Classicists should have no complaints about the program with which Ballet West winds up its current season. Indeed, the two classic works from opposite ends of the spectrum - 19th century Russian and 20th century Balanchine - separated by an exotic novelty, should please the most conservative tastes. Yet all three are danced with the sort of exhilaration and spirit that maintain their freshness.
The company begins with the magical second act of "Swan Lake," in John Hart's staging, which differs from the company's previous setting by Denise Schultze only in minor details. One may assume that both versions descend quite directly from the Ivanov original. This performance is a preview of the full-length "Swan Lake" destined to open next season in September.Daniela Buson and Marcello Angelini led the opening night cast as the enchanted swan queen Odette and Prince Siegfried, and as always with these two it's more than just dancing. Their natural chemistry, their dramatic intensity and loving attention to every detail make theirs an engrossing, total performance. Buson moves with the most fluent grace and energy, poised and confident, and Angelini ardently complements her every movement.
The corps of swans is generally precise, though one sensed a loosening of the reins, with more freedom perhaps, and softer lines, which may be a good thing in some ways. One gauge of this is the movement of the Cygnets, who look a little looser-jointed in this version, though well on the beat. Yet one did wish for sharper head movements. And one sees rather too much of Von Rothbart, who is forever about, waving his wings; a few spectacular surprise appearances would count for more than a continual nagging presence.
Terence Kern and the Utah Symphony offer ideal support with their sensitive traversal of the beloved Tchaikovsky score and melting violin and cello solos by Ralph Matson and Ryan Selberg that are the epitome of romance.
Balanchine's "Symphony in C" is a big, brilliant showpiece as energetic and sunny as its music, which unabashedly follows a routine: a leading couple, two secondary couples and corps of six women for each movement, concluding with a full-scale finale for all the dancers. Yet within this framework Balanchine gave each couple and corps something individual to do, always keeping to the spirit of Bizet's youthful music without falling into patterns or ever becoming boring. Few other choreographers can maintain interest throughout a full symphony; indeed it is risky business to try, and only genius succeeds.
With no story line to gloss over potential shortcomings, the "Symphony in C" is all up front dancing, very difficult and exposed, requiring uncompromising artistry. And lead couples Wendee Fiedeldey and Raymond Van Mason, Lisa Lockerd and Charles Flachs, Pamela Robinson and Robert Arbogast, and Lisa La-Manna and Joseph Woelfel were only the most visible