Irving — Luscious scenery, elaborate costumes, catchy compositions, authentic storytelling and proficient dancing: Ballet Ensemble of Texas’ restaging of George Skibine’s Firebird had something for everyone Saturday afternoon at the company’s Spring Concert at the Irving Arts Center.
Firebird, danced of course to the music of Igor Stravinsky, tells the tale of Prince Ivan’s encounter with the mystical Firebird. In the first scene he tries to capture the marvelous creature, but fails; the Firebird offers him one of her feathers instead. Next Ivan meets the beautiful Tsarevna and they fall in love. A battle ensues between Ivan and the evil Kostchei, and the Firebird is called upon to help defeat him. In the final scene Ivan and Tsarevna are wed and everyone lives happily ever after.
Firebird is a challenge that calls for dramatic flair and daring dancing—and the dancers responded with commitment and consistency, a tribute to stager Thom Clower’s passion and BET director Lisa Slagle’s training. Breanne Granlund thrived in the role of the Firebird. Her commanding stage presence, innate musicality and clear-cut pointe work were a match for Skibine’s detailed choreography and Stravinsky’s quick staccato composition. Even her smallest movements—fluttering arms, twitching head—seemed to entrance the audience. Texas Ballet Theater’s Brett Young excelled as Prince Ivan. He made the transition from hunter to lover appear effortless, though his solo in the opening scene must have tested his endurance with its multiple grande jetes and tours.
Young proved also to be a solid partner, executing the tricky over the head lifts and counter-balance holds with ease during the pas de deux, but softening his movements when dancing with his love Tsarevna (Abby Granlund). Abby exuded tranquility, creating the illusion that her movement never stops even when she is standing still. The surprise performance of the evening came from Aldrin Vendt, who played Kostchei. Under heavy makeup and layers of clothing, he compensated with exaggerated gestures and a sense of tension that radiated from every part of his body.
Fernando Bujones’ Splendid Gershwin and Marius Petipa’s Paquita, both restaged by American Ballet Theatre’s Susan Jones, rounded out the rest of the show. The company showed off its aptitude for more traditional ballet movement in Paquita. Yuki Takahashi sparkled in this role. Her beautiful breathing technique, inhaling as she elongates and exhaling into balance holds, added texture and anticipation to her performance. Soloists Masumi Yoshimoto, Natalie Tsay, Jimena Flores-Sanchez and Breanne Granlund gave solid performances that highlighted their musicality and poignant pointe work. Guest Artist Shea Johnson ate up the stage with his gravity-defying leaps and turning sequences. While at times his movement appears labored, he can execute a triple pirouette with ease.
The men stole the show in Splendid Gershwin with their Fred Astaire-like grace and personality. Dressed in tuxes and top hats, Samuel Chadick, William Sheriff, Aldrin Vendt and Johnson glided across the stage in a series of turns punctuated with pivots and drag steps in “Embraceable You.” Roman Mejia charmed the audience with his consecutive toe touches and cheeky air as he attempted to impress four female dancers in “Ladies & The Tramp.”
After seeing Ballet Ensemble of Texas deliver on consistency, authenticity and versatility with this Spring Concert one has to wonder, is there anything BET can’t do?
»Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com.