Fort Worth — Fairies, potions, and jealousy, oh my! Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream almost needs a flowchart for one to follow the shenanigans in both the human world and the supernatural. Ballet Frontier of Texas presents their ballet version (patterned after George Balanchine’s 1962 creation) at the W.E. Scott Theatre in Fort Worth for a delightful family-friendly event which also provides a nice challenge for the dancers. For a story ballet, sets are quite minimal, but brilliant costumes and remarkable staging keep the visuals exciting.
While a flowchart of characters and events in this medium isn’t exactly practical, here’s a rundown of the ballet. Around the time in which Duke Theseus (Brayan Valencia) and Hippolyta (Layla Terrell) are to be married, two other love stories occur around them. Hermia (Elizabeth Villarreal) is engaged to Demetrius (Dan Westfield, now with Minnesota Ballet), but she’s in love with Lysander (Marlen Alimanov), while Helena (Elizabeth Dennen) pines after Demetrius, who is still trying to get Hermia. (Maybe I should have included the flowchart after all.)
Meanwhile, Oberon (Diego Pulido), king of the fairies, wants the Indian Child (Gemma Yarborough) belonging to his wife Titania (Angel Pugh), but she refuses. Determined to get the child, he tells the mischievous fairy Puck (Andrew Shields at the performance reviewed; Luke Jones played Puck at the other performance) to make a love potion so that his wife will fall in love with the first thing she sees, thereby distracting her long enough to obtain what he wants.
Puck places the potion on her, so that she falls in love with Bottom (Luke Jones), a member of an acting troupe whose head has been turned into that of a donkey. Demetrius and Lysander also receive the potion, albeit one of them by mistake. Those two men fall in love with Helena, leaving Hermia heartbroken. After a conflict, all is made well, as Puck releases the spells on Bottom, Titania, and Lysander (leaving Demetrius in love with Helena). Theseus arranges for the two other happy couples to be married, and the wedding celebration of Act II is strictly dancing with pas de deuxs and a plethora of ensemble sections.
To help keep the characters straight, the ballet opens with spotlights on the characters in stillness, so the audience could take in the visual before the dancers began the narrative. The main characters prove to be strong actors with clear gestures and bold facial expressions. Artistic director Chung-Lin Tseng and his team have chosen a solid set of dancers for their main company, and the artists admirably execute the choreography.
The leading ladies are quite compelling on stage. Villarreal has come such a long way in her performance quality and maintains her commendable technique, Pugh floats delicately with elegant precision in her solos, and Dennen has graceful suspension and dynamics.
Not to be outdone, the men shine as well. Westfield demonstrates more articulation and control every time he appears with the company, Alimanov’s endless pirouettes are always a treat to see, Valencia delivers impressive strength in his acting and dancing, and Diego effortlessly maneuvers through his jumps.
The younger dancers fare quite well, too. Andrew Shields shows great promise with exuberant allegros, while Terrell exhibits lovely shapes with a beautiful smile.
A large ensemble, with some featured dancers, have quite a challenge with the vast amount of choreography, but they rise to the occasion. It’s quite demanding and rather fast at times, especially in the wedding scene. Their costumes and floor patterns work well to mask some of the less precise execution and timing issues that are typical of budding artists.
The whirlwind of a ballet last about an hour-and-a-half with intermission, and it’s whimsical, funny, and quite adorable. It’s a great close to Ballet Frontier’s tenth season, and a good jumping-off point for the promising season ahead of them, which includes another show with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and an exciting appearance at Bass Hall.