Review: Ballet West Gala | Buzz Blog

Review: Ballet West Gala

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Ballet West flexed its muscle during Saturday's Gala, the yearly fundraiser to support their educational and artistic programs. The hour-long performance showcased snippets from the company's most famous repertoire, with a few surprises to boot.---

Each of the eight selections was carefully selected to highlight the company's wide-ranging strengths and aesthetic sensibilities, while simultaneously evoking a broad spectrum of emotion from the audience. To open, the first movement of Chaconne by choreographer George Blanchine—who also choreographed Ballet West's last production Carmina Burana—was feather-light. Lead Christiana Bennett, her thick red hair in contrast to her sheen white costume, made barely a sound as she owned the floor. Also joined by Beau Pearson, their performance was awe-inspiring.

Moving to a more jovial note, "Men's Regiment" from Balanchine's Stars & Stripes brought smiles to the Capitol Theatre's tuxedo-ed and dressed-to-kill. With a whirlwind of clockwise twirls, lead Christopher Sellers was encircled by 12 other white-gloved, feather-hatted soldiers as the piece climaxed. Alas, if only military service was always so gleeful. 

Strength in sheer numbers brought Defile to life, with over-40 of Ballet West Academy's sprite youth danced onstage in plain, yet colorful costumes. These  outreach and education students demonstrated tonight's mission more than program flyers could do justice for.

Not to be outdone, members of Ballet West II took the stage to perform Mingling, which had its world premier last September. Perhaps the most confounding vignette, it, however, moved quickly into the pas de deux, The Kermese in Bruges. Christopher Ruud danced the most entertaining male leads of the evening in this 160-year-old piece about courtship and love. Accompanied by the also-stunning Katherine Lawrence, they were dressed in elegant, yet folky 19th century Danish garb for their delightful duo.

The contemporary The Line starkly juxtaposed the former classic. Set to "Watusi War Drums"—giving the orchestra a well-deserved rest—over a dozen women linked arms in a line, tapping toes in rhythmic unison. Clad in black—matching the bare black stage—the troupe took our breath away and ended with them shouting "Hi-ya!" in unison.

Continually oscillating in tone, Dracula took the stage next. Count Dracula, performed by Beau Pearson, shared the stage with his brides, performed by Haley Henderson Smith and Jacqueline Straughan. The pas de trios was deeply seductive, yet darkly stirring because of Dracula's shear power over his female counterparts. 

To end on a lighter note, the fifth movement of Sinfonietta, previewed the upcoming Spring 2011 performance. Back-dropped by, what appeared to be, a Northern European landscape, the colorful, extravagant piece climaxed with seven soaring couples, who finally faced the landscape as the sun went down.

The elated, dressy crowd "Bravo"-ed to their hearts content before shuffling out and onward to the Grand American for cocktails, steaks and dancing—all in celebration of one of the nation's finest ballet ensembles.

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