The highlight of the first half of the evening was “Concourse.” This piece by Petr Zharadinacek had my undivided attention. Dancers Samuel Mack and Kyra Olson held a tangible intensity throughout this piece as they transitioned from one place to the next on stage. Their partnering was seamlessly connected, which gave the impression that the relationship between the dancers was also connected. At times, the movement was fluid and at other times it was jerky, not unlike life and relationships in general.

Mack and Olson both seemed delicate yet strong with their long limbs and lyrical expression. Flashlights were part of this piece at the beginning and the end. Although I recognize this to be an artistic choice, I felt it was an unnecessary addition. The flashlights, on multiple occasions, uncomfortably blinded me to the point where I could not see the dancers on stage.

The second half of the performance was excerpts from the 19th century classic Sleeping Beauty, with original choreography by Marius Petipa. This exquisite ballet is known in the dance world for its challenging choreography. Composed by Tchaikovsky, and originally lasting almost four hours, this musical score is almost always cut down to about a two-and-a-half-hour performance.

The six Fairy soloists were wonderfully different. Standout Claire Buehler, as Generosity, hopped en pointe and demonstrated quick light pas de couru, excellently showcasing her attention to technique and detail. “The Fairy Attendants,” choreographed by Artistic Director Karl von Rabenau, was nicely balanced, dimensional, and layered.

“Bluebird” pas de deux, performed by Claire Buehler and Samuel Mack, was outstanding. Together they dance well and complemented each other. Mack’s performance of petit allegro, or small quick movement, was impressive. The precise footwork of brise vole during his variation was a perfect example. Buehler’s most startling skill was her exceptional grasp of balance.

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The grand pas de deux of Aurora and Desire, performed by Brianna Crockett and Reinhard von Rabenau, was technically difficult and embodied the refined nature of ballet. Crockett continued to prove her strengths as a consistent, elegant dancer with good musicality. Rabenau had strong technique but seemed to “muscle” through the movements in his variation. Together they demonstrated beautifully the difficulty of ballet with the arabesque, fouette turn to fish. This section showcased the technical strength of the pair. No one could argue that the art of ballet, especially this ballet, is easy, however many of the lifts looked labored.

I enthusiastically watched the dress rehearsal Friday evening to write this review, but it felt more like watching a rehearsal. There were slight mistimings between the dancers’ movement and the music, costumes were not all completed, and spacing was a bit off. But these uncharted days of COVID-19 reduce the amount of time companies can be in the theater to run a full tech week. I have no doubt that these highly skilled professionals will have all the bumps worked out for opening night.

Although it was a pared-down version of the pre-pandemic bigger productions the Minnesota Ballet usually brings to the stage, it was absolutely delightful to be physically present and watching live dance. For those of you not comfortable coming to the theater just yet, check out the Minnesota Ballet’s website, minnesotaballet.org, for information on their virtual performance option of this show with the added bonus of two works by Paul Taylor.

Depot Playhouse Theater, April 25th at 5pm

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Tickets available: minnesotaballet.org

Kelly Sue Coyle reviews dance performances for the News Tribune.



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