May 13th, 2021, marked the return of Boulder Ballet to the stage. This long-awaited and much-fought-for moment was a glad one, gratefully enjoyed by all. The Dairy Arts Center in Boulder carefully hosted the event with masks, social distancing, and other safety protocols. Boulder Ballet is an energetic, thoughtful company, and the variety of pieces in the evening’s program suited the audience well. Visit either of these websites for information about more spring shows!
Come to Light, choreographed by Amy Hall Garner, had to be brought to fruition virtually. She worked from New Orleans while the dancers worked in Boulder, connected by Zoom calls. The pandemic necessitated this seismic shift in the application of an art form that is fundamentally interpersonal. We heard from the company regarding this, and other frustrations and triumphs, through a brief video presented after Come to Light opened the evening. The film was an illuminating short that gave space to company members to supplement their physical expression with verbal communication.
The overall message of the video, and tone of the evening, was one of high spirits and a sense of achievement. The tremendous amount of effort, energy and sacrifice that is part of the lives of artists, and arts organizations, must have been tested past the point of imagining by the addition of the tragedies and challenges of a pandemic.
Somewhat experimental, Present Existence looked outside of traditional ballet forms for choreographic inspiration while maintaining balletic expectations of extension and line. Sinuous movements and elbow pumps met effortless-seeming leg lifts, backbends and clever use of pas de chat. The male members of the company shone, as ever, when on stage together as well as when apart or in small groups. Apprentice Katherine Codrescu especially displayed aptitude for alternative movements.
At one point, the loving caress of one dancer’s belly by another revealed the former’s pregnancy, in a joyful and inclusive moment representative of Boulder Ballet’s apparent ethos. The dancers do not all look the same, or dance the same, and that is valued instead of penalized. If I am not mistaken, the expectant, accomplished company member Melissa Halpin was also the choreographer of that piece. She was featured in other works as well, and was a pleasure to watch.
Dancers Emma Michaux and Ross Freeman also choreographed pieces for the evening’s program of mixed repertoire. Freeman’s was an electrifying solo which provided him the opportunity to let loose and explore his considerable abilities, which include but are obviously not limited to being a powerful partner. Michaux’s was playful and a great crowd favorite, as the dancers shared their enthusiasm with the audience through expressions and gestures.
Two excerpts from Christopher Wheeldon works, The American and There Where She Loves, were striking in their execution by dancers Emma Michaux with Hunter Solomon and Carly Hambridge with Matthew Helms, respectively. I expect Michele Gifford, listed as a choreographer in the program and who is a Repetiteur for the Balanchine Trust as well as Wheeldon, was involved. Impressive lifts, catches, and turns thrilled and fascinated the audience. The company puts great emphasis on their strong partner work, and it pays off.
The rather epic end piece, Dance Society, consisted of four movements variously choreographed by Program Director Amy Earnest, Artistic Director Lance Hardin, and Executive Director Claudia Anata Hubiak, and in one case all three together. Ensemble and separately, the whole company participated. Stark lighting lent a somber feel, and a voiceover detailing the inherent equality of all people underscored the gravity of the theme. While serious, it was affirming and constructive rather entirely critical. The coexistence of equity and diversity is apparently one with which much of the world struggles. It does not, however, seem to confuse Boulder Ballet.
Jane E. Werle
Writer & Editorial Board
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.