The same high waters that delighted boatmen over the weekend disappointed ballet dancers, whose prospects of performing on a floating stage sank as the Colorado River rose.
In a contrary display for Mother's Day, Mother Nature produced a heat wave that sent snowmelt gushing into Utah from the Rocky Mountains just in time to foil the first of the Canyon Classics performing arts series along the river shore near Moab.The turn of events disappointed the dancers and those who had traveled to see the Utah Ballet Company perform in a canyon setting, but judging by comments, the outcome was satisfying enough.
The performance, reset for Sunday evening at the Helen M. Knight School auditorium, drew hearty applause from the audience and praise from guest artist Michael Smuin of San Francisco and artistic director Attila Ficzere, a faculty member of the University of Utah ballet department.
"It was great. It was done with great enthusiasm," Smuin said. "I think Ficzere pulled it out of a hat. The university is lucky to have him."
Ficzere said the dance troupe had little more than 30 minutes of rehearsal on performance day, preceded by a late-night rehearsal in the hotel parking lot downtown.
The dozen dancers and about 70 concertgoers did not know until early Sunday that the outdoor show was off. The site, described as "an acoustically phenomenal grotto," was about 40 miles downriver beneath the Dead Horse Point overlook.
Office staff at Tag-A-Long Expeditions made dozens of cancellation calls Sunday morning after co-owner Bob Jones returned from a predawn inspection with news that the third and last available beach had succumbed overnight to rising waters.
"We woke up this morning and we were in water," said Geoffrey Panos, director of the U. College of Fine Arts Center in Moab. "We're happy for high water this year, but the river gods frowned on the ballet," he said.
Panos assisted a crew of six who spent three days readying the site and a 3,000-pound collapsible stage specially designed by the New York Ballet and custom-built by Oasis Stage Works of Salt Lake City for outdoor performances.
Another natural disaster also befell the ballet company in advance of the performance. Ficzere said two ballerinas had to be cut from one of the dances because one suffered an ankle injury last Thursday.
"It was an experience, but it's show business," Ficzere said. "The show must go on."
Mothers who attended were rewarded with red roses the ballerinas handed out afterward, compliments of Tag-A-Long, the university, and co-sponsors KUTV and KUER of Salt Lake City, and the Utah Opera.
Jones, welcoming the audience, reflected a good-natured acceptance of the natural misfortunes also evident among the participants during and after the performance.
The performance, set against a stark black backdrop, opened with four dancers in classic costume performing the "Pas de Quatre," first staged in London during the romantic era of 1845.
The repertoire also included Peasant Pas de Deux (Act I, "Giselle"); Romanza Pas de Deux, and Gounod Variations.
Ficzere said the ceiling was a bit low, and ballet mistress Dianna Cuatto said the stage was a bit small - usually she dances on one twice that size. But everyone was eager to perform and did a good job.
Tag-A-Long treated the troupe to a long tour of Arches National Park to lift spirits before Sunday's ballet.
"It's sad so many people were looking forward to the wilderness experience. But the staff said there wasn't anyone who wasn't understanding," Jones said after the ballet.
Some dancers found slippery spots on the stage, and early in the performance, one lost her slipper while leaping in place. She rolled her eyes and continued the leaps, inspiring exclamations and applause.
"We're disappointed we didn't go down the river, but this is very, very beautiful," said Terry Powell of American Fork, who rounded up the family for the Moab ballet after reading about it the previous Sunday in the Deseret News.
The Powells said they will try again next year.