Joan Harris Dancers present tale of courage in original production ‘Corsiev’

By Mary Therese Biebel - [email protected]
Princess Joan, portrayed by Caroline Conrad, center, encounters wanderers, peddlers and gypsies as she searches for her kidnapped sister, Princess Anna, in the original dance production ‘Corsiev.’ - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Caroline Conrad, in her role as Princess Joan, begins to stagger as she feels the effects of a poisoned pear given to her by a peddler in the Joan Harris Dancers’ production of ‘Corsiev.’ - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Eliana Pileggi, 12, of Swoyersville, leaps across a dance studio at the Harris Conservatory for the Arts in Luzerne during rehearsal for ‘Corsiev.’ Eliana portrays Princess Anna, who is kidnapped by a queen who is grieving the loss of her own child. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Party guests in the first act of ‘Corsiev’ include dancers who represent various countries, from Holland to Russia to Ireland. Here, older dancers watch younger girls rehearse a dance that represents China. - - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Some of the youngest dancers in the production ‘Corsiev’ perform dances that represent various countries. Earlier this week, this group rehearsed their ‘Chinese dance.’ - - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
‘Gypsies’ and ‘peddlers’ watch Princess Joan, right, portrayed by Caroline Conrad, 18, of Dallas, react as a bite of poisoned pear begins to take effect on her during the second act of the dance production ‘Corsiev.’ - - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

LUZERNE — Ask Brynn Suda why “Corsiev” is her favorite ballet, and the 16-year-old dancer from Wilkes-Barre breaks into a wide grin.

“I’m a fan of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd,” she said, “and the story’s pretty cool as well.”

Yes, it’s true. The classic rock of Led Zeppelin and the psychedelic music of Pink Floyd join the more traditional sounds of Mozart, Listz and Wagner in the Joan Harris Dancers’ original, fusion production of ballet and modern dance, adding to the atmosphere as a young Princess Anna is kidnapped and her older sister, Princess Joan, braves a frightening forest to rescue her.

Along the way to the sisters’ reunion — if you watch the cast perform “Corsiev” this weekend at the Dallas Performing Arts Center — you’ll see a fierce, good-magic versus evil-magic battle between a sorceress and a grieving queen.

By the way, have you noticed all these characters are female? No Prince Charming is waiting in the wings.

“There are no male leads in the show,” said Caroline Conrad, 18, of Dallas, who has the role of Princess Joan. “It’s really empowering.”

The show, which includes 400 young dancers in three performances, is a collaboration among choreographers Elisabeth and Jennifer Harris, who teach at the Harris Conservatory for the Arts in Luzerne, and their brother-in-law Kenton Harris, who wrote the original version decades ago to honor the family matriarch, Joan Harris.

“Being that it’s original, and it’s ours, you can’t see it anywhere else,” said Jim Harris, another Harris son, who manages the conservatory. “You have one shot to see it every six or seven years.”

The last time the Joan Harris Dancers staged “Corsiev” was six years ago. At the time, Conrad was 12 and portrayed the younger sister, Princess Anna.

Both roles are exciting, she said, especially when ill-intentioned wraiths enter the bedroom the sisters share.

“They’re so good at acting evil,” Conrad said of the young women who portray the wraiths, and they succeed in spiriting away Princess Anna — but not before Princess Joan puts up a fight.

“They’re tugging us apart,” Conrad said, explaining her part of the dance/fight involves “a lot of leaps and tour jetes” plus a great deal of emotion.

“I don’t know if I could be that brave in real life,” she said. “Princess Joan is on a whole other level.”

Princess Joan gets some help from “good spirits” who present her with a magic cloak, magic dust, a lantern and an extra dose of courage. But after she sets out to find her sister, she meets wanderers, peddlers and gypsies who pretend to be friendly — but aren’t.

“I actually steal Princess Joan’s lantern when she’s doing something else,” said Julia Macey, 15, of Dallas, who portrays a wanderer.

