Step into an enchanted forest this weekend at the Miller Center for the Arts, with the classic tale Hansel + Gretel, performed by the Berks Ballet Theatre. The whimsical fable, which follows a brother and sister lost in the forest, shows the pair quickly being throw from their path when a witch entices the children with dancing gumdrops and fanciful gingerbread.

The story of Hansel and Gretel may seem old, but thanks to resident choreographer, Nathan Bland, it’s seeing new life. Bland has created a new original performance piece inspired by the classic tale. Ending Berks Ballet Theatre’s 43rd season, Bland invited Reading Magazine to BBT’s GoggleWorks studio to get a sneak peek of the production.

“When working on new choreography a lot goes into the process and this is even truer when you are creating a story ballet. It’s not just working on the dance steps, but it’s how do we convey the story through the choreography. It’s a process that helps to push the dancers to speak without using their words, which can be a challenge for anyone” said Bland.

With dancers ranging from 7 to 17, Berks Ballet students have been rehearsing every week for the last two months. Although there are no spoken words, Bland is confident his students will give an exciting performance. “You can convey so much with the tilt of the head or a gesture combined with very specific eye intensity, it’s very nuanced. I am very proud of the work that we have done”.

Creating a unique performance isn’t easy. To help in the process, Bland made a careful musical selection. “I’ve used various composers, but mainly Oskar Nedbal a lesser known Czech composer. His music is very interesting and layered. I could see the story as I listened to his music and that helped the choreography flow.”

With a break in rehearsals, we caught up with two of the stars of the performance, Exeter High School Junior, Amber Warchol, and Governor Mifflin student student, Ahna Romanski, to talk about their roles.

Romanski, who will portray the witch said: “Very fun, very different, I’ve never done a part that’s so acting geared. We usually performances focused on dancing, which have an element to acting, but this is more acting which is fun. My favorite part is my scene together with Amber, where I chase her around the stage”

Warchol, who plays Gretel said: “I like the opportunity to work with a partner, it’s challenging, but also fun.” The role of Hansel will be played by Ricky Romero, a professional dancer with the First State Ballet Theatre in Wilmington, DE.

Berks Ballet Theatre’s performance of Hansel + Gretel will be held at the Miller Center for the Arts on May 4th, 2pm. For tickets visit: berksballettheatre.com/tickets

Also, before the show, there is a special pre-performance reception from 12:30 – 1:30pm, where guests can enjoy cupcakes by Ady Cakes, ice cream from Sweet Ride Ice Cream, along with a candy bar, snacks, crafts and story time! The cast of dancers will also be in costume available for taking pictures.