Contributed by Rachel Hanson
Ballet West has opened their 09/10 season with Song’s of the Valley, Three Preludes, and The Dream. Each ballet is quite different -- and all but one is a nice start to what promises to be an interesting season.
Songs of the Valley wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I want to see a ballet about Utah Pioneers as much as I want to see a ballet about the trials and tribulations of Jesus Christ. I especially had difficulty with one of the “songs” titled I bought me a Cat, as it equated the “cuteness” of buying farm animals to that of purchasing a wife, who literally eats out of her husband’s hands. Granted, Aaron Copeland composed Old American Songs in the 1952, and the ballet was actually choreographed in 1976, so a little misogyny is to be expected. But it’s 2009, so why perform this ballet at all? I guess I’ll play devil’s advocate and say this much: I understand why a certain Utah crowd would be interested in this ballet, and I imagine it isn’t easy to be in the business of playing to that crowed.
Ben Stevenson’s Three Preludes was absolutely beautiful, and Romi Beppu and Michael Bearden executed this piece with perfection. This intrinsic pas de deux was by far one of the most stunning pieces of the night. The costumes were plain and the backdrop stark, but the grand piano (sole musical accompaniment) at the back corner of the stage hinted that this ballet would be anything but plain. Although Three Preludes is a plot-less ballet, it does have a theme that plays with the idea of what it means to be a dancer. The piece begins at a ballet barre with a female and male dancer working on either side, the dancing then takes them away from the barre for less restricted steps. The theme may be simplistic, but the dancers danced this piece with pure passion and excellence, making it impossible to remove your eyes from their movements.
In The Dream, one could feel the chaos and humor of Shakespeare’s play come to life on the stage. Sara Webb was a flawless Titania, and John Frazer (Bottom) brought comedy to the stage with ease. Christopher Sellers’ Puck was vibrant and often seemed to steal the stage. The set was ethereal and elegant, as one might expect for a ballet set to a Shakespeare play. The peak of this ballet was the pas de deux, which was absolutely lovely, and had an almost harsh feeling of give and take between dancers Webb and Christopher Rudd (Oberon). The Dream offers a wonderful mix of classical and what might have once been considered, contemporary movements, which Ballet West dancers performed superbly.