Then there’s a lead gypsy who uses tarot cards to tell Princess Joan’s fortune. “I think it might be a little deceiving,” said Caitlyn Berrini, 18, of Larksville, who is part of the gypsy band.

As for the peddlers, one of them slips Princess Joan a poisoned pear that adds another wrinkle to the rescue attempt.

Toxic fruit notwithstanding, the characters find their way to a happy ending, with even a touch of kindness extended to the troubled and troublesome queen who had been collecting kidnapped children in an attempt to replace a daughter she lost.

“She (Princess Anna) puts herself in Queen Clava’s situation,” said Eliana Pileggi, 12, of Swoyersville, who portrays Anna. “She feels sorry for her so she says she’ll visit her.”

Princess Joan, portrayed by Caroline Conrad, center, encounters wanderers, peddlers and gypsies as she searches for her kidnapped sister, Princess Anna, in the original dance production ‘Corsiev.’
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL041918Corsiev1.jpgPrincess Joan, portrayed by Caroline Conrad, center, encounters wanderers, peddlers and gypsies as she searches for her kidnapped sister, Princess Anna, in the original dance production ‘Corsiev.’ Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Caroline Conrad, in her role as Princess Joan, begins to stagger as she feels the effects of a poisoned pear given to her by a peddler in the Joan Harris Dancers’ production of ‘Corsiev.’
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL041918Corsiev2.jpgCaroline Conrad, in her role as Princess Joan, begins to stagger as she feels the effects of a poisoned pear given to her by a peddler in the Joan Harris Dancers’ production of ‘Corsiev.’ Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Eliana Pileggi, 12, of Swoyersville, leaps across a dance studio at the Harris Conservatory for the Arts in Luzerne during rehearsal for ‘Corsiev.’ Eliana portrays Princess Anna, who is kidnapped by a queen who is grieving the loss of her own child.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL041918Corsiev3.jpgEliana Pileggi, 12, of Swoyersville, leaps across a dance studio at the Harris Conservatory for the Arts in Luzerne during rehearsal for ‘Corsiev.’ Eliana portrays Princess Anna, who is kidnapped by a queen who is grieving the loss of her own child. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Party guests in the first act of ‘Corsiev’ include dancers who represent various countries, from Holland to Russia to Ireland. Here, older dancers watch younger girls rehearse a dance that represents China.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL041918Corsiev4-1-.jpgParty guests in the first act of ‘Corsiev’ include dancers who represent various countries, from Holland to Russia to Ireland. Here, older dancers watch younger girls rehearse a dance that represents China. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Some of the youngest dancers in the production ‘Corsiev’ perform dances that represent various countries. Earlier this week, this group rehearsed their ‘Chinese dance.’
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL041918Corsiev5.jpgSome of the youngest dancers in the production ‘Corsiev’ perform dances that represent various countries. Earlier this week, this group rehearsed their ‘Chinese dance.’ Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

‘Gypsies’ and ‘peddlers’ watch Princess Joan, right, portrayed by Caroline Conrad, 18, of Dallas, react as a bite of poisoned pear begins to take effect on her during the second act of the dance production ‘Corsiev.’
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL041918Corsiev6.jpg‘Gypsies’ and ‘peddlers’ watch Princess Joan, right, portrayed by Caroline Conrad, 18, of Dallas, react as a bite of poisoned pear begins to take effect on her during the second act of the dance production ‘Corsiev.’ Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Original dance production tells tale of courage

By Mary Therese Biebel

[email protected]

IF YOU GO

What: ‘Corsiev’

Who: Presented by Joan Harris Dancers from the Harris Conservatory for the Arts.

When: 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Dallas Performing Arts Center, Dallas High School, 2030 Conyngham Ave., Dallas

Tickets: $15 in advance and can be purchased at the Harris Conservatory for the Arts, on Charles Street in Luzerne

Info: 570-287-7977 or 570-718-0673

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.