Dance review: Chaddick Dance Theater’s “In the Company of…”

 (This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Claire Christine Spera.)

The stark white walls of Chaddick Dance Theater’s new First Street Studio on E. Cesar Chavez Street provided an ideal backdrop for the two pieces comprising “In the Company of…” In each, the dancers smacked into, leaned against and slid down these walls. The compelling detail of their movement was easily absorbable in the intimate, informal performance space.RMPD0488

In the evening’s first work, “Crossroads” (choreographed by Tulsa-based Bonnie Hossack), four dancers conveyed the ups and downs of everyday life. Set to Arvo Pärt’s quietly thrilling “Fratres for Strings and Percussion,” the dancers in turn exuded calm and frenetic energy. Micro hand gestures indicated agitation; then, they threw themselves from one side of the room to the other, collapsing into literal balls of anxiety. The audience sat so close as to feel the wind-wake of the dancers as they rushed past.

After each stormy session, serenity overcame them. One of the most interesting moments was when dancers Devon Adams, Katie Mae Herbert, Cameron Oefinger and Erica Stivison smacked up against the back wall, then oozed down to the floor. They walked their feet along the wall before pushing off to slide downstage on their backs, all in unison. Then they picked themselves back up, only to start the cycle again.

The next piece, Artistic Director Cheryl Chaddick’s “Vicissitudes of the Heart,” was aptly titled. Set to an original score by Graham Reynolds, the work was divided into sections that either documented four phases of a single relationship — “Discovering,” “Passion,” “Conflict & Confusion,” “Love & Gratitude” — or four different relationships, depending on how you chose to look at it.

Dressed in shades of pink, purple and gray, each of the four couples brought a different dimension to the humanity of relationships. In “Discovering,” Herbert and Peter Gonzalez were full of anticipation as they tested each other’s likes and dislikes, feeling each other out. Stivison and Oefinger ran at each other with full energy in “Passion,” completing a series of lifts and floor rolls that emphasized embrace.

Perhaps the most emotionally gripping was Adams and Nathan Brumbaugh’s performance in “Conflict & Confusion.” Adams fluctuated between rage and hysteria, alternately shoving Brumbaugh and shaking alone. Brumbaugh maintained an expression of sad disbelief, as though asking himself, “What’s the point?”

The final phase, “Love & Gratitude,” reminded us of the point. In one moment, dancer Christine Wong walked blindly backwards with her arm stretched back, hand searching for a partner’s loving clasp.

When she found Cody Edwards, we breathed a sigh of relief.

“In the Company Of” continues through Feb. 28. http://www.chaddickdancetheater.com

Dance review: Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast”

With considerable panache, Ballet Austin premiered “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast” its latest new production at the Long Center on Valentine’s weekend. P1-150211-21034751-4177

Supported by a commission from the 3M corporation, “Belle Redux” marks one the most ambitious new productions Ballet Austin has realized since 2008’s much-lauded “Cult of Color: Call to Color.”

And indeed on opening night the anticipation of “Belle Redux” was palpable, the enthusiastic capacity crowd at the Long Center eagerly applauding at every moment the movement paused.

A certainly not-so-Disney reimagining of the romantic tale, “Belle Redux” reunited Stephen Mills with one of his surest regular collaborators, composer Graham Reynolds. And it redoubled Mills’ collaboration with set and costume designer Michael Raiford.

Mills distilled the “Beauty and the Beast” fable down to its barest essence, abstracting the narrative. He gave Beauty and Beast dopplegängers. He introduced a prologue/backstory distilled from the original 1740 novel version “La Belle et la Bête.” And if the 90-minute two-act ballet ended with the anticipated romantic resolution, it did so under a haze of psychological ambiguity, less “happily ever after” than a couple unleashing themselves from twisted constraints.

This was, after all, a very adult “Beauty and the Beast,” with turgid undertones, a stark set more urban ruin than fairy tale forest and a score echoing with haunting distortion.

Mills movement vocabulary merged the classical with the new-found. Edgy and abrupt shifts of silhouette altered with moments of formal grace. Small, almost quotidian gestures by one dancer came in between sweeping dramatic movements by a group.

Michelle Thompson and Edward Carr in "Belle Redux"
Michelle Thompson and Edward Carr in “Belle Redux”

Reynolds’ captivating score — a multi-layered edgy gem of pre-recorded finesse — contrasted electronically ethereal sounds with blasting moments of percussive earthiness. A poignant romantic melody laced throughout, emerging with particularly heartfeltness in a string quartet midway through.

