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Black, white and ballsy

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Jonathan Guise is ambitious. The artistic director of the Peak Ballet Theater has devised a creative stretch featuring ballet, Charlie Chaplin and film noir.

The stage, set and dancers are in black and white -- no exceptions. Red and pink tongues are blackened with licorice, lights are filtered, and skin is painted. It's silent, like Chaplin's films. Cue cards drive the narrative. Chaplin dances ballet and performs unpredictable slapstick.

The concept is riveting, quirky and extremely intricate, a case of hyper mise en scne without the luxury of a double take. Precedents to the black-and-white stage production do exist, often taking the form of contemporary or experimental dance, which audiences are more apt to accept given the constant of greater artistic license associated with such forms.

The piece begins with Chaplin posing as a dancer, soon surrounded by 50 lithe female dancers -- a sort of virgin paradise for pilots that never learned to land. He proceeds to ruin a respectable production of Swan Lake, usurping the spotlight and the lead dancer's affection. The story gets clammy when the dancer's man returns to confront Chaplin's buffoonish antics.

Guise is an obvious cinephile with a special affinity for Chaplin. Synthesizing these pieces into one form, however, demands a confidence that is impossible to miss in conversation. He speaks of an eight-year plan for the company, exposing local audiences to art never seen or experienced here before and guiding Peak Ballet to become Colorado Springs' leading dance company.

Guise is ballsy; but even better is that he's believable.

-- Aaron Menza

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The Pike Ballet Theater in "Film Noir"

Fusion Pointe Center for Integrated Arts, 2228 W. Pikes Peak Ave.

Sunday, April 10, 6:30 p.m.

Donation, $40/person; includes wine tasting and wine auction.

Call 632-7511 for more info.

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