Peter Pan at the DCPA


Peter Pan began its life in 1904 as a book by a Scottish author, J.M. Barrie. In the 116 years since Peter Pan was first published, the story has been made into a silent film (1924), a Disney animated film (1953), a Broadway play (1954), a live-action movie in 2003, and countless TV shows and cartoons along the way.
And now Peter Pan is a ballet. Colorado Ballet is performing Peter Pan at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts from January 31 to February 9. Colorado Ballet’s version of the Peter Pan story is a flying ballet. Yeah, you heard me right, a flying ballet!
Creating a flying ballet is no simple task. In order to make it all work, Colorado Ballet hired ZFX Flying Effects to manage all of the challenging technical aspects of launching ballet dancers into the air.
“Our system to make them fly is pulleys and wires,” says Shad Ramsey, Flying Director at ZFX FlyingEffects and the man in charge of all of the flying operations for this production. Pulleys and wires sounds basic, but the actual system is very complicated. First, these are not just any wires. These are high
tension wires that can carry up to 2,000 pounds, and the people operating the wires are trainedprofessionals, and they take their cue from members of the Colorado Ballet who are not performing inthat night’s show. This is really important because launching a dancer into the air a second too early or
late could easily injure a cast member. The job of the dancer behind the scenes, who knows the musicand the timing perfectly because they are dancing it during other performances, is to cue the rope operator at the exact moment that the performer needs to be lifted. Shad says safety is the number onepriority when doing this; ZFX uses a ten to one rule, meaning that even though the wires can hold 2,000pounds they only carry a maximum load of 200 pounds.
So, okay, the ropes are safe, but how are the actors attached to them? Ballet costumes would not seem to make it easy to hide a big hook. It turns out that all the characters that fly wear special harnesses on stage so they can hook up inconspicuously without one person in the audience realizing there is a
technician behind a certain prop that the actor is stationed near. There are four strategically placed wires around the set so an actor can back into a wall and an operator can hook him up to the wires. Twenty people work backstage to fly four cast members.
Ballet is a sport that requires amazing athleticism and strength (even when you are not dancing in the air), so signing up for a flying ballet seems like a very risky thing for a dancer to do. An injury could end a dancer’s career. Karly Makovy, Marketing and Public Relations Associate at Colorado Ballet, reports that each dancer has a strict contract to make sure the actors are protected and prepared for flying, like the room has to be a certain temperature so the actor’s muscles don’t freeze up. Shad Ramsey also explains that the wires are not used to lift props or anything else, and so they are very individualized to the performer. Shad has had experience with directors who definitely did use ZFX Flying Effects to lift props,including one director who wanted Shad to lift a 500-pound cow!
Many of the performances of Peter Pan are already sold out! So, if you are interested in watching amazing athletes fly through the air, get your tickets now!