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Joshua Burnham of Annapolis, Md., has the principal role of Colin Wolfe at the dress rehearsal for "Colin: Son, Marine, Hero" in Manassas, Va. The piece by Amy Wolfe is in honor of her son Colin who died while serving in Iraq, and will be part of the Manassas Ballet Theatre's La Boutique Fantasque and More at the Hylton Performing Arts Center on March 9 and 10. (Jeffrey Mankie / for Prince William Today)
Call it a non-traditional tribute to a fallen Marine, but for Gold Star mother Amy Wolfe, it's the perfect, personal way to honor her son.
Wolfe, the artistic director of the Manassas Ballet Theatre in Manassas, Va., will stage a four-movement dance tribute this weekend in memory of Lance Cpl. Colin Wolfe, an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, who was killed at 18 while deployed to Iraq in 2006.
Lance Cpl. Wolfe made the decision to join the Marine Corps as he watched the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he was just 14.
His mother said his years of ballet conditioning — begun when he was just two and a half — gave him extra strength when he entered the fleet. In training, she said, he was once the only Marine to finish a 15-mile run without taking off his pack.
"From the get-go, Colin credited all his years of ballet with helping him become a Marine," Wolfe said.
He was killed by a roadside bomb Aug. 30, 2006, near Habbaniyah, Iraq, just weeks into his first deployment.
The right opportunity to tell the Marine's story through dance came seven years later.
A close friend of Amy Wolfe's, composer Mark Menza, approached her about creating music for a new performance.
"As we were talking about what we wanted to have him compose, we came upon this idea to tell Colin's story, of his life and death," Wolfe said.
It was a daunting and emotional task, but Wolfe told local newspaper Prince William Today that she found solace in the work of creating beauty out of a personal tragedy. Choreography ideas for the piece came to her quickly, she said, as she remembered her son's boyhood and youth.
The first movement of the performance, Home, will feature a young dancer portraying Colin playing with his toys and practicing at baseball and ballet, Wolfe said. This segues into the second movement, Commitment, which shows the young man's decision to defend his country in the Marine Corps. In Love, the third movement, Colin is shown meeting his girlfriend, Kira Wolfe, just a month before he deployed. And the final movement, War, shows the Marine in MarPat desert utilities as he patrols the streets of Iraq before quietly exiting the stage.
The score Menza created for the piece features sounds and melodies familiar to all Marines: a 21-gun salute and pieces of the Marine Corps Hymn. It also includes strains of Don McLean's melancholy 1971 single American Pie.
"Colin had requested that if anything were to happen to him, that American Pie be played at his funeral," Wolfe said. "So we did that."
And Wolfe said she wanted to make sure that she maintained proper Marine Corps protocol when costuming for the performance, so she enlisted the help of one of Colin's friends, still on active-duty aboard Camp Lejeune, to help her out. He gave her the go-ahead and even mailed her a set of his own desert cammies, which dancer Joshua Burnham will wear to play Colin in the show.
The moving and patriotic tribute, part of a larger show titled La Boutique Fantasque, will be performed Saturday and Sunday at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. Wolfe said she expects a number of her son's Marine friends to attend, and even invited his unit commander to see the show.
Some may have trouble picturing the ruggedness of Marines and the grit of war as a delicate and technical ballet performance, but Wolfe said she had no problem making the medium work.
"It came together perfectly," she said. "Ballet is actually a very physically tough art form. It's a sport."