Colorado Ballet – 2000

February 1, 2000

Colorado Ballet Co. dancer Olga Volobuyeva performs Stanton Welch’s Of Blessed Memory.
Photo by Julie Lemberger

Colorado Ballet

Joyce Theater

New York, New York

February 1?6, 2000

Reviewed by Clive Barnes

What do they say about the first three desirable requisites of real estate? Location, location, location! With a dance company, particularly a dance company making its debut in a strange town before strange audiences and perhaps even stranger critics, those three requisites might be translated as: Programming, programming, programming!

Martin Fredmann’s Denver-based, highly regarded, stoutly touted, and generally shipshape Colorado Ballet was giving its Manhattan debut season?it had been seen in a couple of one-performance stands in Brooklyn a few years previously?at the Joyce Theater. It is a very good company, as I already knew, having seen it a few times at home in Denver as well as on those Brooklyn excursions.

Not unexpectedly the first night performance at the Joyce went extremely well?this is a handsomely schooled, talented batch of dancers, with, significantly, a vigorous house style and a number of vivid performing personalities. The performance itself, simply as dancing, was exciting enough. But that all-important programming proved less satisfactory.

It is a problem. Do you play safe with tested standards, or try to show your unique qualities with fresh creations? Fredmann took the road less traveled, and paid a price. The Coloradians gave two New York premieres and the revival of Frederick Ashton’s 1931  Facade, not seen in New York for more than twenty years. Ironically, it was the classic that came off the best.

Peter Pucci’s opening work,  Picture of Sedalia, set to Scott Joplin, tried to suggest images of small-town life at the end of the nineteenth century. With its Graham-esque suggestions, the ballet had energy but little variety, and the vignettes themselves appeared fuzzily defined. Stanton Welch’s Of Blessed Memory, to some of Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne, was apparently inspired by “youth, motherhood, and the transitions families have to endure when the children grow up and leave.” I say apparently because the work, a first ballet created in 1991 by the then-21-year-old choreographer for his home company, the Australian Ballet, looked a plotless piece, full of evident promise but far too long. A few fewer songs and a little less memory would have made the ballet more blessed.

Ashton’s well-known Facade, inspired by William Walton’s orchestral suite taken from the composer’s setting of nonsense poems by Edith Sitwell, remains a delicious, timeless suite of dances, still funny and daisy-fresh. The young cast missed something in subtlety, yet the work’s essential charm remained intact. And these really are exceptional dancers?I particularly noted Koichi Kubo, Maria Mosina, Andrew Thompson, Igor Vassin, Sharon Wehner, and St. Petersburg-trained newcomer Olga Volobuyeva?but good cooking can rarely substitute for an ill-chosen menu.