CUYAHOGA FALLS — What better way to leave the ground than with ballet slippers, flying to Neverland?

Dancers with Ballet Excel Ohio, at 2315 State Road in Cuyahoga Falls, will perform Peter Pan at the Akron Civic Theatre, 182 South Main Street in Akron, March 9 at 2 and 7 p.m. and March 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in person or by calling 330-253-2488.

The March performance will open with Symphonic NANsense, a ballet choreographed by Tom Gold. Set to familiar music by Leroy Anderson, the colorful ballet comprises seven short pieces all designed to celebrate the Ballet Excel Ohio's beloved late founding artistic director, Nan Klinger.

Nan's daughter, Mia Klinger, current artistic director of Ballet Excel Ohio, said the company last performed Peter Pan in 2008, more than 10 years ago.

The ballet is a retelling of Sir James Barrie's classic tale about a boy who never grows up and takes Wendy and her brothers on an adventure in Neverland with lost boys and pirates led by Captain Hook.

Choreographed by Laszlo Berdo, the children have been working on their dance technique as well as acting expression and gestures to convey the story.

"When they get to the [Akron Civic] theater, they have to come to a higher level of energy and acting to reach the back of the balcony," Klinger said. "Acting has to be tenfold to fill the entire theater."

Klinger says the story is about character more than technique.

Members of the ballet company range in age from 8 to 18 with different skill levels of dancing. Peter Pan is portrayed by Jade Blankenship, 13, who attends Hudson Middle School and has studied ballet for 10 years.

Jade said that when performing, there is too much excitement to be nervous.

"I like to do the sword fight with Captain Hook," Jade said.

Wendy is portrayed by two dancers. Vivian Gray, 13, attends Miller South School for Visual & Performing Arts and has studied ballet for 9 years. Maggie Stone, 13, attends Bolich Middle School and has studied ballet for 3 years.

Vivian said she likes all the acting and interaction with other characters and enjoys jumping.

"I like the pirate scene where they capture Wendy," Vivian said. "There's a lot of acting in it."

Maggie said Wendy is the mother figure who cares for her brothers and the lost boys.

"I have a little sister and I love taking care of her," Maggie said. "It helps me with this role."

The ballet shows how adventurous Wendy was and how much she enjoyed Neverland, Maggie said.

"I know all the passion she puts into the adventure she goes on," Maggie added.

John is portrayed by Lex Zorich, 12, who attends Miller South School with 6 years of ballet.

John is the smarter brother in the iconic tale, and Lex says he enjoys the scene where they escape from Captain Hook.

Captain Hook is portrayed by Abigail Mathews, 16, and is home schooled. She has 12 years of ballet.

Abigail says the villainous part pushes her out of her normal personality.

"The dancing is a lot of fun and acting is a big part of the ballet, especially when she scares John, Michael and Wendy," Abigail said.

Tinkerbell is portrayed by Elizabeth Coughlin, 14, who attends Revere Middle School, She has 11 years of ballet experience.

Elizabeth said she has learned to dance with wings — which can sometimes bump her head in the head.

"I love interacting with all the characters," Elizabeth said.

Nana, the dog, is portrayed by Lilyann Arnold, 12, who attends Tallmadge Middle School. She has eight years of ballet.

Ballet Excel Ohio performances are original works for children, by children. The only adults are Mr. and Mrs. Darling, portrayed by Bob Peyak and Shani Ferry, and the crocodile, by Shawn Arnold.

Lost boys include Lisa Akin, Lilyann Arnold, Rebecca Banig, Brieahn Beckett, Wendy Moreno-Garcia, Darya Olefir, Madeline Pierce, Madison Teets, Brooke Wagner and Adalyn Zorich.

Pirates include Vivian Gray or Maggie Stone, Jenna Harris, Jonathan McCray, Julia Pentasuglio, Emma Simms, Brooke Wagner, Danielle Castle, Emma Doucet, Ellie Ferry and Hannah Kennell.

Pirate Moppers include Nadia Lanham, Ariana Moneskey-Jones, Hayley Moore, Layla Motley, Ellie Pildner, Addison Schmeltzer and Clara Woods.

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Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or