It's ballet with ropes for props and hip-hop moves.
Ballet West's "Innovations 2013," now in its sixth year, succeeds in opening up new possibilities.
Three finely-crafted works by Ballet West dancer-choreographers were framed by experienced choreographer Christopher Ruud's spare exploration of the human condition in "Trapped," and Jodie Gate's lush representation of unpredictability in "Mercurial Landscape."
The dancer-choreographers' compositions were honest and valuable efforts, each of them hitting the bull's-eye on their stated goals. Easton Smith constructed an elegant on-stage world through music, costumes and lighting to explore the limits of partnering in "Mechanism." Christopher Anderson's "Behind Closed Doors" investigated choreographic options by way of dancers' sizes and impulses. The live music by violinist Aubrey Woods and dancer Joshua Whitehead's performance were highlights in this work. "Spun" by Adrian Fry used short pieces of rope to examine the use of props on movement. The tension and release worked in the duet between Lindsay Duerfeldt and Alexander MacFarlan, but in general the experimental prop to discover the richly beautiful movement should have been left in the rehearsal studio.
If the ultimate goal of BW's "Innovations" program is to produce an important choreographer from within its ranks, Ruud just might be it. Ruud's first ballet, fortuitously titled "One," debuted at Ballet West's first annual Innovations program in 2008. In 2011 he premiered "Trapped," and in 2012 Ruud was awarded a Fellowship Initiative grant from the New York Choreographic Institute to create a new ballet. Last October as the new director of BW II, Ruud showed an impressive work-in-progress for the BW II dancers titled "Without Fall," which I look forward to seeing as a finished ballet.
For this year's performance Ruud reworked "Trapped," and while retaining its original message of the human condition, its personal story feels very real. Could it be that audiences know more about Ruud through his long history at BW and the docu-series "Breaking Pointe" on the CW network? Or is it that Ballet West has become a company of dancers who adapt quickly to new styles and ideas, comfortably fleshing them out on stage?
This premise is certainly borne out in guest choreographer Jodie Gates "Mercurial Landscape" which transgressed ballet's traditions while remaining based in the classical vocabulary. Chic costumes were the visual bridge between a deconstructed version of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" and the stylistic movement that rapidly evolves through eras ending in the rhythmic counterpoint of hip hop.
The Ballet West dancers' artistic and technical range has widened in recent years as they've tackled classic fairy tales by Frederick Ashton, neo-classical ballets by Balanchine and modern ballets by Jiri Kylian and William Forsythe. And "Innovations" reveals an inquisitive company of dancers open to new information, whether from seasoned professionals or even from their peers.
Ballet West 'Innovations'
Bottom Line • An entertaining and sophisticated look at new work by first-time and emerging choreographers.
When • reviewed May 17; continues May 18 and 22-25 at 7:30 p.m. and May 25 at 2 p.m.
Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $45; arttix.org or 801-355-ARTS.
Running time • Two hours with two ten minute intermissions.