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Ballet West

'The Leaves Are Fading', 'Lilac Garden,' 'Offenbach in the Underworld'

Waves of emotion

by Kate Snedeker

August 29, 2004 -- Edinburgh Playhouse, Edinburgh

On Sunday evening, Ballet West's second cast stepped into the principal roles of the three Tudor ballets on the program. Though the corps still battled with weaknesses in timing and partnering, the dancing was revitalized by the new and no less solid interpretation of the main roles.

Dancing to Dvorak's tender music, Kristin Hakala and Christopher Ruud brought a pleasing youthfulness to the main pas de deux, but looked just a little bit hesitant with some of the trickier partnering sequences. Ruud is elegantly proportioned with nice stretch in his dancing and was precise in his fiddly solo. In the other pas de deuxs, Christiana Bennett, Hua Zhang and Michael Bearden stood out.

Ruud appeared again as the Man She Must Marry in the haunting "Lilac Garden". Though appropriately somber and chilly in demeanor, Ruud, with his lean, youthful figure appeared too young to have quite the necessary emotional impact. However, Tong Wang and Kristin Hakala, partners on and off the stage, brought a real emotional depth to the roles of Caroline and her Lover. Wang, who will be retiring after the company performs the Tudor program back in Salt Lake City, has a wonderful, natural flow to his dancing and brought the right mix of passion and restraint to his role. Both Wang and Hakala imbued their characters with great emotion, and in the scene where Caroline breaks from the frozen cast to reach for her lover, you could see almost see the waves of emotion pushing her arm away.

"Offenbach in the Underworld" also was refreshed by new faces in some of the main roles. Michael Bearden's painter was an eager newcomer to the artistic scene as compared with Seth Olson's more experienced, introspective artiste, but equally as delightful. As the young officer, Steven Davis was snappy, but a little overmatched in some of the partnering with the other female soloists. Most delightful was Hua Zhuang, a humorous and athletic Imperial Excellency with high, clean double tours. Maggie Wright, as the Operetta Star, demonstrated solid dancing and humorous characterization.  Again, the female corps brought down the house with their saucy and energetic dancing, the girl in the green feathers (Jennifer Robinson) standing out for her wonderful characterization.

Edited by Jeff.

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