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In the Wings

JENNIFER MAHAL --

November 25, 2000

Bah! Humbug! The Christmas season is upon us, and we all know what

that means. Carols and Handel's Messiah. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and

"Frosty the Snowman" on the tube. And "The Nutcracker" and "A Christmas

Carol" performed by ballet companies.

Wait a minute. Since when is "A Christmas Carol" a ballet?

Since 1997, when George Martinovich, Brent Neumeyer and Stela Viorica

premiered the dancing Dickens story. The Newport-Mesa trio teamed up to

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(respectively) write the score for, orchestrate and choreograph the

Dickens story for Ballet Montmarte, of which Stela is the artistic

director.

The Dickens ballet came about when Stela asked George, a rock musician

and paralegal, to write music based on the story.

"They used to do the 'Nutcracker' every year," said George, who

watched his niece, then a principal dancer, perform with the ballet. "I

got sick of it."

Stela, who grew up in communist Romania, discovered Charles Dickens'

classic Christmas tale when George's sister, Agi, gave her a copy of the

book.

"We weren't allowed to read about Christmas [in Romania]," Stela said.

"This story became special to me."

Brent became involved after meeting George at a party -- but not just

any party.

"George and I first met on Christmas Eve six years ago," Brent said.

"He said he had written this ballet and asked me to listen to the tape."

Brent, a former teacher, liked what he heard. After seeing Stela's

work with Ballet Montmarte, he decided to help out. Brent took George's

music and orchestrated it.

Brent really pushed the ballet through, said Stela and George.

"When [Brent] said let's produce this ballet, I said, 'We need money;

we need this; we need that,' " Stela said. "He was the one who said 'Do

it!' "

"It's not easy," Brent said. "It's been a lot of blood, sweat and

tears."

But the end result has pleased all three and three years of audiences.

"George and I were worried the year it debuted," Brent said.

But after hearing people come out of the performance whistling the

music, the worry dissipated.

George knew it was something special when friends from bars he played

came to see the performance and loved it.

"It touched them on some level," he said.

Stela said doing such a male-oriented ballet -- between Scrooge, Bob

Cratchit and other roles there are eight male parts -- has been a

challenge. But even more challenging has been finding ballet dancers who

can act.

"They need to be complete artists, not just dancers," Stela said.

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