A new Ballet Idaho debuted last weekend. Now under the artistic leadership of Garrett Anderson, who came on board in July, the company appears to have leaped into hyperdrive with a fresh sense of movement, energy and direction. With this opening salvo, Anderson made clear his intention to elevate the quality of both performance and content.
Costumes coordinated by Keri Fitch were sophisticated and sleek across the board. Tony Hartschron’s lighting was evocative and beautifully illuminated the dancers, sometimes casting dramatic shadows of the dancers on a white scrim.
In just a five-week rehearsal period, the change in the company was measurable on stage.
“I feel like a different kind of fire has been lit,” dancer Graham Gobeille said in the lobby after one performance.
Fire indeed. Observing this company closely for all of its 10 years in this configuration, I can say the improvement is impressive.
Anderson, a former soloist with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and San Francisco Ballet, unveiled his version of NewDance, titled Form and Function. He took the idea of this intimate performance experience designed by retired Artistic Director Peter Anastos as a forum for the dancers to work on themselves, and transformed it into an opportunity to bring nationally and internationally known choreographers to Boise to work with the company.
Three strong contemporary works anchored the program, the choreographers being Salt Lake-based Penny Saunders, Australian Danielle Rowe and Boise’s Lauren Edson. The style scales balanced with pieces that leaned more on the neoclassical side from San Francisco-based Dana Genshaft, Chicago’s Craig Davidson and also Robyn Mineko Williams.
Anderson and rehearsal director Anne Mueller double-cast each piece to allow the dancers a deeper experience during six performances — three of which sold out the theater at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy Annex.
The diversity of style allowed for some breakout performances by many of the dancers.
Adrienne Kerr and Justin Hughes gave riveting and emotional performances in Williams’ “Grey Horses,” a beautifully taunt contemporary pas de deux that sent shivers through the audience. Kerr again was a standout — this time with Goebille as her partner — in “Ambiguous Content,” Davidson’s piece, which will be expanded for the company’s “(re)Define” performance at the Morrison Center Feb. 8-9, 2019.
New Ballet Idaho member Nell Josephine turned in several dynamic performances — in Saunders’ “Down the Dixie Line” with the always fantastic Madeline Bay, and in Edson’s wonderfully funny and irreverent look at love, gender and relationships, “Song and Dance (but not at the same time).” Josephine opened and closed that piece with a real feel and flair for Edson’s intricate, full-body movement.
Daniel Ojeda was a standout throughout the program, especially his quirky chair-bound solo in “Dixie Line.”
Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin and John Fraser knocked it out of the park with their duet in “Dixie” that starts out playful and evolves into a beautiful, brutish wrestling match.
The stunner of the show was Rowe’s “Dreamland,” a work-in-progress that will be fully rendered in February. The dark and visceral dreamscape — complete with moody lighting, creepy characters and a woman in a red dress — filled every corner of the stage with something that drew your eye. It’s a feast that leaves you wanting more.
So they’re off to a good start. This company that Anastos started from scratch and built for 10 years is now in the right hands at the right time. This looks to be a bold season.
The spring NewDance will feature works by the Ballet Idaho company members.
The rest of the season
“The Nutcracker” by Peter Anastos: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13-Friday, Dec. 14; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15; noon and 4:00 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16, Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chaves Lane, Boise. Single tickets go on sale Wednesday, Oct. 17.
“(re)Define”: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8-Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, Morrison Center. Single tickets go on sale Dec. 5.
“NewDance: Inside View”: 730 p.m. Thursday, March 7-Friday, March 8, 2019; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9, 2019; 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, March 10, 2019, Ballet Idaho Theatre. Single tickets go on sale Jan. 17, 2019.
“Cinderella” by Edwaard Liang: 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 3; 2 and 7:30 pm Saturday, May 4, 2019. Single tickets go on sale Feb. 20, 2019.