Spring brings Ballet West's annual presentation of new works by choreographer start-ups a concept that has grown more sophisticated over its five-year history.
Ballet West is not unique in looking to develop potential or even strike gold and uncover leading-edge talent among its members. What is different about this program is that it continues to cultivate in-house aptitude, rather than become a "new works" festival for up-and-coming outsiders.
These nubile dance-makers are all veteran dancers who intimately know the work of master choreographers from Petipa to Forsythe, but translating that knowledge is a distinctly different process, so it is always a gamble. But the creative payoff was well worth the risk this year with a full spectrum of ideas, exceptional production values and a supportive audience.
The one professionally choreographed ballet on the program "Grand Synthesis" by Susan Shields, premiered in 2008 on the first "Innovations" program. It remains an elegant and original work, highlighting the company as a whole. The costumes, however, need some serious reconsideration. The costumes throughout the rest of the evening were fresh, innovative and enhanced the work.
Of the Ballet West dancer-choreographers, Aidan DeYoung's "Eenvoudig" had the most distinctive movement style. He found original pathways to travel the movement and added extraordinary details, such as when Katie Critchlow hit each of the wings with her hand as she walked forward on the stage. Dancer Sayaka Ohtaki informed the movement with her musicality and physical commitment.
Dancer-choreographer Emily Adams is a master at transitions. Her piece, "Forces At Play," was like a ballet turned inside out. The transitions from section to section were so clever they became subplots within the story until the end, which purposefully had no clear transition to close the piece.
The structure of "Forces At Play" was fascinating, and it wasn't just skillful invention. The choreography within the piece was substantive and the performance of it was exceptionally clean.
The reworking of Michael Bearden's 2010 "Innovations" piece "Descent" was a huge undertaking and was mostly successful. The 45-minute, one-act, story ballet achieved Bearden's goal of creating interest in a story with all the struggle, betrayal and tragic conflict of the Russian Imperial era in which it was set.
Dancer Katherine Lawrence gave a rich and expressive performance, and strongly carried the piece. Beau Pearson owns the part of the Black Prince, and the child parts were well danced and acted. The prop of the hangman's noose has got to go. It is unnecessary, distracting and somewhat offensive.
Easton Smith's "With You" had many nice theatrical touches, but didn't hold together as a finished piece of choreography.
But as a first attempt, it held its own.
Ballet West's 'Innovations'
A strong, varied and enjoyable evening of ballet, although probably a little too long.
When • Reviewed Friday, May 18; continues May 23-26, 7:30 p.m.; with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, May 26
Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center's Jeanne Wagner Theatre, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $50, at 801-355-2787; www.arttix.org.
Running time • Two hours, 30 minutes, with two intermissions
On the program • A restaging of guest choreographer Susan Shields' "Grand Synthesis" from 2008. Plus four works by Ballet West dancers, an expansion of Michael Bearden's "Descent" from 2010; plus debuts of "Eenvondig" by Aidan DeYoung, "With You," by Easton Smith, and "Forces at Play," by Emily Adams.