Ballet Idaho's Peter Anastos: 'You May See a Great Choreographer Born Tonight' at NewDance, Up Close 

- It's like having your personal pas de deux. -  - COURTESY BALLET IDAHO
  • Courtesy Ballet Idaho
  • It's like having your personal pas de deux.
Standing before a full house at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy Thursday evening, Ballet Idaho Artistic Director Peter Anastos asked audience members to raise their hands if this was their first time attending a NewDance, Up Close event. Almost one-third of the attendees raised their hands.

"You're not seeing anything predictable. I think that's what makes this risky and interesting," Anastos said. "You may see a great choreographer born tonight."

He was right on both counts. It's almost standard operating procedure that NewDance, Up Close, which runs through Sunday, Nov.13, offers Boise dance lovers something new, but last night's opening event exceeded high expectations.

Like tracks on a favorite album, each piece had a distinct, compelling voice that made the whole evening one of the most compelling contemporary dance experiences Boise may see all year.

The evening began with Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin's Illusions. Schweitzer-Gaslin has, in the past, proved himself to be a master of pith, producing tidy ballets that are succinct, punchy and to the point. Set to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich, Illusions builds on the choreographer's greatest strengths while stepping confidently into new narrative territory.

"It's always a puzzle putting together a program like this," he said. "I wanted to tell a story and create a world."

Guest choreographer Sayoko Knode got her Boise start at Idaho Dance Theatre. More recently, she has become a dancer for multi-media arts troupe LED, performing in its latest major piece at the Morrison Center, This Way to the Egress. Full of wit and touching moments, Oh Brother is her meditation on her relationship with her brother after the loss of their father.

One of the jewels of the evening was a series of three selections from Daniel Ojeda's much-anticipated new ballet, The Monster and the Gift. Ojeda has tremendous talent as a choreographer: his warm humor, playful ideas and sure sense of pacing make him one of Boise's leading lights.

At NewDance, Up Close, Ojeda staged just 3/8ths of the full ballet, which is set to be performed in its entirety at the Morrison Center during Ballet Idaho's Winter Repertory.

At its heart, Septet by Nathan Powell is a gesture and he has an eye for helping bodies move beautifully. Time, editing and focus could have helped this piece either tell a compelling story or be a purely aesthetic delight. As it was, Septet felt like it was still searching for its core.

At the end, there was Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti's Time Lapse. Long one of Boise's strongest dancers, Affrunti showed at NewDance, Up Close she's also one of its premier choreographers. Inspired by martial arts and full of fun props and dazzling colors, Time Lapse alone is worth the price of admission.
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