Shining Under the Stars

Shining Under the Stars


Artists of Colorado Ballet in Serenade finale. Photo by Mike Watson. Image courtesy of Colorado Ballet.
Artists of Colorado Ballet in Serenade finale. Photo by Mike Watson. Image courtesy of Colorado Ballet.

The Colorado Ballet performed at the Arvada Center Outdoor Amphitheater on a lovely August evening. A warm breeze passed through the buzzing audience as they laid out their blankets on the lawn or took their seats in the covered area.  The performance included sections from six well-known works of different choreographers, followed by Balanchine’s infamous Serenade. The evening’s performance highlighted every member of the company. The company’s diverse ability in both technique and performance quality shined throughout the evening.

It began with a lighthearted, comical piece, Fairy Doll Pas de Trois, performed by three corps de ballet dancers. Due to the elaborate make-up, costumes, and expressive gesturing, the performers received laughter from the audience as the two male dancers fought for their admiration over the female doll. The female doll kept changing hands of the males as they continued to attempt to impress her. The successful constant change of partners throughout the piece, from jumps to turns, clearly illustrates the time dedicated to rehearsals.

Three of Marius Petipa’s works were performed: Le Corsaire Odalisques, Raymonda Men’s Pas de Quatre, and Don Quixote Pas de Deux. Petipa, a French and Russian ballet dancer and choreographer of the late 19th century, is famously known for choreographing Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker. The works performed by the Colorado Ballet highlighted the dancer’s classical ballet training. The female corps de ballet dancers beautifully presented a classical excerpt from Le Corsaire Odalisques, which was originally staged for the Imperial Ballet in Russia. The petit allegro, meaning “small jumps,” was strongly executed. The small beats of their feet, the flowing long tutus, and graceful upper body kept the audience in awe throughout the piece.  

As four male dancers entered the stage for Raymonda Men’s Pas de Quatre their classical, masculine quality shined. The men performed a petit allegro, which involved detailed cannon timing and highly technical jumps. The audience was wide eyed and thoroughly enjoyed watching the men as they leaped in the air and amplified their physical abilities.

Featuring Asuka Sasaki and Francisco Estevez by Chris Walt Photography. Image courtesy of Colorado Ballet.
Featuring Asuka Sasaki and Francisco Estevez by Chris Walt Photography. Image courtesy of Colorado Ballet.

To complete the showing of Petipa’s work, female principal Asuka Sasaki, and male soloist Francisco Estevez, entered the stage wearing bright red, Spanish-influenced costumes. The dancing of the pas de deux from Don Quixote was superb! This piece has some difficult balances for the female role, which seemed to be achieved with ease by the principal dancer. The duet performed with precision and a spicy presence.

To show the Colorado Ballet’s diversity and ability to perform outside of the classical ballet box, principal dancer Sharon Wehner and soloist Francisco Estevez performed the work of Amy Seiwert, It’s Not a Cry. This piece, a contemporary ballet with intricate lifts, had the dancers working in parallel with more emphasis on upper and lower body connection. The dancer duo wore simple costumes showing their physicality, which elevated the details of the choreography. The work had a lasting impact on the audience as they rose for a standing ovation.  

Excitingly so, two principal company members, Chandra Kuykendall and Domenico Luciano, danced an excerpt from Dracula, choreographed by Michael Pink. The two maneuvered their way around stage in a dark light, drawing the audience into the story line. The performance quality and superb execution by these dancers makes one appreciate ballet as an art form. The Colorado Ballet will be performing this ballet in full length in October, and judging from this excerpt performed, it is highly recommended to see the entire company tell this dark, beautiful love story.

Act I was a marvelous display of the Colorado Ballet’s corps de ballet dancers. The performances gave these dancers the ability to perform on an intimate stage to an admiring audience. The proximity of stage to audience allows the audience to see details of the dancers’ technique such as the beating of the feet, the elegance of the hands, and facial expressions of the performers. The Arvada Center was a welcoming, beautiful venue to share these works.

It was a privilege also to see George Balanchine’s Serenade come to life on stage on this evening. This piece, danced to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for String in C, Op. 38, was originally set in 1934. The dancers are in a sea of blue lighting in long, simple, yet beautiful blue costumes with skirts that tangle in the dancers arms and legs making them more celestial. The stillness of the twenty-eight dancers overwhelmed the audience, who applauded as the curtain opened. From beginning to end, the audience was submerged in a trance-like state as they experienced the movement. This state was accentuated through the dancers being constantly in motion, interweaving with one another, on different levels in the space and cannon timing, like a wave of movement from one side of the stage to the next. As the piece continued to build, a storm was building, carrying in a light wind which heightened the excitement and beauty of the piece. The Colorado Ballet dancers performed with race and poise throughout and captively held the attention of the audience.

The Colorado Ballet exhibited their wide-ranging abilities throughout the evening; every member of the company exposed their dedication and strengths in the various works. It was a wonderful production of the Colorado Ballet.

Sutton Anker currently lives in her hometown of Littleton, Colorado. Her love of dance took root at a young age when she began dancing at a local studio. This passion grew and carried through into college and beyond. Sutton earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance Science from the University of Wyoming, followed by a Master’s of Science in Dance Science from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.  Her technical training is in ballet, release technique, Horton, modern, tap, jazz, vertical dance, hip-hop, pointe, and functional fitness. Throughout her B.F.A. at UW, Sutton performed in various productions including From the Ashes: A Cinderella Ballet, Duet and Power/Full (a Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company production), The Nutcracker, Boxed Set, and Six Songs from Ellis.

Sutton has a keen interest in motor learning, motor development, and pedagogical techniques, taking several kinesiology classes in her undergraduate and graduate programs. Sutton has presented at several dance science conferences, including the 2010 Performing Arts Medical Association Conference (Specific Stretching for Individual Needs), the 2013 International Association of Dance Medicine and Science Conference (Effect of Mirrors on Dancers’ Ability to Learn Movement), and the 2016 International Association of Dance Medicine and Science Conference in Hong Kong (Master’s thesis –  An Investigation of the Pedagogical Rationales for Current Mirror Use in a Ballet Technique Class).

Sutton currently works at Foothills Park and Recreation District in Children’s Programs. She has a passion for empowering kids’ creativity and educating youth on physical and mental health. Sutton continues to engage in dance by teaching at local studios, participating in classes and workshops, volunteering with Presenting Denver, and pursuing her research interests.