To be the premier voice in dance theater, a company must challenge itself—which, ostensibly, also means challenging its audience. Ballet West says “yes” to this, offering three contemporary ballet pieces—all Utah premieres—in one evening.
First is Czech-born choreographer Jiri Kylian’s sweeping Sinfonietta. Weighted in European Expressionism, the piece shows galloping, leaping dancers and dueling duets with a bold landscape painting as backdrop. Next comes George Balanchine’s classic Chaconne, set to selections from Gluck’s Orfeo and Euridice. It especially soars during the court ballet sessions—dances strung together fluidly, yet each memorable. The leads are technically demanding, structurally magnificent parts that show off Balanchine’s Rococo stylings.
Finally, Nicolo Fonte’s Bolero is at once risky, modern and curious. It’s also industrial, this sensibility aided by the opening’s cross-sections of steel sheets and the dancers’ exaggerated gestures throughout. There are precise lines that require intense athleticism—definitively contemporary American in style. An examination of tempo, Fonte’s daring choreography juxtaposes slow and fast movement—and, as a whole, Ravel’s recurrent, building and recognizable score.
Fonte says, “There is a slow accumulation until the finale, when Ravel really lets go. It makes me think of a bacchanal—it becomes so life-affirming and rich. I’d been wanting for a long time to make a ballet that had a joyful nature, a ‘yes’ to it.” A red drape overtakes the stage and the lead is thrown directly into it as the conclusion. Yes.
For those who think ballet is stuffy, prepare to be challenged.