Over the years, ballet, and art in general, has developed a specific formula for success: blood, sweat and tears. Last night, several local writers and I saw this equation up close at the in-studio rehearsal at Ballet West, the premier ballet company of the Intermountain Region, as they prepared for the opening night of their 2015 season, which kicks off Friday, Nov.6.
We were greeted in the Jessie Eccles Quinney Ballet Centre lobby and shown to the main studio. This studio happens to have the exact same measurements as the Capitol Theater stage, where the company performs. It also includes wing space, for optimal rehearsing.
As the company prepared for their final run of George Balanchine’s “Symphony in C” for the night, I realized I was privileged enough to know what was running through their minds. I come from a ballet background, so I knew they were past the point of exhaustion, their brains were fried and their feet were almost literally on fire. With all of these emotions in mind, I settled in and awaited a performance I thought would be just a glimpse of what the full show would display, as not all pieces are usually performed in their entirety during a full day of rehearsal.
I was incredibly wrong. “Symphony” opened on Allison DeBona, first soloist, and demi-soloist Katlyn Addison. The softly fluctuating formations of the pleasant first movement intrigued the eye and masked the intense, cardiovascular-induced movement of the first section. It dawns upon the audience only after the dancers exit the stage just how much physicality was involved. The second movement stays soft, yet engaging, with less upbeat music and a flowing quality to the choreography. Even though these second movement demi-soloists were tiny, they had mastered the quality of filling the stage, so the audience probably believes them to be 5-foot-11. The third movement is a jumpy, lively act, and these dancers did not hold back. The musicality was impeccable, and the principal, Katherine Lawrence, took my breath away with the exquisite quality of her petite allegro (small jumps), which gave her male partner a run for his money. The beauty of this movement stemmed from its simplicity, which made for even more of an impact when the upbeat, beautifully chaotic finale took the stage. The finale involves all 50 dancers on stage at once, in an accented, mirroring conglomeration of the aforementioned variations.
As professionals, these dancers were not necessarily “required” to perform the way they did in the studio, but it was so inspiring to see artists consistently place full value in their work and run with it, no matter how tired they were. After the showing, the reporters were invited to hold a short Q&A with Adam Sklute, the artistic director of the company, as well as with Beckanne Sisk and Christopher Ruud, Ballet West principal dancers. We discussed questions regarding typical ballet myths, how Sklute chooses repetoire for upcoming seasons, and why and how ballet became so important in each of their lives.
Art in communities is important on so many levels — it instills in young people the importance of taking responsibility for their own art and careers, as well as encouraging prioritization and time management skills. After listening to questions asked by journalists who had not grown up in a ballet setting, I was intrigued by how little the outside world knows about the chaotic, messy and overwhelming ins and outs of ballet, and what exactly it takes to put on a full-length performance. They were so appreciative of the night and so excited to learn that it made me hopeful, wishing others were as intrigued after viewing a night of dance.
One of the greatest ways that art, and specifically ballet, is able to make a bold statement in the Salt Lake City area is through its connection with the U. Dancing in the Department of Ballet, I am able to see firsthand just how fortunate we are in this regard — from guest teachers and our full-time faculty, to artistic resources on-hand provided by this highly accredited professional company, not many other universities would be able to glean such meaningful, real-world experience. On top of that, student tickets are currently available for Ballet West performances.
It was a magical night of ballet. Being up close and personal with the dancers and staff of Ballet West, getting a tour of their beautiful facility and being reminded of how high the standards of artistry are held in this city. If you want to share in the awe-inspiring experience, head to Ballet West’s first show of the season, “Iconic Classics,” opening Friday, Nov. 6, at the Capitol Theater and running through Nov. 14.