Studio Series, a collection of four original dances choreographed by five Ballet Idaho dancers, was a showcase of work by emerging artists who are learning the nuts and bolts of collaborating with dancers to build compelling ballets.
The debut, March 16 at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy, opened with Mo chuisle (pronounced "muh khwish-la"), choreographed by Angela Napier Gibson and featuring music from The High Kings and Ellis Kennedy, which celebrated Saint Patrick's Day an evening early with an Irish jig. The dance bloomed when the female dancers joined the pantaloon-wearing men on stage, culminating in a buoyant, lively fifth and final part set to "Marie's Wedding," by The High Kings. The piece suffered, however, from awkward props—wood bench, beer glasses—a wayward synthesis of ballet and Riverdance, and lapses in tempo that made the dancers occasionally drift out of sync with each other.
Duets abounded in Resolute, by Nathan Powell. Muscular, expressive dancing by Broderick Todd added vitality and conviction to this drama about a girl who leaves home to learn independence and cultivate relationships. With less passionate dancing, Resolute's loose narrative could have left audiences ambivalent. Instead, strong performances drew attention to its native virtuosity and daring.
Following a brief intermission was a duet of another sort: Sospiro, co-choreographed by Nathan Powell and Lauren Menger with music by Faraualla. Sospiro means "sigh" in Italian, and this five-part meditation on expressive exhalation maximized rich parts played by Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti and the talented Adrienne Kerr to tell its short, bright vignettes.
The evening ended with the epic-length The Hills in Orange and Black by James Brougham and Daniel Ojeda, with a beautiful score composed by Ben Kirby. The Hills opened with white-clad dancers observing the setting sun and growing tired and closed with a hearty cast leaping, indulging and cavorting in an exquisitely conceived shared-dream sequence titled "Fires in the Hills of Mars."
Ballet Idaho Artistic Director Peter Anastos prefaced the evening with a warning against the word "experimental," preferring to describe what the audience was about to see as "people at the beginning of their careers and positions of leadership." It's that final attribute—leadership—that makes choreography more than dance moves in someone's head. And despite the variety of visions and themes in the Studio Series, the strength shared by all the dances was the faith bestowed on the performers to make the overall project a success.