Ballet Spokane’s second annual gala and fundraiser at the Bing Crosby Theatre on Saturday evening was packed with variety, enthusiasm and humor. The performance featured three choreographers offering a wide variety of dance styles portrayed by the company and two guest dancers. The program was serious, whimsical, energetic and fun.
The show opened with excerpts from “Aurora’s Wedding” from Sleeping Beauty choreographed by Phaedra Jarrett after Marius Petipa to Tchaikovsky’s luscious score. The dance interwove solos, duets and ensemble pieces, but many of the company dancers were not on center in their turns, did not complete their extensions, and were not precise in their footwork. When guest dancer Carlos Venturo and Tara Kinney captured the fun and flirtation of Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat, however, the audience responded with enthusiastic applause.
“4 x 2 – Four Duets by Two Choreographers” followed after a brief intermission. Amy Seiwert’s choreography, “Passive Aggressive,” was beautifully danced by Kinney and guest dancer Joseph Copley. Kinney is one of the few company dancers who is well-centered in her turns and whose extensions are complete, in-control and sustained. The two dancers partnered well.
“Rush Ras,” an abstract modern piece performed by Jarrett and guest dancer Carlos Ventura was the most technically and psychologically engaging dance of the evening. Their bodies molded together and separated into unusual twists, turns and angular forms only to mold together again to form new abstract patterns. Both dancers’ exhibited superb technical control, intense and sustained psychological tension and seamless partnering.
Ryan Callan’s staging and performance of the “Rose Adagio” from Sleeping Beauty was hysterically funny. The “Rose Adage” is traditionally choreographed with bravura attitudes and balances that test the technique of the ballerina who dances the role of Aurora. In Callan’s version, however, gender rolls are reversed: the bride is a male dancer in drag while the suitors are female dancers in drag. Callan’s portrayal of Aurora in drag, was an over-the-top, clever and energetic spoof. The performance brought the house down.
The most unusual element of Ballet Spokane’s program was a preview of Tintypes, a turn-of-the-twentieth-century musical performed by Central Valley High School students choreographed and directed by Michael J. Muzatko. Accompanied on piano by Keith Peterson and performed by five very talented students, the preview told a story through mime and song beginning with “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and ending with “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.” The short sequence was captivating, but why a company that bills itself as “the professional ballet company of Spokane” includes an amateur musical performance by high school students in its program is beyond my understanding.
The program closed with Jarrett’s choreography of the “Can Can” to Offenbach’s infectious music. The performance was vigorous, enthusiastic and spontaneous, but the partnering was often out of control. The ballerinas in striped dresses with ruffled underskirts, black nylons and garters were raucous and flirtatious; the men were bold and daring. All in all, in spite of its problems, the exuberant dance captured the spirit of the music hall and brought the audience to its feet smiling, laughing and applauding. With the exception of their new artistic director and seasoned performer Jarrett, Ballet Spokane’s dancers want for technical training and performance experience, but they dance with dedication, with discipline and with commitment.