The music of Dragon & the Night Queen: the Irish Flute

We are so excited about the unique music in our upcoming show: Dragon & the Night Queen: Celtic Stories! There are over a dozen instruments and vocals in 5 different languages in this show. Contributing to the Celtic sound of the show is the Irish flute, played by internationally-renowned master of traditional Irish music Eliot Grasso.

The Irish flute is a 6-holed transverse wooden flute, directly descended from the standard classical flute of the 19th century. Like the whistle, what is unique to the Irish Flute is not the instrument itself, but the way of playing it. The Irish flute has the same fingering of a tin whistle.


19th century classical flute


Celtic tin whistle


Irish flute


The Irish flute is a simple system flute held horizontally while played. The flute plays a C-Major scale as tone holes are successively uncovered. The Irish flute has a distinctly different pitch from the Western concert flute due to its wooden construction and keyless fingering in addition to the use of the player’s facial muscles and unique shaping of the lips. Most Irish flute players tend to strive for a dark and reedy (high and thin) tone in comparison to classical flautists. Flutes currently made for Celtic and folk music resemble the wooden flutes of the 19th century, with large holes and tend to be limited to only a few keys, or none whatsoever. This strange hybrid that brings together the characteristics of a 19th-century classical flute and a baroque flute is what is known today as the Irish flute. The present-day Irish flute, a simple six-hole model, is capable of playing traditional Irish melodies without requiring challenging cross-fingerings on the part of the player.

Click here to see a video of an Irish flute in action!


All You Need to Know About The Morrigan

According to archeological evidence, the Morrigan dates back to before the Copper Age (3500 – 2300 BC). She has an Irish mythological origin, which directly translates her name to “Great Queen,” although some know her as the “Phantom Queen.” During this time, life was characterized by the usage of tools, jewelry and other goods made of copper; and the Morrigan served as The Great Goddess of Europe.


The Morrigan was not only a goddess to bird, but to the Earth, as well. She had the ability to use her breasts to not only attend to the living, but also revive the dead; this made her a giver of life and a sustainer of life for all.

An important ability of the Morrigan is that she is able to transform herself into the form of a crow. When she is in this form, she is the representation of the Goddess of Death. This gives the Morrigan the ability to have a bird’s eye view above the world below and on the battlefield, where she can be present. She was seen as a war deity and proudly owns the virtues of battle, strife and sovereignty. She has been described in early works as “a monster in female form, that is, the Morrigan.”


The Celts had believed that as they were on the battlefield, the Morrigan, in her bird-form, would fly over while shrieking for all to hear. After a battle, the warriors would leave the battlefield until dawn in order to give the Morrigan her territory. In this time, she would feast on the bodies of left behind soldiers and claim her trophies (often which were heads).

The Morrigan often appears in forms of three and can be considered a triple goddess. She can emerge as three sisters: Morrigan, Badb, and Macha. There have been many different tales and interpretations of the three sisters. Some say that the Morrigan was able to shapeshift into three separate people. Another is that the Morrigan is one sister in the triad. Despite the tale of the trio, the three sisters were able to become an unstoppable on the battlefield. In Ballet Fantastique’s adaptation of the Morrigan, they will symbolize the trio as three Ravens.

See the Morrigan, along side the Night Queen Rhiannon, come to life in the upcoming show of The Dragon & the Night Queen performed by Eugene’s Ballet Fantastique. Fans will be able to attend the show in Florence, OR, in addition to Eugene, OR beginning February 20th and continuing the weekend of the 26th through the 28th. Be sure to purchase tickets to this magic show; you won’t want to miss it, or the appearance of The Morrigan. (Click here for ticket details)


The Night Queen: Rhiannon

Here at BFan headquarters we are busy preparing for our upcoming show: Dragon & the Night Queen: Celtic Stories, opening in Florence, OR, on February 20th, then coming to Eugene’s Hult Center February 26-28th! (Get your tickets here!) This brand new, all original ballet draws inspiration from medieval Celtic legends, including the legend of the Rhiannon. Charlotte_Guest_Rhiannon

The Night Queen Rhiannon is the Celtic goddess of the moon as well as fertility, wisdom, inspiration, and the night. The name “Rhiannon” means “Divine Queen” in Welsh, making her the Divine Queen of the Fairies. The ultimate time to worship Rhiannon is at night, when the moon is at its highest point according to Celtic tradition.

In Celtic tradition, Rhiannon is often affiliated with a white horse, which she is often seen riding in many illustrations. Her white horse is symbolic for her role as a moon deity and as a leader. In Celtic legends, Rhiannon is described as a prominent beauty, draped in rich colors such as gold, silver, and ruby.

