Ballet Midwest’s spring performance of “Romeo and Juliet" will feature 99 dancers who will be taking the stage at the Topeka Performing Arts Center this weekend.

The classical ballet is filled with pirouettes, lifts and sword fights, and to fill such a demanding show, 26 men have been cast for various roles.

“It’s a great sized cast, and one of the things I look at is the kinds of dancers we currently have and what ballet would fit their strengths,” said Lacee Ebert, Ballet Midwest's artistic director. “It’s a big decision each year, but the professional quality is really what I want to go for.”

When selecting “Romeo and Juliet,” Ebert said versatility was also a factor, because the company offers three three adaptations of the show for various ages.

At 10 a.m. Friday, a shortened version of the ballet will be performed at TPAC’s annual Schooltime Theater Series, which provides an opportunity for local children to experience classical ballet.

Traditional full-length performances will be 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, with a second show Saturday as part of Ballet Midwest’s “My First Ballet” series.

The series is meant for children ages 3 through 9, and features the characters of Romeo and Juliet, just with a different story line.

“With ‘My First Ballet’ we decided Romeo and Juliet in its true form is a little bit advanced for that audience, so we are doing something completely different,” Ebert said.

The youth performance is titled "A Prince and Princess Ball at Juliet's Castle," and begins at 2 p.m. Saturday at TPAC. Juliet’s ball will feature princesses like Aurora, Jasmine, Belle, Snow White and Cinderella, each accompanied by a prince.

Singer Kyle Carpenter will host a sing along prior to the performance, and following it will be a dance parade and party. Children will take home a crown and scepter. Dressing up is encouraged. The dancers will also be available for photos following the performance.

“Topeka has shown us wonderful support for our ballets,” Ebert said. “(The) Nutcracker has grown so much we now do five performances of it, and the spring ballet has grown too with the schooltime series.”

Ebert added that with the expanding performances audience members have learned to appreciate classical ballet and true theater etiquette.

In addition to their classical performances, Ballet Midwest holds four other yearly shows; two liturgical performances, an end of the year recital and an annual gala. The Nutcracker is a staple in the season, but the spring performance changes annually, Ebert said

“They are working so hard right now on the portrayal of the story as well as their dance technique,” Ebert said. “It’s the true Shakespeare story, so it really has a lot of heart and a lot of passion in it.”

Tickets for the youth performance are $12, and range from $12 to $20 for the full length show. Family packages are also available.

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