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Dancing a Life: "Colin: Son, Marine, Hero"

Manassas Ballet Theatre's Amy Grant Wolfe celebrates her son in this evening-length work.
Joshua Burnham plays a Marine killed in Iraq in Colin, created by Amy Grant Wolfe and based on her son’s life and death. Photograph of Burnham by Melanie Beus.

Translating the ugliness of war into dance is never easy. In creating Colin: Son, Marine, Hero, Manassas Ballet Theatre artistic director Amy Grant Wolfe found her work made even more difficult by the subject: her own son’s death from a roadside bomb in Iraq. Six years after Colin died, composer Mark Menza, a friend of Wolfe’s, asked her to collaborate on a patriotic ballet. “I told him, ‘I’ve done patriotic pieces because of Colin—I don’t want it to be the same old thing,’ ” says Wolfe. “Then I thought: What if we make it about Colin?”

A one-act debuted at the Hylton Performing Arts Center to so much positive feedback that they decided to develop it into an evening-length dance, at Hylton November 7 through 9. The work follows Colin’s life, beginning with the young boy, then depicting his decision after 9/11 to join the Marines; his visit to the graves of ancestors who fought in World War II; his first love and Jewish faith; his military life; and his death and loved ones’ reactions.

To expand the piece, Wolfe asked Colin’s fellow Marines, friends, and family to share memories. She also decided that his death, originally not depicted, would likely be shown onstage—and she might dance her own part: “I’m teaching it to myself, though it may be too much emotionally.” In the end, Colin is a macro story told on a micro level: “When we say thousands have died, our minds can’t grasp that sense of thousands of boys loved by their family and friends, but when it’s presented as one story, we can.”

Purchase tickets ($15 to $45) at hyltoncenter.org.

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