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Colorado Ballet "Ballet MasterWorks"

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Colorado Ballet did four performances this weekend and has three more next weekend of its final show of the season at the Caulkins Opera House. For ballet lovers, it's by far the best program of the year. I went to all four to see the different casts. As I suspect few on this site will be in Denver next weekend to see the final three, let me say a few things about the ballets chosen.


Yuri Possokhov's Firebird was a great programming choice. I was not crazy about his Optimistic Tragedy for San Francisco Ballet earlier this month, which was too often gimmicky, but this was accessible for lots of audiences with plenty of interesting choreography, especially for the leads. He uses the shorter Firebird Suite (as did Balanchine) and the story was clear and easy to understand throughout. This was apparently one of his first pieces after retiring as a dancer, with an early version in 2004 for Oregon and then in 2007 for San Francisco Ballet. I like the minimalist sets, mostly colorful drops, with a few pieces of hanging scenery. It wasn't as overwrought and pretentious as Ratmansky's version a few years ago. And it had several fun touches and surprise elements, which work with an audience not as familiar with classical ballet as others.


The middle piece on the program was Kylian's Petite Mort. I have seen this programmed for a lot of companies in recent years. I first saw it at PNB, paired with Six Dances, which also uses Mozart, Mozart-ian costumes, and the black dresses with a life of their own. It's a work-out for the dancers and they seem to love it, but Mort just seems to stop when the music is over, without any sort of finale or closure that made sense. Colorado showed it with two completely different casts, 12 dancers each, so almost all of the professional dancers got to perform this one. Others have pointed out that Kylian is expensive, so perhaps that's why nobody else performs the pair of works together, which is a shame. (This company has 26 dancers on contract, plus five apprentices, and a large studio company.)


The program opened with Serenade. It amazes me that I never get bored with this, no matter how many times I see it. I always marvel at the genius of the choreography -- moving large groups of dancers around stage in interesting and surprising ways, e.g. But I also always think of what it must have been like for Balanchine in 1934 with the odd assortment of dancers he had to work with. I don't mean to suggest that this is an "easy" ballet for anybody, but so much is accomplished with the visual tableau of poses, positions, motifs, etc. that are not as technically demanding as other ballets, at least for the corps. I must note that Maria Mosina, who is retiring at the end of this season, joined the Serenade cast for the Sunday matinee as Russian Girl - of course! What a treat, especially with the symbolism of the ties to Russia of both dancer and choreographer. (She also did Firebird Friday and Saturday nights, partnered by Alexei Tyukov.) At the Vail Dance Festival this summer, the Colorado corps will do Serenade with principals from NYCB.


As I have said before, regional companies like Colorado perform such an important role in showing live ballet (with live orchestra) in cities where the big companies like ABT and NYCB never tour. They provide paid professional employment to a wonderful group of dancers. And the orchestra with 46 musicians (!) is always superb.

Edited by California
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