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Yes, you 'can can'

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Lauren Paulson rehearses the can can dance for the "Club Parisienne/Ballet To Broadway" show. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 4
Jenny Lockhert (left) and Leigha Wallin rehearse a Bob Fosse number for the "Club Parisienne/Ballet to Broadway" performance. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)3 / 4
Emily Shimpa rehearses "Can't Take That Away," one of the dances in the "Club Parisienne/Ballet to Broadway" show set for Friday in the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)4 / 4

The North Dakota Ballet Company will take audiences to a Paris nightclub in the 1930s and to New York's musical theater stage when the curtain rises on its production at 7 p.m. Friday in the Empire Arts Center.

The production, titled "Club Parisienne/Ballet to Broadway," showcases "the talented adult performers in our community and the amazing work of our guest and local choreographers," said Laura Arneson, executive and artistic director of the North Dakota Ballet Company.

"It's a very dynamic, high-energy show that features classic dance works such as the can can and tap and the work of legendary (choreographer) Bob Fosse," Arneson said.

The first half of the show, "Club Parisienne," is a spinoff of "Gaite' Parisienne" (literally, "Parisian Gaiety"), a one-act ballet, choreographed in 1938, which tells the story of a diverse group of characters who frequent a fashionable cafe in Paris in the mid-19th century.

Drawing from the "Moulin Rouge" can can style of ballet, the performance tells the story of young love and rising stardom in the Bohemian world of Paris, with "multiple little love stories intertwined in it," Arneson said.

A young barmaid, with a passion to perform with the can can dancers in the cafe, finally is noticed for her talent as a dancer. She and other characters, each with their own agendas, convey "a fairly complex story without any dialogue," Arneson said. "There's a lot of pantomime."

"It's like a 'dance play,' a really creative work—exciting and energetic," she said. "It's definitely not a traditional ballet, by an means."

The rendition, performed by members of the company's pre-professional division, has been revived and originally staged by professional ballet dancer and choreographer Emily Grizzell, freelance dancer, teacher and former soloist with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

Grizzell, who lives in Spokane, Wash., has traveled to Grand Forks each year for the past five or six summers, to work with North Dakota Ballet Company dancers and conduct workshops and master classes, Arneson said.

Grizzell "has taken our ballet to another level," she said. "She has outstanding creativity and she works well with the dancers," and crafts works that suits their capabilities.

The second half of Friday's production, Ballet to Broadway, features a medley of popular, high-energy dance scenes from "West Side Story," "Chicago," "42nd Street" and other shows, with choreography by Arneson, Sue Moe and Elizabeth Gilbert.

Audience members will no doubt recognize the music from "West Side Story," including "I Feel Pretty" and "America," and from the show "Chicago," including the enduring hit, "All That Jazz."

Classic Broadway hits, performed as solos and duets, will include "I've Got Rhythm" and "You're in the Money."

The show closes with a stage full of tap-dancers, women and men, performing works from "42nd Street," Arneson said.

"There's more tapping than we've done in a decade," she said with a laugh.

For tickets, $15 for adults and $12 for students, call the Empire Arts Center box office at (701) 746-5500 or go to www.empireartscenter.com .