, Paris, and the streets,” says Ms. Flemming. The tech crew and the makeup crew are also making this show possible. “Everything that goes into the production, the set, props, scene changes, costume changes, and basically all the little details that make the dance production great, are only possible because of them,” says Isabelle. “I know everything will look amazing in the end because of all the hard work Ms. Flemming and Ms. Lagerquist put into the show.”
em,” says Isabelle. “I know everything will look amazing in the end because of all the hard work Ms. Flemming and Ms. Lagerquist put into the show.”
A version of this article appeared in the Oct. 25 print edition, titled “”Anastasia” brings history to the stage.”