Ballet West kicked off its season with a grand gala - "Swan Lake" - Friday night.
If ballet subscribers had any doubts about artistic director Jonas Kage's appreciation for the classics, they were dashed to pieces during the first few seconds of the performance.Kage has a progressive mind, as displayed by presenting last season's "In and Out," a performance that left many classics lovers wondering what was in store for Ballet West in the upcoming years.
But this version of "Swan Lake" was mostly choreographed by Kage, except for the Act II Spanish segment by Ramond Van Mason.
And it has everything the classics lover, well, loves. There's the famous and rich Tchaikovsky score; the majestic costumes and the massive sets, especially the castle ballroom scene which showcased pillars and candlebras.
But, of course, those scenes would only be mere eye candy if it weren't for the technically clean dancing.
The opening-night jitters were minimal as Maggie Wright took on the dual role of Odette/Odile (the good and evil swans). Wright's renditions of both characters were danced with sharp precision and emotion. However, unlike many Odettes in the past, Wright's version was more assertive and less helpless, although her reluctant exit during Act II was one to die for.
Her Odile wasn't as malicious as others, either. Odile, here, was more seductive and cunning. And when she took center stage during the ballroom scene, the 30 pirouhettes capped the show.
As for the troubled (can we say "moody"?) Prince Seigfreid - danced by a strong and emotional Tong Wang - he became more than just a display pillar for Wright as he embodied the forlorn and love-searching character.
His leaps were strong, as were his variations, but there were times when he moodily entered the scene and looked as if he was pouting.
Jiang Qi's jester was a crowd pleaser. His big facial expressions and acrobatic movements served as the evening's humor relief.
While there were some shuffling starts on part of the dance corps, the company was usually right on, which has been something they've struggled with in the past.
Lines were straight and difficult steps were well-timed and together.
The dynamic music - heart-pounding, passionate and, at times, delicate, only added to the sense-pleasing mix. And when the ill-fated final conflict between good and evil exploded on stage, the audience made audible gasps and gave the performance a teary standing ovation.
The technical expertise of Ballet West members, especially Wright and Wang, not only complemented each other and the company, but proved Jonas Kage is the right man to take the company into the future.