Dance stars come out for Ballet West’s glimmering night

Sun Feb 23, 2020 at 1:09 pm
By Kate Mattingly
Casey and Kayci Treu performed in Ballet West’s “Night of Shining Stars” Saturday night at the Lawson Capitol Theatre.

Dancers from around the world performed Saturday night in a Ballet West program appropriately titled “Night of Shining Stars.” 

This star-studded single-night affair at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre brought together current and former principal dancers from American Ballet Theatre, Ballet West, Cuban National Ballet, New York City Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet. The acclaimed cast of performers also included ballroom champions Casey and Kayci Treu, and members of Salt Lake City’s Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company (Bashaun Williams and Melissa Rochelle Younker).

The spectrum of styles was impressive, and the program, organized by Ballet West and Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP), also showcased future generations of stars, including dancers from local schools, Ballet West Academy and Barlow Arts Conservatory of Dance. 

YAGP is the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition, and interspersed throughout the evening, were group pieces, solos, and a trio by students. Overall, “Night of Shining Stars” showcased the wealth of opportunities to see dancers of the highest caliber in Salt Lake City and to train with distinguished teachers.

The program’s repertory spanned from classical ballet––excerpts from Marius Petipa’s La Bayadere and Swan Lake––to recent creations, including an excerpt of Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography for An American in Paris and Daniel Charon’s Now or Never. There were also selections from celebrated 20th century choreographers Sir Frederick Ashton, Gerald Arpino, and Kenneth MacMillan. 

The breadth of choreographic approaches made the evening feel like an exciting accelerated course in dance history, as one watched this stellar cast present distinct characteristics and nuances of different artists. Particularly impressive were Sarah Lane and Taras Domitro in Petipa’s excerpts: his leaps soared through the air and she performed with a combination of precision and confidence that was riveting.

Other highlights included Mayara Magri and Cesar Corrales of The Royal Ballet in the Balcony Pas de Deux from MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. On a bare stage, with no balcony or set to provide context, these two dancers conveyed the emotions and drama of their romance through their exquisite dancing. Sergei Prokofiev’s music enhanced the magnetism between Magri and Corrales: the strings in the score were an acoustic equivalent to the attraction that pulled on their heartstrings. As he knelt and lifted her, she seemed to hover over him like an angel. 

Dancing alone, she floated through pique arabesque steps, barely touching the floor, giddy with love. Even standing still, simply staring at each other, they were breath-taking, and these quieter moments were a respite from the flashier steps that seemed to dominate the program. This is to be expected in an evening that highlights competitors and presents excerpts of longer works: selections tended towards bravura.

Casey and Kayci Treu performed a dazzling duet to “Come Alive” from The Greatest Showman soundtrack. Their dancing was sharp and enthusiastic, and as she spun, the fringe on her costume extended to accentuate the speed of her turns. The piece demonstrated why, between these two dancers, they hold six national titles.

In Wheeldon’s choreography, set to music by George Gershwin, Robbie Fairchild and Allison Walsh were sultry and dynamic. Their spinning lifts evoked images of whirlwind romance. In Charon’s choreography, Younker and Williams moved like characters in a stop-motion film, staccato and bound. They were fascinating in this discordant duet set to Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows.”

Another highlight of the program was an excerpt from Ashton’s The Dream, the Nocturne Pas de Deux, danced by Ballet West’s Katherine Lawrence and Tyler Gum to Felix Mendelssohn’s music. Beautifully performed, the dancers highlighted Ashton’s sophisticated and understated choreography. Holding hands, they partnered one another and created mirror images, both dancers extending their legs in arabesques. This was a touching image of mutuality, and Gum and Lawrence were exquisite in the roles of Oberon and Titania. This excerpt was an enticing preview of the one-act ballet that will be performed by Ballet West in April. 

Ballet West presents a double bill of Bolero and The Dream, opening April 17.

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