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Fear of Flying?



Have you ever wondered what it feels like to fly? Not in a plane or in a helicopter, but to lift off the ground effortlessly, like a superhero, with nothing more than a happy thought and a pinch of fairy dust to keep you aloft. Or maybe an invisible wire or two. I know, having recently taken the directions from a certain "little boy who won't grow up," to follow the second star to the right, straight on to morning. It's fantastic.

This weekend, Ballet Memphis premieres Peter Pan, a new ballet with costumes by Anne Armit, wardrobe director at Royal Winnipeg Ballet, scenic design by Tony-nominated designer Beowulf Boritt, and choreography by Memphis-based dancer Steven McMahon, who also staged Ballet Memphis' popular productions of Cinderella, and The Wizard of Oz.

Pan, Tinkerbell, and the Darling children will fly courtesy of a state-of-the-art, joystick-operated flying system designed by ZFX Flying Effects, of Louisville, Kentucky. Flight director Brian Owens explains that ZFX can fly just about anything and has done a number of Peter Pans, but Ballet Memphis' production marks the first time a ZFX system has been designed to put five people in the air at the same time.

"We have two axes of controlled motion on each flying system," Owens explained as a harness was fitted around my waist and legs prior to a test flight, high above the stage. "What we're doing this week is setting in the choreography, getting the director what he wants to see, and getting the performers in the air and comfortable."

As he spoke, my feet lifted off the ground, and my comfort level sank considerably. It was only a few inches at first. Then a few more. Then it started feeling natural and I was soaring with the ease of thought and a subtle gesture. Who wouldn't want to be Peter Pan? Why would anybody want to grow up?

Ballet Memphis' Peter Pan at the Orpheum, Saturday-Sunday, April 12-13, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. $7-$72. balletmemphis.org

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