A graceful return | TheUnion.com

A graceful return

Kael Newton
Special to The Union

Michael Levine and Maia Wilkins will perform selections from Romeo and Juliet during the The Glory of Russian Ballet concert Wednesday as part of Music in the Mountains SummerFest 2015 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

Michael Levine, son of Grass Valley locals Peggy and Howard Levine, will be returning home to perform his craft of ballet in front of the Nevada County crowd at Music in the Mountain's SummerFest Wednesday, at the Nevada County Fairgrounds for "The Glory of the Russian Ballet" concert.

The former Joffrey Ballet dancer will be performing alongside his wife of 15 years, Maia Wilkins, in "Romeo and Juliet" set to the Russian composer Prokofiev's music. Both Levine and Wilkins performed for Joffrey in the past and now function as repetituers, individuals who restage performances for a ballet company.

Wilkins was performing in New York City when she was introduced to Levine. Both of them were raised in Northern California (Wilkins is originally from Truckee) and formed an instant bond.

The couple currently teach ballet at several institutions in the Sacramento and San Francisco area while raising their two sons, who will get to watch their parents perform at the festival.

After living and performing in Chicago for 12 years, they moved back to the Northern California area in order to raise their children with the added support of family and friends.

"It's coming home, my parents still live there," said Levine of returning to the Grass Valley. "Every year more of my classmates from high school come back here to raise their kids as well."

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Although neither of them perform and travel as they used to, both dancers still have a great passion for their art and Levine often travels as far as Monroe, Louisiana to dance. Levine describes ballet as, "the ability to tell stories, characters and journeys without words," and of performing alongside his wife he added, "dancing together is a lot of fun, to experience it together."

The performance will be a special one for the two longtime professional dancers, not only because of the hometown venue — it is quite difficult to perform in small towns like Grass Valley because of the particular necessities of the stage setup and size — but also because of the performance's arrangement. The ballet will be performed in front of a live orchestra, rather than a typical ballet arrangement in which the orchestra would be in the pit, out of the audience's eyesight.

"It's a different feeling, there's no sets," said Levine, adding that in this format the dancers function as, "a visual addition to the orchestra."

Despite the difference in setup, Levine remarked that one of his favorite memories was of performing "The Nutcracker" at the Hollywood Bowl in front of a live orchestra. The Music in the Mountains program is certainly glad to have the two performers gracing the Nevada County stage, according to Pete Nowlen, the Music in the Mountains artistic director.

"I've wanted to do a program on the music of the Russian ballet for a very long time and when Michael and Maia moved back to the area four years ago, I thought it might be a possibility," said Nowlen, in a statement about the concert. "This program was created to feature internationally acclaimed artists and local stars, which is something I would like to see MIM do as much as possible."

Levine and Wilson have both performed "Romeo and Juliet" previously, as it is one of the most popular ballets in the repertoire. Familiarity with the ballet aside, however, there is still a considerable amount of preparation to be done for such an intricate performance.

The couple has rehearsed this show for several months in order to execute the physically demanding art.

Music in the Mountains will host a pre-concert forum at 6:30 p.m., one-hour prior to the performance where the conductor takes attendees behind the scenes in the Amaral Center at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

Tickets range from $12 for children up to $68. For tickets and more information go to http://www.musicinthemountains.org.

Kael Newton is an intern at The Union. Contact him at ncpcintern@theunion.com.

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