For fans of dance, last weekend was like being a kid in a candy store.
At the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy, Ballet Idaho presented the spring offering of its NewDance, Up Close
series, featuring new works by Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti, Lydia Sakolsky-Basquill, Lauren Edson, Daniel Ojeda, Nathan Powell and Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin. Across the alley at Boise Contemporary Theater, Balance Dance Company presented Alchemy
, new works by Charlotte Boye-Christensen, Leah Stephens Clark, Christine Chang Gillespie, Molly Heller, Johanna Kirk, Amanda Micheletty, Sadi Mosko, Helene Peterson and Ciera Shaver.
Ballet Idaho's NewDance, Up Close
series has been a treat for dance enthusiasts of all stripes with its innovative choreography by company dancers and freelance choreographers. The spring performances (which continue Friday, March 13, and Saturday, March 14) opened strong with Ojeda's "With All Disrespect," a work he said he hopes will be part of a larger ballet featuring music by LCD Soundsystem. "Disrespect" showcased Ojeda's growing dance vocabulary, but where the piece excelled was in Ojeda's restraint. While several of his other works have radiated pathos and relied on physical humor, this dance—described as a story about the kinds of relationships that might play out on a train ride—was defined by its focus and clarity.
Scattered amid charming, if benign, dances by Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin and Nathan Powell were moving works by Affrunti and Edson. Affrunti's "Ringkiri" drew inspiration from rings and circles and featured dancers interacting with each other while balanced on Lazy Susans, illustrating motion and stasis as aspects of romance. "Fear. Unveiled." by Lydia Sakolsky-Basquill featured remixed audio of Benedict Cumberbatch reading a book on tape and dancers performing an anxiety-ridden stress test on the relationships between sound and music, and motion and dance. A special nod goes to <strike>Ballet Idaho principal dancer</strike> Adrienne Kerr, whose performance in "Fear. Unveiled." was elegant and graceful without undermining choreography that directly challenged conventional notions of elegance and grace.
The highlight of the evening, however, was Edson's much-anticipated "Missed Migration," an intense emotional experience that packed the energy and scale of a full ballet into a black-box theater stage.
While NewDance, Up Close
was an exhibition of short works, works in progress and teasers of larger ballets, Balance Dance's Balance Alchemy
was a fully polished production months in the making.
Heller teased "Outside the Lines," during Balance's winter 2014 showcase. The piece, inspired by mirror dancing and featuring music by Neil Diamond and Credence Clear Water Revival, had been much refined and served as an appetizer for a problem-solving and science-themed main course of moving new works.
In Mosko's "Wherever There Is," dancers explored fission and cohesion, while Micheletty's "On Memory" tackled orbital motion and chaos. Members of Balance II—Balance's company of younger dancers—performed Shaver's geometrical-themed "125." While Alchemy
comprised several thoughtful thematic works, its soul was Kirk's "Tough Love," which drew from the nervous energy of failed relationships and flawed reconciliations in a way that left the audience stunned.
"Time:space," an original piece by Clark, Balance Dance's artistic director, and Gillespie was Alchemy
's most explicit treatment of problem solving. Gillespie is a former NASA engineer, and her background surely informed the dance's meditations on chaos, resolution and order. Like a series of chemical reactions or a high-school physics problem, the mass of frenetic dancers that opened the dance broke into units of duos and trios, established orbits and settled into synchronicity and order.