Quinn Farley
Christiana Bennett dances in the enchanting "The Sleeping Beauty."
"THE SLEEPING BEAUTY," BALLET WEST, additional performances Wednesday-Saturday (355-2787)

Ballet West is back on top of things. After an uneasy season opening with "The Nutcracker," the dance company outdid itself with a brilliant encore performance of "The Sleeping Beauty."

Going back to the original Marius Petipa choreography, the dancers found themselves more confident and excited to be back onstage.

Christiana Bennett made her Aurora debut Friday. Although it was the first time she had danced the role, she took it on with finesse and looked like an Aurora veteran. Her interpretation was full of life. Her holds were precise and well-executed, and her lines and extensions seemed to go on forever.

More importantly, her transitions from portraying a 16-year-old girl to a mature young woman were smooth and believable.

The role of her future husband and savior, Florimund, was danced eloquently by Seth Olson. His strength and power emerged through his leaps and pirouettes. But when it came time for him to brood, he took that to heart, also.

It was good to see Ballet West alumni Bene Arnold return to the stage as the evil Carabosse. Arnold's character was full of vengeance, malice, big gestures and a youthful nimbleness — especially when she would race across the stage and disappear in a puff of smoke.

Of course, a majority of the showcase dancing occurs in the third act.

Friday's performance was an exercise in perfection. The dancers' lines were straight and the steps were in sync throughout the corps variations. The various pas de deux and pas de trois were technically tight and executed with ease.

There was a little slip during the Bluebird number that nearly caused a spill, but Hua Zhuang and Peggy Dolkas covered well.

The frisky Puss-in-Boots and White Cat number drew laughter from the crowd, and the finale grand pas de deux between Aurora and Florimund enchanted some audience members to tears.

The work was tied up neatly with a powerful performance of the romantic Tchaikovsky score by the Utah Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Terence Kern.

Once again, Ballet West has shown it is a force to be reckoned with. And "The Sleeping Beauty" hasn't lost its enchanting spell — and it's here just in time for Valentine's Day.

E-mail: [email protected]