According to medieval texts, the story of the goddess Rhiannon begins at her father’s crystal castle, where the two ruled over the land of fairies. There, her father arranged a marriage for his daughter, but Rhiannon, being a believer in true love, refused to marry a man of her own kind that she did not love. Instead, Rhiannon wished to marry Prince Pwyll (poo-ul), a mortal. The two had met when Pwyll stood on a Tor which surrounded his castle with his friends. Tors were grassy mounds thought to be magical places, perhaps covering the entrance to the fairy world, which most people avoided. Once Pwyll stepped foot on the Tor, Rhiannon appeared on her white horse, dressed in glittering gold, and rode past Pwyll without even glancing at him. Pwyll was instantly enchanted and intrigued. Against his friends recommendations, he sent a servant to chase after her. But, the goddess was too fast for him and got away. The next day, Pwyll stood on the same Tor and waited for Rhiannon to appear. Once she did, she again gave Pwyll no attention and continued to ride away. Pwyll was determined, so he went on a chase. After becoming exhausted, he finally called out to the goddess, and in that moment Rhiannon stopped her horse and smiled. She informed him that she had appeared to him to seek his love. The Prince insisted that she come to his palace with him, but Rhiannon declined and told him that she would return in a year to marry him. Then, she vanished into the forest.

A year later, Rhiannon returned to the Tor where she met Pwyll with his friends. She led them into the forest to her crystal castle, where they had a beautiful wedding ceremony. At the celebration that followed, the man the her father had arranged for Rhiannon to marry caused a scene, claiming that the wedding was not right. Rhiannon swiftly turned the man into a badger, put him in a bag, and threw him in the lake surrounding her castle. Unfortunately, the badger would later cause much trouble for the newlyweds.

After the wedding, Rhiannon left with Pwyll to return to his castle. Leaving the fairy world was difficult for the goddess, but she was excited for her new life with the Prince. Initially, the people welcomed the beautiful goddess with open arms, but after two years and no child to be heir to the throne, the people turned on her and refused to praise her as their queen. Fortunately, the next year, the queen gave birth to a son. While the new mother was resting, servants were put in charge of caring for the baby. One night, the servants fell asleep and awoke to an empty crib. The servants panicked and decided to put the blame on Rhiannon, an outsider queen. The servant smeared blood on her hands and cried out that the the queen had killed her own son. A grief stricken Pwyell listened to his citizens and punished Rhiannon to spend seven years wearing a horse collar in a cage outside of the palace. She would have to carry each person wishing the reach the castle and tell the story of her “crime’.

Four years had passed without Rhiannon ever complaining. One fine day a nobleman, his wife, and a small boy came to the palace gates. To her surprise, the man lifted Rhiannon and placed her on his horse. The boy then handed Rhiannon a piece of a gown, which she instantly recognized as the infant gown that she had sewn her son with her own two hands. Rhiannon looked into the boy’s eyes and recognized them as her husband’s. She rejoiced and thanked the family for raising her son returning him to her. According to many legends, the man who had been turned into a badger by Rhiannon had kidnapped the small child and taken him to a field where the family found the newborn.

The goddess Rhiannon was restored to her honor and returned to her place next to her husband. Although the people had caused her to suffer tremendously for four years, Rhiannon recognized their shame and forgave everyone who caused her pain.

The story of the Celtic goddess Rhiannon reminds people of the healing powers forgiveness and love for yourself and others. The goddess Rhiannon is a goddess of change and transformation who demonstrates that with good intentions and love, one can truly transform into something magical. Rhiannon also encourages people to seek answers to their questions, listen to their instincts, and to not let doubt consume one’s life.

References: Heroes of the Dawn: Celtic Myth by Fergus Fleming Celtic Mythology by J.A. MacCulloch The Mabinogion by Lady Charlotte Guest

All About the Uilleann Pipe

Ballet Fantastique is so excited to have Eliot Grasso, widely considered to be among the greatest living players of traditional Irish music, providing live musical accompaniment for our upcoming show: Dragon & the Night Queen: Celtic Stories! Eliot will play several instruments unique to Ireland in the show, including the Uilleann pipe.

