Paul Boos came to Boise from New York to oversee Ballet Idaho's production of George Balanchine's "Rubies," the middle act of his 1967 ballet, Jewels. Boos was onstage Feb. 13 at the Morrison Center, basking in a standing ovation from the crowd for his efforts. "Rubies" was one of the most challenging dances Ballet Idaho has ever attempted, and it gave Boise audiences a new sense of what heights the dance company can reach.
"Rubies" is a work of art in a bottle. Narrative- and character-free, traditional ballet movements have been overlaid with the raw sexuality of the Jazz Age: The ballet opens with thrusting hips and high kicks. At times it looks like the dancers, with their glittering red costumes, are performing in a burlesque show. But unlike burlesque, "Rubies" has no punchline—just virtuoso performances by Andrew Taft and Elizabeth Keller and clockwork movements from the company dancers.
Ballet Idaho regulars rarely see Taft in this form. His performances are consistent and precise, but Friday night, he was inspired: His limb extensions were more fluid and he was lighter on his feet. It was one of the most energetic ballets of his career but by its end, he seemed effortlessly composed, as though he hadn't just spent the previous half hour sprinting and leaping across the Morrison Center stage.
The evening began with a work by an undisputed master, but the middle ballet of the evening, "This Mortal's Mosaic," was choreographed by Daniel Ojeda, a gifted student. "Mosaic" was an accessible, witty and fun collage of short cuts and vignettes about traditional (and some non-traditional) ballet themes like spurned love and relationships gone awry. Ojeda has already demonstrated his broad dance vocabulary, but here, he showed his mastery of it by expressing an array of feelings in a short amount of time without confusing or burning out the audience.
Rounding out the evening was the garrulous "Aaaaargh! Pirates!" by Peter Anastos. After the immense energy of "Rubies" and the substantial "Mosaic," "Pirates" was a sorbet of sight gags, stage fighting and sexual innuendo. It closed out with an exhilarating pas de deux between Angela Napier Gibson and Nathan Powell, but Taft, who performed in both "Rubies" and "This Mortal's Mosaic," again stole the show in the fourth variation of "Pirates."