Nevada Ballet Theatre conjures Tchaikovsky tales

Ballet is about many things, but one of them is balance.

And Nevada Ballet Theatre’s weekend “Tribute to Tchaikovsky” illustrated that in always diverting, often stirring fashion.

As NBT artistic director James Canfield reminded audiences at the start of Friday night’s season opener at The Smith Center, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky ranks as ballet’s greatest composer.

But the ballets Tchaikovsky scored — with the exception of “The Nutcracker,” which returns to The Smith Center this holiday season — are a bit too ambitious for a company of NBT’s size. At least at the present time.

So the weekend’s Tchaikovsky tribute offered one act from each of the composer’s other classic ballets: “Swan Lake’s” dramatic Act II and “Sleeping Beauty’s” fanciful Act III, “Aurora’s Wedding.”

Taken together, the effect was something like reading the start of a tragic fairy tale, then flipping through the pages in search of a happily-ever-after ending.

Not what you’d call thematically consistent, but often captivating nonetheless, offering a generous taste of each ballet’s distinctive qualities.

“Swan Lake’s” second act — which recounts the fateful meeting between Prince Siegfried (Steven Goforth) and the enchanting, enchanted swan queen Odette (Alissa Dale) — includes some of ballet’s most cherished sequences.

And with one of ballet’s most legendary Odettes — NBT artistic coach Cynthia Gregory — staging the dance, NBT’s “Swan Lake” excerpt ably conjured a tragic, sweepingly romantic, spell.

Dale proved an exquisite, emotional Odette, delivering not only the swan queen’s flowing, fluttering steps but the anguish — and, after she meets Siegfried, the tremulous hope — behind them. Goforth provided steady support, while Barrington Lohr skulked and glowered as the hissably villainous Von Rothbart, the nasty sorcerer who cursed Odette in the first place.

Beyond them, however, NBT’s corps de ballet delivered in striking fashion, whipping the stage into a frosty white froth with their precise, unified steps as Odette’s fellow swans.

Peter Cazalet’s storybook scenery and elaborate costumes (courtesy of Salt Lake City’s Ballet West) augmented “Swan Lake’s” dramatic mood — and heightened the delight of “Sleeping Beauty’s” multiple whimsies.

Unlike “Swan Lake’s” dramatic story, “Aurora’s Wedding” (staged by Ballet West’s Jane Wood-Smith and Pamela Robinson-Harris) showcases a series of celebratory divertissements from such beloved characters as Puss-in-Boots (Kyle Weight), Red Riding Hood (Nicole Federov) and the Wolf (Braeden Barnes), along with the sprightly Princess Florine (Hannah Schiller) and her high-flying companion, the Bluebird (Joshua Kekoa).

As the wise Lilac Fairy (Kaleigh Schock) and her fellow sprites danced their congratulations, you began to wonder whether Princess Aurora (Mary LaCroix) and dashing Prince Florimund (guest artist Jared Angle of the New York City Ballet) would ever get to kick up their heels at their own wedding.

But, hallelujah, a climactic sequence — showcasing Angle’s easy, elegant tour jetes, LaCroix’s pinpoint pirouettes and a buoyant pas de deux — rang down the curtain on a joyous note.

Albeit a pre-recorded one.

Alas, it’s too expensive at this point for NBT to have live musical accompaniment for every ballet. (Although this holiday season’s “The Nutcracker” should remedy that problem, at least at some, if not all, performances).

It’s just that when the music’s as glorious as Tchaikovsky at his best — and the dancing lives up to his rich, soaring melodies — you long to experience these classic ballets in every dimension.

Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

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