Nicely complemented by Tony Tucci’s very dimensional lighting, Raiford’s three-walled set mixed roughed-up texture with mirrored affects (including actual funhouse mirrors), an adroit combination. Likewise the costumes, which combined dark elegance with ragged luxury; some characters accented with masks or hoods, a sharp red line marking the bare face and torso of the Beast.

Yet for all the enthusiasm that clearly fed such an ambitious creative collaboration, the zeal resulted in a bit of an artistic frenzy with much — at moments too much — happening all at once. P1-150211-21533393-7936

Moving set elements competed for attention with video projections. Choreography often didn’t differentiate much between different characters. Overly acrobatic group lifts sometimes weighed down the ballet’s momentum. And added characters and scenes left the plot more muddle than orginatively reimagined.

And yet, the final pas de deux of Belle (danced by Michelle Thompson who shared the role with Aare Krumpe) and Beast (Edward Carr who shared the role with Paul Michael Bloodgood), brought a refined elegance and emotional impact to the ending, made all the more visually stunning as the duo wrapped themselves in red fabric that covered the floor, drawing the cloth up with their feet.

Thompson and Carr were at the most nuanced here too, their partnering dramatically seamless and heartfelt.

That Belle and Beast had emerged transformed in the end was unmistakable. The journey behind that transformation however remained a little less clear.

www.balletaustin.org

A preview peak (and listen) to Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux”

“Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast” is Ballet Austin artistic director Stephen Mills newest creation, a dark, contemporary and passionate version of take on the  romantic fairy tale.

It opens at the Long Center this weekend is Ballet Austin artistic director Stephen Mills.”

Set design for "Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast." By Michael Raiford for Ballet Austin.
Set design for “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast.” By Michael Raiford for Ballet Austin.

Mills tapped two Austin-based artistic collaborators with whom he has worked before: composer Graham Reynolds and designer Michael Raiford.

For the set design, Raiford channeled the shadow-filled surreal visuals of Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film “La Bell et la Bête.”

Two LED screens will be used for film segments that will augment the stark stage, which is framed by graffiti-covered scrims.

For costumes, Mills and Raiford drew inspiration from the fantastical forms and urban edginess of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, with a neutral color scheme offset by splashes of red.

Costume design by Michael Raiford for Ballet Austin.
Costume design by Michael Raiford for Ballet Austin.

Reynolds’ score combines two different musical palettes: one inspired by a traditional string orchestra-heavy movie soundtrack sound, the other using sounds created in digital composing software, including electronic noises and effects, looping sequences, and heavily distorted electric guitar tracks.

Music for the ballet “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast,” by Graham Reynolds

 

 

.

Scene Eleven:   “Rose Garden”

Scene Four:   “Father takes Flight”

Scene Six:   “The Beast”

Costume design by Michael Raiford for Ballet Austin.
Costume design by Michael Raiford for Ballet Austin.

Review: Tapestry Dance Company’s “Of Mice and Music”

(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Claire Christine Spera.)

As I approached the Long Center via the South First Street bridge, my eyes lingered on the candy cane-striped columns adorning the performing arts center’s downtown-facing patio, good advertisement for the complex’s hosting of not one, but two “Nutcrackers” that weekend: Ballet Austin’s classical version in Dell Hall, and local dance academy and professional tap troupe Tapestry Dance Company’s anything-but-traditional “Of Mice and Music: A Jazz Nutcracker” in the Rollins. Of-Mice

On Friday evening, I was there to see “Of Mice and Music” (running through Sunday Dec. 21), a holiday tradition for Tapestry that gives the academy’s dancers, age 4 through adults, the opportunity to participate in a professional-level theatrical experience, complete with live music.

Conceived and directed by Tapestry artistic director Acia Gray, the production offers a modern take on a classic. The two-act ballet is whittled down to a one-act, one-hour version that includes tap and lyrical choreography, all set to a jazz-quartet score by Blue J, a reinterpretation of Tchaikovsky’s classical score.

In Tapestry’s production, Clara (danced by academy student Sydney Gallagher) is a modern-day teenager, complete with cell phone; her mother is a woman who shrieks at the sight of giant mice (can’t we all relate?).

