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'Musketeers' fest cuts a swath with ballet, film, book

"... un pour tous, tous pour un!" Translated into English that reads, "... one for all and all for one!" taken from Alexander Dumas' literary classic "The Three Musketeers."

Taking the motto to heart, Ballet West has come up with a "Three Musketeers Festival" — a film, book and dance display to mark its 2007-08 season opener, "The Three Musketeers."

The ballet will also celebrate the inaugural season of new artistic director Adam Sklute.

While the company's version of Andre Prokovsky's "Three Musketeers" ballet will open Nov. 2, there will be two movie screenings and a variety of book-club gatherings geared to whet the appetites of potential and current Ballet West audiences.

On Wednesday, the Salt Lake Film Society will hold a "Three Musketeers" double-feature — the 1948 musical version, with Gene Kelly, Lana Turner and Vincent Price, and the 1993 live-action Walt Disney version, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt and Chris O'Donnell.

On Saturday, the Capitol Theatre will be the place to be for a special screening of the classic 1921 silent-film version starring Douglas Fairbanks (with popcorn available for 25 cents).

John A. Roarke, Ballet West marketing director, has read all the Dumas books that comprise the "Musketeers" saga, collectively known as the "D'Artagnon Romances," and felt this was a production with unlimited outreach possibilities. "We had been working on ideas since the beginning of the year, and we sifted through ideas and agreed on partnering with the Salt Lake Film Society to hold screenings.

"We watched a lot — and I mean a lot — of versions of 'Three Musketeers.' Some were great, and some were very suggestive to the point that there was no imagination needed. It was a hard decision, but we came up with these three movies that all showed different aspects and interpretations of the story."

In addition to the screenings, various book clubs are either reading or gearing up to read "The Three Musketeers." "Some clubs are waiting until they attend the ballet to start reading, and others are already reading now, and we will be offering opportunities for the clubs to attend rehearsals." (Contact Melissa Rasmussen at 323-6966 about joining a book club for the readings and rehearsals.)

Roarke's favorite character is Athos. "In the books, you can see all the characters have a history. The movies don't go as deep. But the books are more in depth and bring out the characteristics through more descriptions. Athos has a lot of darkness in his past. Although by today's standards some of the issues wouldn't cause us to bat an eye. Still, he does have the dark brooding thing going. And I like that."

Ballet West called on an old friend — former principal dancer Gilles Maidon — to help stage the Andre Prokovsky ballet. Maidon and Prokovsky have worked together for years, and Maidon is the go-to guy to set Prokovsky's works — such as "The Three Musketeers" and "Anna Karenina" — when the choreographer can't.

Maidon said he was happy to come back to Utah and work with the company again. "A lot has changed, but the dancers are better than ever. It is a joy working with them."

He danced the role of D'Artagnon in Prokovsky's 1980 premiere, and though the ballet has changed in length, the choreography is the same. "It used to be three acts, but Andre cut it down to two, and the adjustment made it move quicker.

"Sure, like all adaptations, there are some characters that don't appear. But the main characters are there, and the soloists and corps fill in the gaps. What was hard for me when I started staging 'The Three Musketeers' was the fact that I only danced one role, basically. While I knew the ballet, I knew if from that role's focal point. So I had to do a lot of research."

One of the biggest concerns with this ballet is the swordplay. "We don't use the stage foils, which are metal, when we start out," Maidon said with a smile. "We have to work the choreography slowly at first, and we mark where the dancers' arms need to be. Then we work it out, and after a few rehearsals, we go faster."

Eventually the dancers work with a sword master and use plastic swords. "Onstage, we use the metal stage foils, and they are real and sound real. But it takes so much cautious preparation to get to that point."

In choosing the cast, Prokovsky, Maidon and Ballet West artistic director Adam Sklute formed their own "musketeer" trio and discussed who could be whom. "Ultimately it's Andre's decision," said Maidon, "but we all talk about it and give our suggestions."

All for one, of course.

Ballet West and Salt Lake Film Society

What: Movies: "The Three Musketeers" (1948) and "The Three Musketeers" (1993)

Where: Broadway Centre Cinemas, 111 E. 300 South

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

What: Movie: "The Three Musketeers" (1921)

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

How much: free

What: Ballet: "The Three Musketeers," Ballet West

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South

When: Nov. 2-3 and 7-10, 7:30 p.m.; matinee Nov. 10, 2 p.m.

How much: $17-$65

Ballet West tickets: 355-9225

Information: 323-6966