Ballet Idaho couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate title for Mix It Up, comprised of three one-act ballets, which opened on the night of Oct. 28.
Principle dancer Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye’s beautiful, modern work “City Symphony” opened the evening, featuring music by Philip Glass. A brief intermission was followed by the more classical triple pas de deux Claire de Lune, which made use of a minimal stage and soft, muted color scheme to create a world for young lovers that was the epitome of the word lovely. Originally commissioned by the legendary Mikhail Baryshnikov for the American Ballet Theatre, the work was refashioned by Ballet Idaho. The pairs were designated in a prom-like way, with the male-female counterparts clothed in matching colors. The dedication to technique and fluidity of some company members was especially evident in this piece.
After the audience had been lulled into a dreamy, ethereal state and had taken another brief recess, the mood in the Boise State Special Events Center took a radical turn. The sleepy sounds of Clair de Lune were replaced by the upbeat and innately silly sounds of 19th-century opera composer Guiussepe Verdi’s works, a mash up of which Anastos created for his new ballet, “Aarrrg! Pirates!” which was the concluding and headlining performance in the Mix It Up evening.
Anastos said he drew inspiration from the high-energy, “gypsy-like” music, which provided a perfect accompaniment to the whimsical movements of the well-trained dancers. It isn’t often that a ballet opens with one of the company’s principal dancers being thrown to the ground behind jail-cell bars. This scene garnered laughs from the crowd, which continued throughout the approximate half-hour runtime of "Pirates." The dancers seemed to have fun with the ballet—they were part dancer and part comedic actor, executing the dual roles well. The fun of the piece was infectious, and everyone in the nearly-full auditorium, from children to senior citizens, couldn’t help but smile the whole way through.
The dancers pantomimed, brandished spyglasses, boarded a fantastically funny pirate ship and performed sword fights with expert skill. The piece was obviously challenging. Anastos’ choreography involved a number of solos and duos. Especially notable was the fancy footwork in a female-pirate sword-fighting duo, and the show-and-tell section of solos mid-way through the piece. The performance included some fantastic surprises that would make even the greatest ballet un-enthusiasts chuckle.
The show was well done, though not without an occasional flaw—like a fall out of a turn—but showed the versatility of the dancers, as well as the fun side of the company. There’s something for everyone at the Mix It Up evening, even if you don’t think you like ballet.
Catch Aarrrg! Pirates! Sunday, Oct. 30, at the Boise State Special Event Center, 1800 University Drive, Boise. Visit balletidaho.org for more information.