A Splendid Spectacle

A Splendid Spectacle

Sharon Wehner by Mike Watson. Image courtesy of Colorado Ballet.
Sharon Wehner. Photo by Mike Watson. Image courtesy of Colorado Ballet.



With four-on-the-floor drumbeats, spare snare hits, string-heavy grooves and much more, the Colorado Ballet Orchestra (led by Musical Director and Principal Conductor Adam Flatt, playing Matthew Pierce’s composition) expanded the audience’s idea of orchestral music and ballet accompaniment and gave the evening a rich, unpredictable flavor.  The Colorado Ballet itself (under Artistic Director Gil Boggs) took exciting risks by incorporating a considerable amount of daring aerial work (Flying by Foy), gorgeous large-scale puppetry (design and construction by Eric Van Wyk) and unusual, intriguing choreography (by guest artist Septime Webre) into a major production of the season.  

Scenery (James Kronzer) and costumes (Liz Vandal) are courtesy of the Washington Ballet (where Webre is, for a short time longer, Artistic Director), and contribute so much to the arresting visual qualities of the production.  Clever plays on perception are rampant and delightful.  The stage-scale painted backgrounds and hangings are bright and lovely, and the hanging banners that create the dappled trees of the “woods” are perfect.  There are too many details to mention here, but one of the standout creations is the Caterpillar. This showcases a remarkable combination of several kinds of ingenuity, including choreography, costume, wires, and people power.  

Artists of Colorado Ballet in Mad Tea Party. Photo by Mike Watson. Image courtesy of Colorado Ballet.
Artists of Colorado Ballet in Mad Tea Party. Photo by Mike Watson. Image courtesy of Colorado Ballet

Young students of the Colorado Ballet Academy delighted the audience every time they appeared as baby flamingos, hedgehogs, gerber daisies and a few other adorable characters.  To their credit and that of the school, they appeared coordinated and committed.  A great number of attendees would have had a less enjoyable time without these fresh faces.  The ballet itself could not be effected without the “Guys in White.”  While they act as narrative (and set, and choreography) facilitators, they are also fine showmen in their own right.  I enjoyed the hints of difference– individual specialties– apparent through careful observation.

Maria Mosina as the Red Queen was grande dame of the performance and arguably of the company.  It’s hard to imagine her as anything other than the epitome of a ballerina.  Indeed, based on appearances, it seems she may have whittled away any typically human weaknesses and fully become what she intended to be.  In an interview, Sharon Wehner, celebrating her 20th season with the Colorado Ballet (she and Mosina both joined the company in 1995, Mosina as a principal.  Wehner became a principal in 1999), addresses a concern all professional dancers (and athletes in general) share.  She takes each day and performance and season as it is, with no guarantee that her creative and vocational desire will continue to be corroborated by her body’s capabilities.  

Artists of Colorado Ballet - Queen and Cards by Mike Watson. Image courtesy of Colorado Ballet.
Artists of Colorado Ballet – Queen and Cards by Mike Watson. Image courtesy of Colorado Ballet.

Dance is dependent upon the human body, and usually upon the human body’s physical power.  Will is a fundamental part of physical expression.  When physical feats are interdependent and well-executed, the core of human expression comes clear.  It is admirable and beautiful.  The power of movement to communicate is well documented, and good ballet is an interesting example of how (arguably uniquely) effective this can be.  Though no words are heard, emotions, states of being, humor and grandeur can be quite lucid.  So, we know that words are not needed, necessarily, but we are led to wonder, what might words add?  Or take away?  As lines between performance genres interact, twist, and fade, new possibilities certainly emerge, but (relatively) established forms of expression deserve another thoughtful look in this fluid context.

Though this is a large and complicated production with very many talented and capable moving parts, the character of Alice features so prominently that Wehner must, in some ways, carry the show.  While her skills are tremendous, it is almost more impressive that she must maintain this high quality of craft through an extended and probably grueling period of time.  Repeatedly.  (Please note that roles are performed by different dancers on different days and times.)  To do this with care and charisma is a feat that can be newly appreciated with each lift, leap, and fouetté.

Jane E. Werle:  At three months of age Jane E. Werle, unable to protest, was removed from Loveland, Colorado by her well-meaning parents.  In 2004 she was able to rectify this error when she relocated from Massachusetts to Boulder for graduate school.  One M.F.A. and a husband later, Jane works to further the arts in the Front Range as a writer (reviewer, interviewer, curator) and enthusiast (no-shame, first-on-the-floor amateur– despite some training– dancer).  Jane is also a longtime nanny and a visual artist, taking one of these very seriously and the other as a growth experience.  Every child she’s cared for has experienced some form of the SDP:  Spontaneous Dance Party.