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Old Dogs, NewDance

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Ballet Idaho Artistic Director Peter Anastos stood in front of the audience March 16 at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy and said it was about to witness "some of the strongest work [Ballet Idaho choreographers] have ever done."

Anastos was speaking about the NewDance, Up Close Spring Series, which showcased Ballet Idaho-produced smaller dances choreographed and performed by its core dancers. Despite the "new" portion of the the event name, this year's Spring Series often returned to some of the company's best past work.

For Nathan Powell, it was an evening for returning to the basics. His two dances performed at Spring Series, "(Please Control Your) Impulsivity!" and "What You Wanted For Me," relied on music and props, respectively. "Impulsivity" was new to Spring Series and used the clever device of coding dancers' movements to individual instruments—for example, the sound of a xylophone corresponding to iPod-inspired operationality and percussion to Latin dance-inspired motion. It was straightforward and entertaining.

"What You Wanted For Me" was a reprise. When it debuted in November 2014, it left the audience stunned: A light attached to a long cord dropped suddenly from the ceiling, with a lone dancer engaged in a heartbreaking duet with the swaying bulb. Powell staged only a section of this gem, and a welcome sight it was, but no re-performance will match the spontaneity and vim of its first time on stage.

Lydia Sakolsky-Basquill, who teaches for Ballet Idaho and runs her own dance company, Project Flux, said her piece, "Six Degrees," explored the interconnectivity of the dance world, but could just as easily have been an exploration of the trends and fashions that live and die within her own work. Daniel Ojeda's "Let's Make Moves" was a return to the starry-eyed celebrations of youth and hipness that made his last full ballet, "The Monster and the Gift," feel a little light on insight.

Some of the smartest, most fun works of the evening were "Portrait" by Sayoko Knode and "Undone" by Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti. Knode's use of a huge, puffy skirt as a gateway to another realm and syncing dancers' movements to make them appear as a single form on stage was inspired. In "Undone," Affrunti offered a glimpse into insomnia and its effects on intimacy.

In a slate of performances that generally leaned on the past, the works that delivered truly "new dance" were kings.

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