The Uilleann pipe, pronounced “illin,” is the earliest type of bagpipe from Ireland. The origination of the name is from the Irish word for elbow. This is a rather fitting name, as the uilleann pipes are not like the traditional Scottish bagpipes. The traditional Scottish bagpipe that many of us have seen differs from the Irish version in that the Scottish pipes are blown into with the mouth. There is a larger sack, or “hide bag,” that is slung over the shoulder and has a blowpipe protruding from the top, and a pipe, or “chanter,” on the underside of the hide sack. One would blow into the blowpipe and fill up the sac, and as the air escapes, simultaneously play the pipe to alter the sound, much like a clarinet. This video gives a good demonstration on the basics of a Scottish bagpipe. On the other hand, the Uilleann pipes are played sitting down and the elbows and fingers are the main navigators as opposed to the mouth. The right elbow is placed on the “bellow”, the sack that gathers air, and then the left elbow is placed above the “bag,” which then feeds that air to the pipe. The pipe, or chanter, has holes which can be covered and uncovered to create a sound, much like a recorder or flute.  This is a video showing the intricate methods of playing this pipe,


There is much speculation of the origin of bagpipes. However, there is convincing evidence proving that the area of origination is the Middle East, specifically Turkey (dating back to 10,000 BC!). The bagpipes were played all over the Middle East and the Mediterranean by artists, emperors, and scholars alike. This versatile wind instrument eventually made its way over to the British Isles during the Roman rule. Once the bagpipes were brought over to these parts, the Irish did not have a positive initial reaction, taking them a few decades to warm up to this new instrument; the earliest recorded use was around 1206. Around the late 1500s is when the Irish decided to customize the pipes and diverged away from the traditional bagpipe that we know of today, thus the Uilleann pipes were born. The Irish pipes were played for multiple occasions, mainly for religious or social events. Many armies across countries use the bagpipes as their official instruments to supplement their ceremonies, which could have been influenced by the ancient Celtic peoples. The Celts would use their bagpipes during times of war to help muster up courage and strength in their troops, while instilling fear in their enemies. Around the mid-20th century, the United States picked up on this and ever since the bagpipes have been present in many military related events.

Meet Anthony!

MEET: Anthony Rosario

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Anthony Rosario was born in the Dominican Republic, and moved to New York City at the age of three. He started dancing when he was fifteen at Ballet Hispanico, and studied ballet, flamenco, jazz, Latin jazz, and modern. Anthony danced flamenco professionally with Flamenco Revolution, during which time he performed at Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts and various theaters in New York City. In 2010, Anthony received a full scholarship for Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet (GKA). Anthony graduated from the Academy and joined the Studio Company, The Gelsey Kirkland Ballet (GKB) in 2013. Anthony has danced various demi-soloist, soloist, and principal roles in GKA’s and GKB’s performances. Anthony performed in repertory including The Nutcracker, Raymonda, Le Corsaire, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Marius Petipa’s Harlequinade, as well as works by the Danish choreographer Auguste Bournonville, such as La Ventana, Ballabile, and Jocky Dance. Anthony also taught ballet on faculty at the Gelsey Kirkland Academy Summer Intensive. In October 2014, Anthony competed in the New York Flamenco Certamen–a Flamenco competition held at Lincoln Center, New York City–and won 2nd place. Anthony continues to study Flamenco in his spare time, and recently traveled to Spain to study under Raquel Heredia, a very respected dancer in the Flamenco world. This will be his first season with Ballet Fantastique.

BFAN: Hometown?

Anthony: Bronx, New York

BFAN: What are you looking for in your BFAN experience?

Anthony: A new experience and growth.  

BFAN: What do you do on your weeks off?

Anthony: Read, do flamenco, go to church, and hang out with my friends and family!

BFAN: What are your three favorite things?

Anthony: Spending time with family and friends, nature and outdoors, and flamenco.

BFAN: What inspires you to perform?

Anthony: My desire to touch people’s hearts and souls.

BFAN: How would your friends describe you in three words?

Anthony: Compassionate, understanding, and joyous.  

BFAN: Who’s your superhero?

Anthony: Jesus Christ.  

BFAN: What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Anthony: Wasting time!

BFAN: Describe your worst dance day.  

Anthony: When things just don’t want to work…I keep trying but it gets worse! That’s a real bad day!

BFAN: Describe your best dance day.

Anthony: Have a good Russian class! Somewhat slow but with free movement! Work on technique yet be able to express what I’m feeling.  Everything would be done clean and simple! That’s what I like!

BFAN: Where do you imagine yourself in ten years?

Anthony: Dancing Flamenco seriously in New York City or in Spain!  My dream is to travel all over the world and share my passion, love, and desire to touch people’s hearts.

BFAN: If you weren’t a dancer what would you be?

Anthony: A nutritionist.

BFAN: What is your life motto or mantra?

Anthony: Be kind to everyone, for everyone is going through their own storm.  

Meet Martino!

