Another season of dance at Northrop means another opportunity to see the best of the best in the dance world today. From timeless favorite Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to newer innovators such as Dorrance Dance and Jessica Lang Dance - you can’t go wrong with any of the performances you see this season. I have also personally grown fond of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and the work that is being shared from that company, which is very much in alignment with the contemporary aesthetics that have shifted the dance spectrum in recent years. However, my staff pick for the 2015//16 Dance Season goes to a company outside my personal palette of dance and one that I think everyone should see: Ballet West!
Known for their on-screen debut on the reality television show “Breaking Pointe,” Ballet West is Salt Lake City’s crown jewel of dance. From Balanchine to Bournonville and Petipa to Tharp, they boast a rich and varied repertoire, along with an American style and legacy that is dynamic, expansive, and unexpected. Aside from a handful of contemporary and modern companies in Utah, Ballet West has been the catalyst in paving the way for the classical form in the state since 1963. The company’s tour here will feature Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free and George Balanchine’s Who Cares?, a jazzy and romantic suite of dances performed to 16 of George Gershwin’s best-love melodies.
“Breaking Pointe” chronicled the behind the scenes action of Ballet West. However, after two seasons on the CW, producers pulled the plug. Despite it’s short lifespan, I think that the show did a great job highlighting the work, investment, experiences, and politics that all influence professional dance careers, especially compared to other dance-based reality shows like “Dance Moms” or “So You Think You Can Dance.” I commend the show for being honest about the labor of pursuing a profession that you constantly invest your whole being into and may not always receive something back in return. Thankfully, the show gave Ballet West the national prominence it deserved and the company is now thriving and able to put the emphasis back where it belongs, on the art of dancing.
The company's ability to adapt to many dance styles is due to an unaffected, unpolluted, classical base instilled in each dancer. Vibrant artistry within the company is also taken extremely seriously and it shows in each passionate performance. The great height of its dancers (not just in grand allegro, but quite literally with men who are 6‘5”, 6’6”) gives the company a distinctly elongated, commanding look that supports their talent on any stage. Among the talented ensemble is dancer Beckanne Sisk, who was recently promoted to principal dancer, the highest rank within the company, only five years after entering the ranks of the company. This is a commendable achievement, but no surprise with her impeccable lines, phenomenal turning ability, extreme flexibility, and stage presence. Then again, each dancer in the company brings a little bit of their own fire and edge to the overall stellar ballet troupe, which is why they are a must-see and the perfect opening to Northrop’s 2015//16 dance season!