Aspen Ballet enlightens audience

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    By JULIA OLSEN

    The single performance of the Aspen Ballet Company, Wednesday night in the Madsen Recital Hall of the HFAC, was a far cry from the traditional connotations that the word “ballet” brings to mind.

    The Aspen Company, the only professional ballet company based and touring out of the Rocky Mountains, came to amuse and enlighten audience members for one night at BYU.

    The strangely unique ballets featured in the performance caused a mixed reaction, from laughter to confusion, throughout the audience.

    Greg Gardner, 18, a sophomore from Littleton, Colo., majoring in chemical engineering, was reluctant to attend the ballet.

    “I was dragged to the ballet, but I found the (ballet) intriguing in its technique and rather comical at times.”

    The company, which consists of five women and four men, draws its artists from around the world and focuses its technique primarily on modern dance fundamentals.

    “Classical ballet is structured and technical, and this is more modern than anything because of their freestyle,” said Jamie Nielsen, 18, a freshman from Twin Falls, Idaho, majoring in dance education.

    Bebe Schweppe, executive director of the Aspen Company, founded the Aspen Ballet School in 1990 to improve the quality of dance education in the Aspen area. Two students from the school have joined the professional company.

    The first performance of the night set the tone of the entire evening with its jazz strains, exaggerated movements and loud, orange costumes.

    Brandon Becker, who received his bachelor of fine arts in ballet from the University of Utah and Sarah Evans, one of the first students from the Aspen Ballet School to be invited to join the company, performed a comical number called “Confessin’.”

    Becker and Evans’ overstated movements and inter-dependant steps seemed to parody the dance of lovers during courtship.

    Another entertaining number, entitled “Wired,” performed by Tiana Hose and Becker, struck a chord of hilarity with the audience. The odd costumes of swim caps and colorful leotards complimented the odd message that the dancers delivered.

    “It was a like the Saturday Night Live cheerleaders starring in a Euro-tech punk video,” Gardner said.

    The dancers used a bright light to “shadow dance” on the back drop, creating a comical effect, uncommon in traditional ballet.

    The evening’s program contained only one classical piece, entitled “Valse-Fantaisie.”

    The “Black and White” number combined the talent of two dancers, Angela Rogers and Seth Delgrasso, lighting effects and smoke to create an atmosphere much like David Copperfield’s magic shows.

    “It’s a refreshing break from classical ballet,” said Rachel Nelson, 20, a sophomore from Eagar, Ariz., majoring in pre-med. “It’s very innovative.”

    The finale, “Fluctuating Hemlines,” brought the entire company to the stage in a ballet that parodied the insincerity of today’s society. The dancers, looking like fashionable mannequins with wigs, mimicked faux friendship, smoking and drinking.

    After the music switched to the strains of aboriginal drums and horns, the performers stripped down to basic white leotards and moved to the beat of the music, conveying that they had discovered their souls.

    The overall performance took the contemporary perspective on society and its animosity towards conformance to the status quo.

    The mission statement of the Aspen Ballet Company and school said, ” . . .by maintaining the highest level of artistic excellence, (the company) is an ambassador for the Aspen ideal and commitment to the arts.”

    The company performed in Ogden and Salt Lake before coming to BYU and will continue its tour by returning to Colorado.

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