The Morrison Center curtain opened, revealing the stark, elegant, blue-hued tableau of George Balanchines Serenade on Saturday night the start of Ballet Idahos sixth season under artistic director Peter Anastos.
The piece was a welcome reprise from last season because it highlights this companys strength for tight classical ensemble work and lovely, elegant lines.
Led by principals Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti and Angela Napier Gibson and soloist Lauren Menger, the company performed the piece beautifully from beginning to end.
Its shocking to realize that Serenade, created in 1934 the first work Balanchine did in the United States is so choreographically relevant today. It is the template on which American ballet springs.
The company is developing a depth of talent in its ranks from the soloists to the corps men and women everyone danced well.
Akimbo, a ballet by San Francisco-based choreographer Charles Anderson, who danced for Balanchine for more than a decade in New York City Ballet, offered some lovely echoes of Balanchines masterwork.
Its a fast, athletic contemporary piece that challenged dancers Andrew Taft, in his impressive debut as a principal, Menger, Affrunti, Megan Hearn, John Frazer and new company member Jake Casey in both technique and stamina.
Andersons choreography kept pace with the complex and driving music of Kronos Quartet, and the dancers matched its intensity. Taft and Menger made a dynamic pair in their pas de deux. Frazer and Casey were a knockout in their combative duet, and Affrunti and Hearn were lovely in the womens duet.
Sandwiched in between was company dancer Daniel Ojedas choreographic debut Qualia. It featured James Brougham as a man struggling with a guilty memory represented by dancers Elizabeth Herrmann, Graham Gobeille and Menger.
New choreography is difficult and like this piece it is often overthought and overchoreographed. Ojeda shows a clean sense of movement that will grow nicely with time.
The closer was Anastos 1930s-style comic ballet Footage. Its a fun, effervescent and splashy audience pleaser that shows this company well.
Brougham was a standout, pulling off difficult technique multiple turns in the air, pirouettes and leaps in a full tuxedo. His partner, the delightful Gibson who was totally on for the whole night simply sparkled. Affrunti and Taft were hysterical in the comic tango section.
Ballet Idaho's next performances are of the holiday classic "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 20, 21 and 22.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland