In ‘Guardians,’ the Aquarium of the Pacific highlights ocean life through dance

Ten years ago, dancers from the Long Beach Ballet performed in the multimedia production of “Guardians” for the first time. Now, the ballet is returning to the Aquarium of the Pacific the first weekend in March.

In 2011, the Aquarium of the Pacific commissioned Long Beach Ballet Director David Wilcox to create a ballet that told the story of how our society is damaging our oceans and how marine life should be protected.

Wilcox created a tale we know all too well: Big business comes in to build, then the power of industry begins to pollute and destroy marine life. But in this ballet, the industry tycoon sees first-hand how his big payday has dire consequences for the ocean.

In 2011, Johnny Zhong was tasked to choreograph the critically acclaimed ballet. Now, he’s doing it again because he believes it’s an opportunity to show the value and importance of ocean life.

“For me, the ocean is a different world,” he said. “They are life. I think fish are much smarter than humans. They are more loving. They live in the same place and I think they are the best thing in this world.”

He says that passion is what helped him bring this ballet to life. “We don’t really care how they live,” he said. “We don’t care how they affect us as humans.”

Zhong says the technology of the new Honda Pacific Visions Theater will help tell the story and pull the audience in. Megan Wilcox, who is the returning lead in the ballet, said that the first rendition of “Guardians” required them to build a stage under the Aquarium’s iconic blue whale and use drapes to give the feel of the ocean.

But now, she says, the new theater will really draw the audience in.

“It’s a smaller stage,” said Wilcox. “It’s a circle. Normally, when you perform ballet it’s always a rectangle, which has been a little bit of a challenge.”

Both Wilcox and Zhong believe the stage is what is going to give the audience a truly unique experience. And both believe “Guardians” will allow the audience to gain a new understanding of both the Aquarium and the Long Beach Ballet.

“The arts don’t do super well in Southern California,” said Wilcox. But she is hopeful that “Guardians” will show those attending the value of the arts and why it is important to support their local ballet.

Zhong said it is important that we understand how we are harming the ocean. “This is the only thing I can do,” he said. “Choreograph the movements so the audience can see that it’s a problem. That it’s a very bad problem. And we have to address it soon or we’ll be losing more life. More fish life.”

Showtimes for “Guardians” are Friday, March 4, and Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 pm. Reserved seats are $65. You can purchase tickets here.

Extra Frames: The photos we didn’t publish this February

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Jackie Rae is a multimedia reporter for the Long Beach Post who joined in May 2021.
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