Tapestry’s academy dancers make up several groups: the Rhythm Boys, an all-boys tap ensemble taught exclusively by men; Visions in Rhythm, for young dancers who spend at least 10 hours a week training across dance styles; and Visions in Motion, reserved for adult dance students. Then, of course, there is the professional tap company, North America’s only full-time professional tap troupe.

Moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers, sisters and brothers, families and friends — all were at the show to support Tapestry’s students. The audience was littered with video cameras and congratulatory bouquets of flowers stashed under chairs and in laps, awaiting the inevitable post-performance clutch of the performers.

Before the performance had even started, the jazz quartet was already playing such holiday favorites as “Jingle Bells” and the “Jingle Bell Rock.” The visual centerpiece onstage was a 20-foot Christmas tree.

“Of Mice and Music” is filled with all the usual characters, but presents them with a twist, from the tacky-Christmas-sweater-donning party-goers, to the Nutcracker and the Rat King, who do battle not with canons and swords, but via a dance-off.

Aww-ing over the sweet innocence of the pink-leotard-and-tights baby mice, who traipse behind the Rat King (played by professional company member Tony Merriwether), gives way to ooh-ing at the tuxedo-donning rats — the older children who clearly have tap chops to demonstrate.

The production is also an opportunity to check out Tapestry’s new professional company dancers (the only returning member this season is Siobhan Cook). As the Russian toy, Jeremy Arnold popped around the stage self-assuredly; Michael Love’s interpretation of the Spanish toy involved lightening-quick footwork with handclaps for accents; and special guest Rebecca Whitehurst’s Marzipan doll was an over-the-top French coquette who elicited much laughter from the audience.

With its mix of professional and amateur performances, “Of Mice and Music” has an appeal to audiences beyond the family and friends of the performers. If you’re looking for something Christmas-y with a touch of modern this season, look no further than Tapestry’s production.

“Of Mice and Music” continues through Sunday. www.thelongcenter.org

Review: “Anything Goes” national tour

(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Cate Blouke.)

When Cole Porter penned his classic tune “Anything Goes” in the 1930s, I doubt he could have imagined how far things would really go – both in terms of the cultural license his song describes and the longevity of the hit Broadway musical that takes the song as its title.

Brought to Austin by Broadway Across America this week, the 2011 revival of the 1934 “Anything Goes” playing at Bass Concert Hall through Sunday, is charming even if it inevitably feels rather dated at times.

"Anything Goes" national tour. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
“Anything Goes” national tour. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

A romantic comedy set aboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London, the show offers a lot of comic relief and some great dance numbers in addition to the Cole Porter classics: “You’re the Top” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

 

Billy Crocker (Brian Krinsky) is in love with an heiress, Hope Harcourt (Rachelle Rose Clark), but she’s engaged to a British nobleman, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Richard Lindenfelzer). Night club singer Reno Sweeney (Emma Stratton) is fond of Billy but willing to help him win over his lady fair. Since Billy has to stow away on the ship to try and break up the engagement, he needs all the help he can get.

The show is somewhat slow to start, but it builds to an outstanding crescendo with a huge tap number to close out the first act.  Act two is energetic and hilarious, making up for some lost time in the early parts of the performance. By the latter half of the show, the comedy turns truly campy in a delightful way, and it consequently ends the production on a high note.

Emma Stratton is fabulously sultry and adeptly carries the major musical numbers of the performance. Dennis Setteducati (Moonface Martin) is a surprise favorite, especially with his rendition of “Be Like the Blue Bird” in act two.

As the lascivious gangster girl (Erma), Mychal Phillips is adorable, and Richard Lindenfelzer proves his character isn’t the sop we thought he was when he bursts out of his shell with “The Gypsy in Me.”

The costumes in the show are unfortunately hit or miss – some fabulously full of pizzazz, while others are decidedly unflattering for the female characters. The same is somewhat true of the dance numbers, again, with a rather slow and static start to the production that eventually builds to an excellent finale.

“Anything Goes” continues through Dec. 14 at Bass Concert Hall. www.texasperformingarts.org

Barbara Carson, 1927-2014: Ballet Austin founder

When Barbara Carson staged Texas’ first full-length production of “The Nutcracker” in 1960, she had to dance the role of Sugar Plum Fairy herself.

