With the mixture of classical romantic-era ballet and a charming romantic comedy, “La Fille Mal Gardée” truly was a delightful evening at the ballet. The University of Utah ballet program brought in Bruce Marks and Samantha Dunster to present this brilliantly comedic ballet as the first full-length ballet ever produced by the School of Dance. “La Fille Mal Gardée” was staged by guest artists Tauna Hunter and Michael Gleason. After it was set upon the large cast of dancers, rehearsal directors, and U ballet faculty, Melissa Bobick and Maggie Wright-Tesch took over the rest of the fine-tuning process.
Opening night can say a lot about a dancer’s dedication to the choreography and their art. It is not easy to hide when opening night is just not ready for performance, but this production of “La Fille Mal Gardée” never felt like a dress rehearsal. It was a beautifully executed ballet filled with the flair of a professional company. This cast truly deserved the applause given.
Opening night leads Brooklyn Burbidge (U ballet major) and Roland Jones (Ballet West Academy Professional Training Student) brought undeniable stage presence, charm, talent and grace to this challenging yet flirtatious and light-hearted choreography. Yes, there were a few moments when this intricate material did out-smart both individuals, yet, as a fellow dancer, no respect was lost. I would like to see professional dancers try to pull off a crazy set of en dedan turns followed by a confusion of what I believed to be turns from the fifth position and a forced arch turn, or something similar. Much admiration should be handed to Burbidge for accepting this feat and owning it. Not to mention, she executed some beautiful fouetté turns, staying in the same spot the entire time, and then landed with all the power this little firecracker of a ballet dancer possessed. This gracefully spunky dancer was phenomenal in many ways. Both leads, however, did struggle to hide how hard they were working.
Two shining leads like these young ballet dancers could not even dare to present such outstanding work without the help of a wonderful company and ensemble. Guest artist James Bobick and U faculty Christopher Alloways-Ramsey brought their booming personalities and perfect comedic timing to this piece, leaving the audience dying of laughter regularly. If you don’t normally enjoy the ballet, these two will ensure you enjoy this production.
Also, U ballet major Brendan Rupp’s constant stage face and clean yet characterized dancing definitely helped sell this show. His role is meant to be comedic, and Rupp did not have difficulty portraying it. On the sides and in the background, Rupp’s face never gave him away — he was truly the strongest actor and an outstanding dancer. The town gossips, played by Ryan Stroble and Lauren Wattenberg, both U ballet students, were a great equalizer with Rupp, especially during their joint variation. Not only did the girls clearly know their timing with the music and with each other, but they knew how their characters needed to act and respond. These three brought in so much of the comedy, and they never let anything break them from their supporting roles.
The corps de ballet was truly pleasant. For the most part, most dancers were together and knew what was going on. With a large corps, the synchronicity was impressive. The women’s corps, in particular, did a phenomenal job acting on the sides and during the pieces, but the best part was their dancing. The dancing stood up to the level of stage presence given, as should always be expected of the corps de ballet. The girls created one unified and breathtaking group. The men’s group, on the other hand, was a little messier. Certain individuals within the group clearly knew what they were doing and felt good about the work, but the others had late timing, unpointed feet, and faces which were not invested in the material. Granted, the U ballet department did bring in a handful of Ballet West Academy men to help fill in this large ensemble, but even then, the ensemble men were mostly U students. All the partnering performed by the corps, however, was beautiful, in sync and entertaining. “La Fille Mal Gardée” was a production I may even see again with the other cast.
For the remainder of their run, “La Fille Mal Gardée” performs at the Marriott Center for Dance (located across from the Marriott Library) Feb. 8 through 16. Thursday shows are at 5:30 p.m., Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. and all other evening performances on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. With U College of Fine Arts events, tickets are free with your U card. For more ticket information visit this website. This show is double cast, so this review is only based on the first cast. There are no doubts or fears, however, regarding the performance of the other cast.
I highly recommend going and supporting your fellow students in this work, into which they have clearly invested their time and hearts. Even if you don’t think you would enjoy the ballet, it can be guaranteed that “La Fille Mal Gardée” will leave you thoroughly entertained.