MEET: Martino Sauter

Martino started his training at the Conservatory of Dance and Theatre in Galax, Virginia under the direction of Barbara Johnson. Soon after, Martino found his passion and went away to prestigious schools, such as The Rock School for Dance Education and Joffrey Ballet. He then continued his dance education at the renowned Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts in Torrington CT, from which he later graduated. While at Nutmeg, Martino trained under Eleanor D’Antuono, Victoria Mazzarelli, Kirk Peterson and Timothy Melady. Upon graduation from Nutmeg, he signed a contract with Ballet Metropolitan in Columbus, Ohio. He also joined MOMIX Dance Theatre; while with MOMIX, Martino performed all over the US and Europe. Martino has performed soloist and principal roles from many classical and contemporary ballets, including: The Nutcracker, La Bayadere, Giselle, and Swan Lake. He has also guested for many other productions with various companies.


BFAN: Hometown?

Martino: Galax, Virginia.

BFAN: What are you looking for in your BFAN experience?

Martino: Opportunity, growth, and challenge.

BFAN: What do you do on your weeks off?

Martino: Rest, shop, and take class!

BFAN: What inspires you to perform?

Martino: I feel that I am giving back when I perform.  Some people rarely get to see the ballet so it’s nice to be able to give them the full experience and more.

BFAN: How would your friends describe you in three words?

Martino: Trustworthy, hardworking, and honest.

BFAN: Who’s your superhero?

Martino: My dad.

BFAN: What’s your kryptonite?

Martino: Peanut Butter.

BFAN: Where do you imagine yourself in ten years?

Martino: On stage!

BFAN: If you weren’t a dancer what would you be?

Martino: I would be a clinical psychologist.

BFAN: What is your life motto or mantra?

Martino: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

BFAN: What are you most looking forward to with working with BFan?

Martino: I am hoping to gain knowledge of other dance styles and to grow as a dancer-become stronger and more versatile.  

Meet our new dancers!

As BFan’s new 15-16 Season: SPELLBOUND nears, we are beyond excited to welcome 5 (!) new faces to our company!  Donna and Hannah auditioned nearly one hundred dancers from across the world for their fit with our unique personality and inimitable brand of contemporary ballet theater, and now we get to share a little about who these awesome dancers are with our BFans.  Get ready for a completely Fantastique season—these dancers are gonna knock your socks off.

MEET: Summer Reed

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Summer is from New Salem, Pennsylvania. She began her ballet training locally, expanding to include studying privately with Mansur Kamaletdinov, former principal dancer and acting director of the Bolshoi Ballet and summer training at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. In 2011, Summer joined Kentucky Ballet Theater(KBT) as a Trainee and advanced to Apprentice in 2013. While with KBT, she had the privilege of dancing many soloist roles, including those in Nisi Dominus andBoleros; Demon Queen in Dracula; Mercedes in Carmen; Canary Fairy in Sleeping Beauty; and Arabian, Nutcracker Doll, and Spanish in The Nutcracker. This past season, Summer danced with the Grand Rapids Ballet company under the direction of Patricia Barker. She was honored to have the opportunity perform several soloist roles, including Arabian in The Nutcracker, after being chosen to work closely with renowned choreographers, including Val Caniparoli, Sagi Gross, and Gina Patterson. Summer is very excited to be joining Ballet Fantastique and is looking forward to a great season!

BFAN: Hometown?

Summer: New Salem, Pennsylvania.

BFAN: Three favorite things?

Summer: My dog, baking, and good movies.

BFAN: Describe your worst/best dance day (real or imagined)?

My worst dance day would be when everyone has a bad attitude around you or when someone doesn’t like you, that’s the worst.  My best day would be when I learn a lot or rehearse well.

BFAN: What inspires you to perform?

Summer: Rehearsing. I would much rather be in the studio rehearsing and learning than performing in front of so many people!

BFAN: How would your friends describe you in three words?

Summer: Crazy, easy going, and hard headed.

BFAN: If your life were a song, what would the title be?

Summer: “A Beautiful Disaster”

BFAN: Who’s your superhero?

Summer: My parents.

BFAN: What’s your kryptonite?

Summer: My two best friends-Emily and Kelsey.

BFAN: Where do you imagine yourself in ten years?

Summer: Don’t know. Just going with it.

BFAN: If you weren’t a dancer what would you be?

Summer:  A horse trainer.  It’s what my family does.

BFAN: What is your life motto or mantra?

Summer: Just keep swimming.

BFAN: What are you most looking forward to with working with BFan?

Summer: The creativity and growing as an artist and not just as a technical dancer.