Utah Ballet in spring concert, Conrad Ludlow artistic director. Kingsbury Hall, May 19, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m.
Utah Ballet ends its season with a challenging and audience-pleasing program, composed of a Balanchine work, a classic from the Russian repertory staged by Conrad Ludlow, and a new work for two couples, also by Ludlow.Balanchine's "Concerto Barocco" opens the program in a fine performance by the Utah Ballet women, who have the work finely timed and synchronized, and have found the heart and the poetry of this beautiful movement, set to the Bach Concerto for Two Violins.
A work that came early in his American repertory, the Concerto lays out clearly Balanchine's movement style and musicality, and makes a good starting point for a company beginning to learn the master's language. Introduced to Utah Ballet by Janek Schergen, polished by Victoria Simon, and supervised by Ludlow, whose career was as a Balanchine dancer, the performance is spirited and exuberant. The company's women look fresh and kinetically inspired, producing a good facsimile of Balanchine's individuality, verve and special vocabulary.
The first movement sparkles in its sharpness and synchronization - usually right on the beat, though there's an occasional dereliction by a hapless leg or arm. Dancers who know best how move on the metronomic center of the beat, while filling in its edges with deliberate grace, do best with this dance.
The slow movement, with its sinuous configurations dictated by Balanchine's reaction to Bach's counterpoint, is beautifully realized, contrasting the corps with a solo trio composed of Alexandra Asbury, Lynda Hurkmans and Mark Borchelt.
Ludlow has taken a different view of the "The Firebird." Since fairy tale and poesy can take place in any era he comes from the futuristic angle, and it does work quite well to enliven this ballet, originally by Fokine; a rather static exercise at best, customarily more filled with pantomime and posturing than real dance, save for the Firebird's role.
As the mythical bird, Yvonne Racz adds another good Utah Ballet characterization, whirling through with an upward lift and forward propulsion that shows her on the right track. But in one of the great definitive roles of ballet, she needs more a feeling of shimmering, blazing flame and a vivid flash of light whenever she enters.
The stage design by J. David Blatt reaches for fantasy and finds it to a degree, though there are perhaps a tad too many special effects, and the stage becomes cluttered. However, Deward Wilson's expert lighting does much to enhance the magic.
Mark Borchelt, visiting artist from Ballet West, brings credibility to the role of the bemused Prince Ivan, who reacts in exhilarated amazement to all the wonders he sees. Pretty princesses, led by Linda Hurkmans, add the requisite female presence. Scott Mitchell makes an authoritative Kastchei, if not especially villainous, and his troupe of demons offers some menacing, stylized effects. Costumer Jan Elam manages to combine a Russianate effect with a certain futuristic flavor, in her colorful and imaginative costumes.
Completing the program is "Country Dances," for two couples, set to playful music of Adam from the first act of "Giselle." Ludlow's choreography gives both couples _ Diane Fisher and Jef Horne, Christie Freebairn and David Woods _ a vigorous workout in challenging partnering, filled with every sort of lift, as the couples work similarly but seldom mirror each other.
The health of Utah Ballet seems to be good, though many dancers are listed who do not appear in this program, except perhaps in tiny roles. Save for the first number, the full company is not given as much dancing to do as usual, leading one to hope that the quality of the company, dancer by dancer, is holding up.