Though Carson — once a soloist with the New York City Ballet — had started a classical ballet school in 1953, and by 1956 had founded what would eventually become Ballet Austin, there were no professional adult male ballet dancers in Austin capable of dancing the role of the Nutcracker prince.

So Carson hired one from out of state — Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo dancer George Zoritch, one of many impressive ballet world connections Carson had. But when Zoritch refused to dance with any student, Carson donned her pointe shoes.

After all, she wasn’t ready for any one in Austin to see less-than-accurately performed ballet dancing.

“I was very particular about not doing something we (as a company) weren’t ready to do,” Carson said in 2012 interview.

Carson, 87, died Tuesday in Austin of complications from Alzheimer’s and pneumonia, her daughter, Laurel Carson Lacy, said.

Ballet Austin is currently staging its 52nd annual production of “The Nutcracker” at the Long Center. And at Friday’s performance, artistic director Stephen Mills will take a moment before the show to dedicate the performance to Carson.

“When Barbara Carson came to Austin the artistic landscape was bare,” said Mills.

Stephen Mills and Barbara Carson watch a 2012 rehearsal of "The Nutcracker"
Stephen Mills and Barbara Carson watch a 2012 rehearsal of “The Nutcracker”

“Imagine how tenacious one would have to be to decide to found a ballet company in a place that had no history of or context for dance. Barbara had the kind of will it would take to develop dancers and teach an audience to appreciate this art form.”

Born March 18, 1927, Barbara Dame Carson grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, one of four children to a widowed mother. Money was tight. But Carson showed such talent for classical ballet technique — with its combination of rigor and grace — that she was granted classes for free. Her first instructor was with a former member of the Russia’s famed Maryinksy Ballet.

While still a teenager, Carson lit out for New York, where she studied with the now-legendary choreographer George Balanchine, soon netting the prestigious rank of soloist in Balanchine’s New York City Ballet.

After marrying David Costley Carson, a psychologist and fifth-generation Texan, in 1946, the young ballerina moved to Austin.

With no place to take proper ballet classes in Austin, Carson, by now a young mother, started her Carson School of Ballet in the living room of her West Campus house.

The pristine discipline of classical ballet wasn’t all that popular in America at the time with public tastes more fond of exuberant theatrical show dancing.

But in 1958 when CBS beamed Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” live across the nation on Christmas Eve, not only was a new holiday tradition was born, but a new taste for classical ballet began to percolate.

By 1960, Carson and her all-volunteer Austin Ballet Society staged “The Nutcracker” in then-new Plamer Auditorium, now the Long Center for the Performing Arts, Ballet Austin’s regular venue.

In 1964, Maria Tallchief (center), the famous Native American Indian ballerina, visits Ballet Austin to lead a master class. Tallchief came at the invitation of Barbara Carson, left, who founded Ballet Austin. On the right is Eugenia Orusso, director of the American School of Ballet.
In 1964, Maria Tallchief (center), the famous Native American Indian ballerina, visits Ballet Austin to lead a master class. Tallchief came at the invitation of Barbara Carson, left, who founded Ballet Austin. On the right is Eugenia Orusso, director of the American School of Ballet.

She continued to develop Austin’s taste for and knowledge of ballet with a segment on a local television show on which she talked about fitness and exercise for women.

“I used to talk about the benefits of classic ballet training, and how classes that just offered tap or acrobatics were not the best places to get really serious dance training,” recalled Carson in 2012. “In fact, I probably irritated a lot of people by talking about (ballet) all the time!”

Carson left Austin in 1967 as her husband’s career took the family first to Washington state, then to Wisconsin. The family returned to Texas in 1979, and Carson resumed her involvement with Ballet Austin, this time as a supporter of the fully professional company.

In addition to her daughter Laurel Carson Lacy of Austin, Carson is survived by son Jonathan David Carson, also of Austin, and granddaughter Meredyth Carson Lacy of San Francisco. Her son Bruce Alan Carson died in 1974.

Memorial services are pending.

The family asked that contributions be made to the Barbara Carson Scholarship, which covers tuition costs for Ballet Austin Academy students.

“Ballet Austin has always been a community-focused organization because of the love and respect Barbara Carson had for ballet,” said Mills.

“While she will be missed, Barbara will always be the heart and soul of our company.”

Review: KDH Dance’s Briefs: An Episodic Adventure”

(This review was written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Claire Christine Spera.)

