Utah Ballet presents itself to advantage in its winter concert, now going on at the University of Utah. There's a lot of good, even professional-looking dancing, and considerable showmanship in a pleasant short program of 19th century style, consisting of a pas de deux, pas de trois, pas de quatre and one concerted number.
One does long for a little modern spice to balance a program that has the Victorian vapors - full of deliberate, courtly, graceful movement to saccharine music (Pugni, Minkus, Delibes), sweet smiles, little pouts and exaggerated bows that often go on far too long.And if you believe with Balanchine that "ballet is woman," this is the show for you, since only two men appear all evening. No problem, they are good men, expert dancers. But the other men in the company might have had a walk-on or two to balance things up.
The opening "Pas de Quatre" is a classic worth reviving, with its chance to satirize the styles and rivalries of four great 19th century ballerinas - at least, the styles as choreographer Anton Dolin understood them to be. Much security and broadness of movement is needed to interpret these reigning queens of the ballet, who must surely have danced up a storm of competition with each other. Dianna Cuatto makes Marie Taglioni's personality live, but the others convey pallid ladies, preoccupied with the steps.
Conrad Ludlow's "Gounod Variations" is a charming piece, certainly more true to the spirit of that composer's Walpurgis Night than a witches' bacchanal would be. It's a pretty, waltzy dance that turns the eight-woman corps loose for stage-devouring sequences that allow them to travel and enjoy some free-wheeling movement.
Janette Link and Jamie Schuette form a complementary duo, in a partnership that seems to be pure enjoyment. Schuette is a strong, dependable dancer, and Link moves joyously, unphased by the challenging choreography with its many lifts. With her ready smile and confident, buoyant movement, she's an entertainer as well as a technician.
Balanchine's "Minkus Pas de Trois" has a carnival atmosphere, with touches of can-can joie de vivre. It's filled with Balanchine's individual movement language, and Ludlow has staged it convincingly for Kylene Mason and Stephanie Shaw, who move sharply and succinctly, conveying a sense of piquant verve. Schuette is again the strong and spirited partner. David Heuvel's beautiful vivid costumes in autumn shades are part of the show, as they are in most of the program numbers.
In a class by itself is the "Sylvia Pas de Deux," another Balanchine choreography that shows off the professionalism of Jennie Creer and Joseph Woelfel. Every movement is polished by this sparkling duo, who are ideally suited physically and remarkably attuned stylistically. Creer caps a flawless performance with a pizzicato sequence right on the beat, and Woelfel is an expert partner, spectacular in solo leaps and turns and strong in the lifts.