Butler Ballet's Midwinter Dance Festival

Butler Ballet

Butler Ballet's Midwinter Dance Festival is breaking new ground with two different one-hour programs on alternate dates on the stage of the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts.

Program A, reviewed below, continues on Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. Program B, which can be seen Feb. 13 at 7 p.m., Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 16 at 2 p.m., repeats Valse-Fantaisie and En Camino, but substitutes Waiting for Rides (by Derek Reid) and The Other Self (Marek Cholewa) for Capriol Suite and Idylwild.

Show up at least a half hour before curtain to experience Spectre des Ballets Russes, billed as a "program opening" on stage and in the lobby, with choreography by Cynthia Pratt and music collage by Larry Attaway.

Balanchine's 47-year-old Valse-Fantaisie is an expression of pure dance that's as fresh and zestful as our current spate of wind-swept snow weather. One male with a lead female and four women as a corps whirled and leapt in fast-paced entries and exits, creating variations of a set number of patterns, particularly engaging with leaps and leg beats and pas de chat - literally charming little cat's steps, perfectly matched to Mikhail Glinka's joyful waltz. Balanchine's speed and expressiveness were nicely attained in this staging by Patrick Hinson and Violette Verdy.

Stephan Larent's Capriol Suite follows the mini-dramas of Peter Warlock's composition. A stately start moves into a fun-filled ensemble segment. Following their hasty exit, a woman feigning aloofness ignores the supplications of a man and leaves him heartbroken. Laurent describes the third interlude as "a tribute to the film Billy Elliott." Another ensemble showcases a fast, flirty glyph on Russian folk dancing. The pace changes with a "tender duet" and the work closes with a bit of bafoonery by the ensemble.

Idylwild has a feel of Susan McGuire's autobiography with nods to the styles of Paul Taylor and Martha Graham that she extends and makes her own in varying patterns and tempos to and against music by Larry Attaway. It's a panorama of ever-changing patterns and relationships that repeat and spin off into other configurations.

Gustavo Ramirez Sansano's En Camino appears here as a sort of answer to my Oct. 28 review request for a repeat performance. This work premiered at the tribute marking Clowes Memorial Hall's 50th anniversary. What I wrote then holds sway now: "Choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano created a premiere work, En Camino, for Butler Ballet set on O'Connor's 'Surrender the Sword" (yes, the music was familiar because you first heard on the PBS documentary Liberty! The American Revolution). Sansano takes inspiration from the theme and Emerson's directive to abjure the paved path, and to 'go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. With multiple variations, relationships and situations, one individual initially led the way, then others joined until, ultimately, an open avenue blazed forth to a new song, 'Wonderful, Wonderful' (composed by Edwards, Meyer and Raleigh and sung by Johnny Mathis)."

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