The Boulder Theater was nearly full at the well-attended 2pm Mother’s Day Boulder Ballet show, and the audience was vocal and ready to have a good time. This was my first exposure to the Boulder Ballet, and I felt fortunate for the opportunity to see the Company in such a storied setting. The two-part program began with a spirited Carnival of the Animals, featuring students of the Boulder Ballet School as well as utilizing the unflagging energy of Boulder Ballet Company members. Each Company member performed as multiple characters (and had done so that morning as well).
Seeing students of Boulder Ballet School perform alongside or in tandem with the Company professionals was an informative glimpse into the results of the tenets of the school. I perceived the students’ efforts toward the clean and polished expressiveness achieved by the Company. Carnival of the Animals is an excellent teaching piece for schools, as its many roles provide assignments for diverse skill sets. Concomitantly, these many roles provide a host of challenges for the organizers and facilitators of the work but, from the outside looking in, it was nothing the staff and parents/volunteers of Boulder Ballet couldn’t handle.
Headresses and clever use of props, such as the shell-printed umbrellas of the turtles, kept the costumes seeming (deceptively) spare and simple. The bobbing heads of the chickens, shy peeking bonneted heads of the turtles, and posturing of the donkeys were some of the effective ways the dancers enacted their animal roles. The overall production value was very high, from the staggering number of costumes (and costume changes!) involved in Carnival of the Animals to the unusual and risky incorporation of juggling and ball-tossing into the choreography of The Firebird.
During the Golden Apple Tree’s dance with the Princesses, golden apples flew from hand to hand and the Tree revealed some ability as a juggler. What a way to put extra tension on turns and coordinating movements between dancers! If their spotting and timing isn’t perfect, the ball drops. I’m not sure how I would deal with that exponentially enhanced stress, but the dancers performed beautifully, with no sign of strain or anxiety. The limited number of Company members actually showcases both individual and collective versatility.
Company dancer DeShawn Marshall (Golden Apple Tree) proved himself to be a graceful, solicitous dancing partner and a soloist of enviable strength and poise. His impressive lift of the swan to his shoulder during the Carnival ensemble finale provided an impactful ending image as the curtain closed. Matthew Helms’s athleticism infused the role of Kastchei with vigor and decisive sense of action. The choreography for Kastchei included some whirling capoeira moves which delighted the audience.
Jacob Taylor (Prince Ivan) is a precise, consummate dancer whose bravura jumps excite. As the Firebird, Amy Fogarty’s light-as-air (and sky-high) leg lifts and refined musculature supported the avian impression begun by her en pointe tip-tapping flutter across the stage. Had she lifted into the air on her own, I would have been delighted, but not surprised. I look forward to seeing more of the Company’s work at Ballet in the Park, an annual exhibition of dance presented in three different Front Range locations during the month of June. For information on this and other Boulder Ballet performances, click here.
Jane E. Werle: With artwork and writing published by Bombay Gin, Hot Whiskey Press, Wyrd Tree Press, Summer Stock, and her own imprint, Thirsty Lizard Books, Jane is a passionate proponent of creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of elusive and meaningful beauty. A poet, educator, and longtime nanny, she works and explores with kids, challenging young minds and safeguarding young hearts. Jane graduated with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and has come up with no compelling reason since to move away from the lively Denver area and its admirably self-made cultural opportunities. Contact Jane with editing needs, parenting problems, and extravagant travel writing proposals.