Stepping Out 

Review: Ballet Idaho Winter Repertory

In spite of its flaws, Ballet Idaho's production of George Balanchine's Concerto Barocco teased how great ballet can be.

Steve Smith

In spite of its flaws, Ballet Idaho's production of George Balanchine's Concerto Barocco teased how great ballet can be.

Ballet Idaho's Winter Repertory wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great. The trio of productions Feb. 10 suffered in parts from ill-tuned performances, lack of focus and body comedy that missed its mark.

That sounds grim, but the evening opened well, with Nilas Martins' staging of George Balanchine's Concerto Barocco. Featuring beautiful, white-clad dancers moving in geometric precision against blue screen and behind leads Elizabeth Barreto and Graham Gobeille, the piece was set to Johann Sebastian Bach's Double Violin concerto in D minor, played exquisitely by Boise Baroque Chamber Orchestra.

The performance threatened to founder, however, with leads that failed to capture much of the charm of the production. The eight backup dancers, who had all the energy, enthusiasm and grace in the world, weren't quite synced in their movements, unfortunately sapping their collective motions and the clarity Balanchine and Martins intended.

Despite its flaws, it still teased how great ballet can be.

Concerto Barocco was followed by what could have been the jewel of the evening, Daniel Ojeda's The Monster and the Gift. An elaborate and beautiful production, it featured excellent music by Jeremy Stewart and Daniel Kerr, evocative costumes by Sherrol Simard and lots of fine artwork by Huma Aatifi. Though a clear aesthetic accomplishment, The Monster and the Gift felt like a rough draft that could be tightened and revised into something more poignant and less repetitive.

Inspired by the relationship between performance artists Marina Abramovic and Ulay and boosted by a strong and familiar storyline, this ballet nevertheless lacked focus. Its parade of themes—love, art, criticism, success, failure and reflection on the past—were effectively teased out, but in a manner that felt haphazard.

Finally, Peter Anastos' Night Crawlers was a body comedy jab at the foibles and pretensions of classical ballet. Full of hard falls and lighthearted in-jokes, its nearest target was Concerto Barocco, which still shone as an exemplar of the medium.

It got a lot of laughs, though. Crisp performances and Del Parkinson's on-stage piano music gave Night Crawlers some much-needed lifts, but its relationship to its satirical object isolated the dance. As a result, it leaned too heavily on slapstick. Staging it within a country mile of a Balanchine ballet ended the evening with a misstep.

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