I'm not the biggest ballet fan. While I love the precision and athleticism. I don't generally care for the endless stories that just get in the way of the dancing. But Ballet West's artistic director Adam Sklute seems bent on convincing me that ballet can be as interesting as contemporary dance. Since he arrived three years ago, his Innovations programs have ended each Ballet West season.
Innovations is dedicated to showcasing new, challenging ballet works choreographed by Ballet West dancers or other notable choreographers. And this year's program once again makes me want to see more ballet.
The evening starts with a work by Ririe-Woodbury's artistic director Charlotte Boye-Christensen. She brings a startling new energy to Ballet West. Her work titled Row hits hard. While most ballet choreographers seem intently focused on defying gravity, Boye-Christensen embraces gravity, driving the dancers into the floor. The women's quartet is particularly stunning with the women frozen en pointe. This is fresh, physical ballet.
Aiden DeYoung offers a dazzling work (Outward) that is notable for its Fosse-like formations. (Yes, I made a Bob Fosse reference in regard to ballet, get over it.) Extra kudos to the costumes and lighting.
Selcoutheries by Megan Furse is a little ethereal and confusing for my taste. Well, until the end. Then things get interesting. Surprisingly, it's a duet that captured my emotions. (I suppose I should say pas de deux.) It's modern, beautiful, and powerful.
I was prepared to hate Michael Bearden's Descent because it starts with heavily costumed characters bogged down by some intended story. It's like a mash up of True Blood and Swan Lake. Turns out that the mash up results in some brilliant dancing with sinister, dizzying waltzes that are as romantic as they are nightmarish.
The last piece on the program is But Never Doubt I Love by Helen Pickett. This feels like traditional ballet but with a decidedly modern intention. It is dancing so lush, so ripe, that it would be embarassing if it weren't so damn beautiful.
Ballet West will absolutely get me to return for the next installment of Innovations. And if they can convince me they've programmed other modern works focused more on the beauty, skill, and artistry of the dancers, and less on stories and tradition, they might even get me to show up for other programs on the season.
You can still see Innovations. It continues May 26 through 29.