"Feel the Beat" is a delightful labor of love. And if you're not careful, it will bring a tear to your eyes. There's just something about seeing children dance.

Ballet West, in conjunction with the National Dance Institute of New York, managed to bring 150 students from Whittier and Bennion Elementary schools and let them do what they do best - let it loose.Children have endless amounts of energy. And when the curtain rose on Friday night's performance, the audience couldn't help but watch.

The highlight of the evening, at least from the children's standpoint, was Jacques d'Amboise's "Fat City." The work, performed almost entirely by the children was reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoon, cabaret and '40s gangster movies.

This little "street opera" focuses on the lives of a city tycoon named Mr. Fats, a down on her luck showgirl named Lovely Kitty and her Mafioso boyfriend Legs Diamond.

Expressions, dance steps and visual gags were the draw of the show, but looking deeper into the work, the countless (and successful) hours of rehearsals and memorizations bubbled to the surface. Audience members were heard saying how "fabulous" the children were.And when one real elected official made a rare, on-stage appearance, the performance's charm was complete.

Opening the evening was d'Amboise's "Jump" and "The Blessing," which also featured the children. High kicks, line-dance variations and aerobiclike combinations grooved to the staccato vocal score sung (or shall we say spoken) by Katrina M. Nelson and Michael J. Nelson.

The mature dancing burst on the scene during Ballet West's artistic director Jonas Kage's "Moody Moves" and George Balanchine's "Stravinsky Violin Concerto."

" . . . Moves" was an emotional study of dance with anguished extensions and furious pirouettes. " . . . Violin Concerto," however, was an abstract study of lines and dance for movement sake. Both works appealed to the senses and gave the audience a taste of well-timed contemporary ballet.