Citing the importance of hope and inspiration during these difficult times, Ballet West Artistic Director Adam Sklute invited the audience to dream this season and share in the beauty, imagination, and promise of the future that Ballet West brings to the community.
Sklute chose three diverse works for the season’s first program; Songs of the Valley, Three Preludes and The Dream.
Bruce Marks’ Songs of the Valley was created in 1976 and is a celebration and tribute to the pioneers of Utah. The ballet is set to Aaron Copland’s “Old American Songs” and is rustic and fun. The costumes were simple, reflecting the age and modesty of settlers in the mid 1800s.
Songs of the Valley consisted of nine short dances; Zion’s Walls, The Boatman’s Dance, The Little Horses, The Dodger, The Golden Willow Tree, Simple Gifts, I Bought Me a Cat, Long Time Ago and Ching-A-Ring-Chaw. They were cute and spirited and it was fun to watch the levity throughout.
Songs of the Valley was the first ballet I’ve attended where there were vocalists. Baritone Soloist Darrell Babidge’s performance embodied the spirit of the songs of the old west, and not having read the program in advance, I was surprised and pleased to discover he was singing live!
Performing Copland’s music, the Ballet West Orchestra was conducted by Emmy-award-winning composer and pianist Kurt Bestor who recently arranged American Idol runner up David Archuleta’s Christmas CD. Bestor also appears at Abravanel Hall in December for a number of holiday performances.
The second ballet, Three Preludes, was my favorite dance. Premiered by Ballet West this year, Ben Stevenson’s Three Preludes presents a pair of dancers in a studio. The stage is dark except for the two dancers and accompanist, pianist Jared Oaks. The dancers show us the intimacy, romance and beauty of ballet with only a ballet barre as a prop.
Three Preludes is set in three parts, each accompanied by Rachmaninoff Preludes (Prelude in B Minor, Opus. 32; Prelude in F Sharp Minor, Opus 23; Prelude in A Major, Opus 32). Part one was sweet and introductory. Part two was romantic and sexy, and part three showed control, strength and power.
The dancers moved in perfect rhythm to the piano and it was beautiful to see the marriage of the dance and the music, each complementing and supporting the other. I absolutely loved the simplicity of the set as the ballet’s beauty as a whole was entrancing and breathtaking.
The final ballet of the evening was Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Dream. Based on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ashton wrote the ballet in 1964 to commemorate Shakespeare’s 400th birthday. Artistic Director Adam Sklute chose to bring it back to celebrate Felix Mendelssohn’s 200th birthday!
The Dream takes us into the forest where we find fairies, humans, love, jealousy, fighting, and a bit of magic. Again, not having read the program, I didn’t know the plot to The Dream and I was a bit lost at times. Now that I’ve read the summary in the program, I’m happy to see that I actually had most of it right!
The set and costumes for The Dream were gorgeous. The wooded forest setting was a sharp contrast to the two prior minimalistic sets, and I was excited to see the creativity and imagination of the forest scene. A lot went on during this piece and I was reminded of a Cirque du Soleil show where my eyes dart left to right to left to right, trying to pay attention to the different dancers at the front of the stage as well as those in the back!
I can’t say enough about the Ballet West Orchestra which is conducted by 20-year Ballet West veteran Terence Kern. The Orchestra sounded incredible, and I felt like I was getting a 2-for-1 performance with the ballet AND the orchestra! Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a beautiful piece and I look forward to hearing it again.
Sklute said, “Music is the reason we dance. Dance is the reason we play music. Ballet West, the sum total of its parts, every aspect makes the art great . We are a team from start to finish, top to bottom, front to back!”
I have previously been to the ballet, but each ballet has been a single story. The Dream was the first ballet performance I’ve attended with three different works and I enjoyed it immensely. Each piece had something different to offer and I was able to appreciate the variety of styles.
From the moment that Adam Sklute introduced himself to the audience, I felt that this was MY ballet, my company, and that the company offered to dance and share their artistry with me as a member of their community.
The audience was appreciative and their applause was plentiful throughout. It was a wonderful performance by all!
Photos courtesy of BalletWest.org. Photo credit: Mark Goldweber/Ballet West, Beau Pearson/Ballet West and Ryan Galbraith/Zuma Photo
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