U of U Ballet Students Perform Difficult Routines with Flair

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Molly Powers

U of U Dancers: Mary Clare Huntsman & AJ Maia

By Abigail Raasch, Arts Writer

Every art form is hard in and of itself. Through personal experience, however, I must say ballet takes the cake. With the physical expectations of one’s body, as well as the constant mental push that is put upon ballet dancers, these artists deserve the utmost respect. Recently, I had the privilege to see the Utah Ballet perform on opening night at the Marriott Center for Dance here on the University of Utah campus. These dancers performed extremely complicated and intense repertoires and, for the most part, pulled it off without error.

Their first piece, “Birds of a Feather,” was a beautiful and entertaining way to begin an evening of dance. Five lovely dancers in blue took the stage with some occasional humor, lots of pointe work and contemporary asymmetrical movement. The entire piece was accompanied by the sounds of a simple baby grand piano on the stage. The ballerinas were definitely given a complicated piece of choreography by visiting professor Michele Wiles. In the midst of the beautiful and flirtatious movement, there were moments of accidental loss of synchronicity and the dancers did not seem to consistently feel each other’s timing. But, on the whole, the dancer’s stage presence and the story shared in this piece was charming and brought smiles to many audience members’ faces.

The second contemporary dance piece, “Ordinary Resilience,” choreographed by visiting assistant professor Christine McMillan and her dancers, was a power-ball of a piece. The audience didn’t see the delicate and light ballerinas so often expected at these events. McMillan’s dancers brilliantly showed us their power, strength and determination to make it through the dance. The power of lighting and music added to their dance created spectacular illusions and took the audience deeper into the adventure of the piece. This choreography used a wonderful mix of ballet technique and contemporary dance concepts of release, power and motivation.

The final piece of the first act, as well as the conclusion to the contemporary ballet section of the program, was “Fractured,” choreographed by assistant professor, lecturer and ballet program head Melissa Bobick. Dancers appeared on the stage in striking black and white costumes, and a slightly foggy haze drifted over the stage. Immediately, viewers were captivated. This piece, to me, was the highlight of the evening at the ballet. The lead female dancer of the piece was refreshing to watch, and she was on point with every step, gesture and choice of movement. In addition, the head trio of dancers, made up of two females and one male, brought out the beauty of artistry met with emotion and heart. Audiences were taken into a world of fractured feeling and fractured movement. To give credit where it is due, I couldn’t help but recognize the technicians working behind the scenes in lights and effects. Without those people, these pieces would have risked losing a sense of magic and mystique.

The second act was dedicated solely to the short ballet clip “Paquita Grand Pas Classique,” choreographed by Oleg Vinogradov after Marius Petipa, and then staged here at the U by guest artist Victoria Stocki-Kim. I will always admire those who take on classical ballet works. The goal of ballet is to make something appear easy, even though it is ridiculously complicated. The overall corps de ballet was, for the most part, in wonderful and beautiful unison throughout the repertoire. All of the soloists did a good job holding the stage and keeping the audience engaged in their movement. There were, however, many instances when the audience could see how the movements on stage were difficult for the dancers. Some performers missed solid landings. Other dancers couldn’t successfully complete certain sequences of turns and fouettes. Now, the performers are students and they are still learning. However, for the sake of professionality, there are errors, such as not pointing toes in arabesques or general ballet technique occasionally getting thrown from the window, that are not desirable nor a way to truly give the art of dance the respect it deserves. Despite the occasional sloppiness of “Paquita Grand Pas Classique,” I still hold respect and admiration for those who took on this feat. These dancers are clearly talented and skilled in the expertise of ballet. They have all my best wishes to continue growing and improving in their art.

I would definitely recommend going to go see the Utah Ballet perform if you can. The show is well worth your time, and it is great to support U of U students at any opportunity. Students can get in for free with their Student ID card, and all other prices are listed online. The show runs Oct. 5 through 6 and Oct. 18 through 20. The dancers are extremely talented. You will leave the theater in awe of what students and faculty have put together for us to enjoy.

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@AbigailRaasch