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It seems that producing an evening of tried-and-true classics should be an easy lock. But even when the most appreciable elements of choreography, dancers and music are in place, the success of restaging archetypal work is ultimately about interpretation.

The "classics" in Ballet West's "Iconic Classics" program are only one generation removed from present day and still under the microscope for things like giving enough credit to previous influences. But I tend to agree with famed choreographer Twyla Tharp, who compares innovation to scratching away at a lottery ticket: "I'm digging through everything to find something. Scratching can look like borrowing or appropriating, but it's an essential part of creativity."

Of the three landmark ballets on the season-opening program, BW on opening night was at its best interpreting Jirí Kylián's "Overgrown Path." Internalizing Kylián's signature sensibilities is as tricky as pinpointing Jerome Robbins' trouble-free swagger in "Fancy Free" or adding bite to George Balanchine's "Symphony in C."

"Overgrown Path" is a large ensemble work where dancers connect as if by chance in passing pas de deux and trios, never staying long. Kylián applies a delicate touch to the transitory meetings to reflect composer Leos Janácek's real-life suffering at the loss of his two children in separate events that inspired the cyclical piano solo, exquisitely performed live by Jed Moss.

Perhaps the ensemble offered privacy for such exceptional dancers as Rex Tilton, who often holds back emotionally, to emerge powerfully in the intimate pas de deux with Beckanne Sisk. The entire opening-night cast was strong. Arolyn Williams' tiny frame skimmed across the floor and wrapped itself into the arms of her partner. But it was Jenna Rae Herrera for whom "Overgrown Path" provided a breakout moment. The ballet begins simply with seven dancers standing still, facing stage right, suddenly tossing their hands forward. Herrera's unrestrained throw immediately caught my eye as a signal of something to watch for in the future.

Another rising star, demi-soloist Alexander McFarlan, has grown up in front of BW audiences since his arrival in 2007. His shoulders have gotten broader, he's become a reliable partner and his effortful work has turned meaningful. At the same time, McFarlan's enduring youthfulness added a measure of vulnerability and hopefulness to "Overgrown Path."

Balanchine's "Symphony in C," a piece that looks more like a celebration than a ballet, was the perfect vehicle for principal Katherine Lawrence. Her ideal balance of upper-body and leg strength give her easy access to the quick-footed steps in Third Movement. Leading First Movement, Emily Adams' statuesque posture can read as aloof, and on Friday she didn't hold on to the movement's signature turns. What I missed most in BW's interpretation of "Symphony in C" was the sexy bite of Balanchine to give the tutu a tilt and the piece its personality. Fortunately, conductor Tara Simoncic kept the Ballet West Orchestra at a lively tempo.

The interpretation of Robbins' "Fancy Free" could have been freer. The women character dancers, listed in the program as passers-by, brought charm and panache to the Broadway-style narrative. But it almost seemed as if rehearsal director Kipling Houston, répétiteur for the Jerome Robbins Foundation who worked directly with Robbins and Balanchine, had gotten too far inside the heads of Adrian Fry, Joshua Whitehead and Chase O'Connell — although O'Connell managed a healthy dose of ease and humor. It's a ballet I look forward to seeing again when these dancers own it more completely. —

'Iconic Classics'

In Ballet West's successful interpretation of three landmark ballets, the company pinpoints Jerome Robbins' trouble-free swagger in "Fancy Free," reveals passionate strife in Jirí Kylián's "Overgrown Path" and dances its heart out in George Balanchine's spectacular "Symphony in C."

When • Reviewed Friday, Nov. 6; continues Nov. 11-14, 7:30 p.m.; and Nov. 14, 2 p.m.

Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City

Running time • 2:20 with two intermissions

Tickets • $20-$80; ArtTix, http://www.balletwest.org, 801-869-6900 or the box office; discounts for groups of 15 or more at 801-869-6900

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