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Mann Dance Academy opens production of 'Beauty and the Beast'
Mann sisters don't often find themselves at odds
FARMINGTON — Judy and Becky Mann have been running the Mann Dance Academy Inc. together for decades, but, as sisters, their connection runs much deeper than a simple business association.
So when they co-direct the academy's productions, as they are doing this weekend with a presentation of "Beauty and the Beast," Judy Mann said they don't often find themselves haggling over creative differences.
"It's kind of interesting," she said this afternoon in preparation for tonight's opening performance. "She's got some things she's good at, and I've got some things I'm good at, and we both do a good of listening to each other and supporting each other. After being raised together and working together for 22 years, you can almost read each other's minds."
Mann recalled with a laugh how that scenario played out during a final rehearsal for the show Thursday night. Watching from the audience, Judy Mann said she thought to herself at one point that her sister, working with the cast from the stage, likely would want to rewind the soundtrack to a specific point to iron out the kinks in a scene. Seconds later, she said, Becky issued that precise request.
"It's really fun to see how we can read each other," Judy said. "That makes it fun and strong for everybody, really. I guess there are occasions when we have different ideas, but we blend the two quite nicely."
The challenges of mounting the academy's annual spring production are different from those of its winter production, which is always a presentation of the holiday classic "The Nutcracker." But the spring production is a different show each year, and Judy said producing "Beauty and the Beast" is an especially tall order, given the elaborate nature of the costumes.
"It is really quite an undertaking to come up with a full show," she said. "Of course, you've got all your regular classroom work, and then you've got everything else that needs to be done for this. It's about fun and teamwork and friendship."
Mann said it has required some extra "oomph" from all involved to get this production off the ground. Many of the costumes for "Beauty and the Beast" are not only difficult to create, they're also physically difficult to move in, she noted, and that makes them less than idea for dancers who are used to performing in sleek, form-fitting tutus or leotards.
But the Mann sisters were eager to mount a production of "Beauty and the Beast" for the first time in 10 years because they thought the timing was right, given the 2017 film production of the story by Disney. The familiarity many of their students had with the story because of that film made it easy to drum up excitement for the stage production, Judy said.
"The kids were real enthusiastic about doing it," she said. "I like that."
But Mann had her own reasons for wanting to do the show.
"I just love the storyline," she said, noting how much she is drawn to Belle, the female lead. "She is such a strong female figure. She's not afraid to be different. She's interested in what's going on in the world, she wants to travel and she's well read. She's a good role model for young women to look up."
The Mann Dance Academy production of the show includes approximately 150 performers, she said, explaining that each of the three performances has its own cast. Mann said she was pleased to see so many of her returning students take part in this production, but she said the addition of some new students has added some freshness to the undertaking.
"Beauty and the Beast" performances are scheduled for 6 tonight, and 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday at the San Juan College Performance Hall on the college campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $8 for seniors and students.
"I'm very excited for people to see the show," Mann said. "It's a real crowd pleaser."
Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.