El Grinch Returns to the stage

El Grinch“We are having so much fun!” bubbles Paloma Pérez-Templado, coordinator of this season’s production of El Grinch. Since April she has worked together with producer Johnny Long, Debora du Flon, director of scenery and costumes, and a team in charge of choreography, music and narration.

Her expression changes dramatically as she leans forward and lowers her voice, confiding, “The Grinch is a terrible, TERRIBLE thing that wants to destroy ‘Cualquiertenango’. Max, the dog, is horrible too—but he has a heart.” She relaxes, sits back and smiles. Satisfied again, she throws out her arms in a wide circle saying, “In the end the Grinch too has a great heart!”

The production team is pleased to present El Grinch again this year, on December 4, in the auditorium of Asociación Nuestros Ahijados in San Felipe. But they share a dream for “a theater in La Antigua large enough for productions like this. Lacking such a venue, everything has to be brought in: lights, scenery, music, sound equipment.”

All now Antigüeños, the group is truly international. Paloma, who hails from Spain, came to visit Antigua in 1997 and now makes her home here, indulging in her passion for cultural activities. She has worked with the Teatro Escolar de Antigua since 2007, bringing culture to classrooms throughout Guatemala.

Johnny, a born and bred Brit, brings cultural tradition of pantomime to Guatemala, saying it has already extended to Zimbabwe and the Ukraine. For the production, he has recorded music of Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Fauré. Bette van Lunteren, from Holland, directs the jazz dance component; and Gilda Jolás, a Guatemalan who studied dance, married and lived in Paris for years, directs the classical ballet component. She danced with the National Ballet of Guatemala for eight years and has directed La Escuela de Danza in La Antigua for 29 years. Five girls and a boy will “not only dance but contribute to interpreting the story,” says Gilda, Some things come and go, “but classical ballet will always be with us.”

Audience participation, essential to the British tradition of pantomime, is not typical for Latin Americans, “so some gentle persuasion might be needed,” Johnny chuckles. “But the message of El Grinch, as with all traditional pantomime, is clear: Good triumphs over evil, and humor lightens the load of life.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas adapted for ballet by Johnny Long, produced by Paloma Pérez-Templado, choreographed by Bette Van Luteren, will be performed at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, December 4 at Asociación Nuestros Ahijados Ahijados #106 road to San Felipe. The production features local children, pupils of the Gilda Jolás Academy of Ballet and members of the National Ballet of Guatemala. “This is our second year.” Says Johnny, “We are trying to bring British Christmas pantomime to La Antigua with narration, songs, dancing and audience participation as an annual event.”

Adults: donation to Nuestros Ahijados. Children: FREE. Also limited FREE transportation that leaves at 3:30pm from La Antigua central park, opposite the cathedral and returns after the performance.

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