The Prodigal Daughter, a ballet choreographed by Mona Enna of Storling Dance Theater, is a much newer story. Performed after a series of short modern dance pieces -- one choreographed by Martha Graham dancer Steve Rooks -- The Prodigal Daughter is the year-old company's area debut. (Its first appearance nationally was in New York City's Time Square, where the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.) The Ennas -- Mona and her husband, Jeremiah, who co-founded Storling Dance Theater -- began their dance careers in Finland; their reputation in Europe helped them attract dancers internationally. A few of Kansas City Ballet dancers join the company onstage at the Lyric for Prodigal Daughter this weekend.
Mona Enna's most obvious change to the old parable is switching the rebellious teen's gender. But the story's general outlook is different as well. "The world isn't presented as evil," says Jeremiah Enna during a break in rehearsal. "It's not full of bad people doing bad things. It's more like, one bad decision leads to another, so it's more about [the character] than it is about the world." His wife's version of the tale, Jeremiah says, "doesn't demonize the world."
Storling members hope that the audience will understand the dance's psychological symbolism. After leaving home, one of the first places the daughter goes is a temple. Three priestesses in flimsy silver gowns appear onstage just as three 14-foot-tall mirrors descend from the ceiling. The priestesses dance in a slow, seductive way in front of the mirrors, drawing the daughter into their form of worship. Despite the blatant symbolism of the mirrors, the scene is so intoxicating that it's easy to miss the allusion to the dangers of being self-absorbed. What the dancers are doing certainly doesn't look harmful. "Again, it's not their fault," says Jeremiah. He tugs on a priestess costume hanging on a rack. "They don't have horns, you know? But the prodigal daughter loses a sense of who she is."
Instead of putting her in a pig sty, Enna sends her female protagonist to work in a nudie bar. Her customers aren't dressed as pigs, but they do wear pink. In this final scene, the choreographer hopes to convey the prodigal daughter's change of heart, which is difficult to do without words. Enna has dancer Jeanene Winston communicate by way of a pole. She propels herself up to dance, then to get away from droves of losers; her only means of escape is to wrap herself around the horizontal pole as it's carried off. The image bears an eerie resemblance to a piece of meat on a skewer.