Pushing, pulling, leaning, holding: In local modern dance troupe Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company’s “Briefs: An Episodic Adventure,” eight dancers explore themes of intersection, dispersion and missed connections. The starkness of the Salvage Vanguard Theater’s empty black-box space, combined with an appropriately minimalistic lighting design by Stephen Pruitt, left us to focus on artistic director Kathy Dunn Hamrick’s choreography, which took audiences through a series of six episodes plus an epilogue.

KDH Dance Company. Photo by Kevin Gliner.
KDH Dance Company. Photo by Kevin Gliner.

Each episode began the same way, though not necessarily with the same person: A figure on stage left walked slowly upstage, before curving back to face the audience. Then, others entered the space, dashing left and right, forward and backward.

These darting moments occasionally quieted to slow-motion sequences where possibilities of intersection opened up. As the dancers approached each other, we saw a moment’s potential — but just as we were envisioning the what-ifs, the moment would lapse, and the dancers rushed on. These patterns were punctuated by Jacob Hamrick’s original-score soundtrack, which included ambient noise (the hum of low voices, wind, water) in one of the episodes.

Bodies bumped into each other, hung off each other. One action affected the next; but more often than not, it felt like the dancers themselves weren’t calling the shots. Their marionette-like energy indicated an outside force — a higher power? — was propelling them forward, controlling the outcomes.

This writer’s eye was continually drawn to dancer Mariclaire Gamble, whose long-limbed frame was not only striking, but embraced that distinctive marionette quality without hesitation. She twitched her arms and scurried her legs as though they were being manipulated; her destiny lay before her.

Amongst the missed connections and brief encounters was a longer-held duet between Alyson Dolan and Jack Anthony Dunlap II. The evolution of a relationship played out: Smiles and handholding were eventually replaced with gravity and distance. They went their separate ways.

In the final image of “Briefs,” Gamble walks toward the audience as the light fades, arms stretched outward with upturned palms: The possibilities are endless, she seems to say.

That, and: Expect the unexpected.

 

 

 

 

At rehearsal with KDH Dance Company

photo-27Wednesday night, the Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company embarked on its final night of rehearsals before “Briefs: An Episodic Adventure” opens Thursday at Salvage Vanguard Theater.

Last year KDH Dance received the Austin Critics Table Awards for both Best Dance Concert and Best Choreographer and company dancer Alyson Dolan won Best Dancer.

Like she did with “The Big Small” and “The Undoing of Nonet” — both sharp, elegant pieces that inventively explored the seemingly little moments in life that nevertheless have the greatest impact, “Briefs” likewise continues Hamrick’s exploration of .

(Watch a video of “Nonet,” which was performed with live accompaniment by Line Upon Line Percussion, here: http://vimeo.com/104315828)

IMG_4307About “Briefs” Hamrick says:

“It’s like looking at an old family photo and experiencing a complex rush of feelings about what happened before and after this photograph was taken.”

“I’m providing context for particular life moments, because I’m fascinated by people and their paths.”

“Briefs” runs Dec. 4-6.  See www.kdhdance.com for tickets and more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life backstage: Getting ready for “The Nutcracker”

 

IMG_3736
Emily Cawood dyes men’s ballet shoes for the roles of the Russian dancers in “The Nutcracker.”

On Tuesday, we stopped by the Ballet Austin wardrobe shop to visit with and interview Emily Cawood, shoe manager and wardrobe assistant.

Like all of the artistic and production artists at Ballet Austin, Cawood spends nearly two months in preparation for “The Nutcracker,” which this year opens Dec. 6.

With its huge list of roles and multiple casts — not to mention elaborate and elegant new costumes acquired just last year — Ballet Austin’s “Nutcracker” finds Cawood dyeing dozens of womens’ pointe shoes, mens’ ballet slippers and childrens’ shoes. Prepping costumes, stitching decorative headpieces and loading everything into the Long Center is also on Cawood’s ‘to do’ list.

Herself a performer (she’s a competitive karoke singer and a substitute performer at comedy club Ester’s Follies), Cawood’s fond of documenting her work for Ballet Austin on social media grouping it with #lifebackstage, a strangely under-utilized hashtag. (She’s @sewknotwrite on Instagram.)

Cawood’s documenting is understandable: The visuals of backstage costume work are irresistible.

Cawood will be the focus of a story to run Dec. 4.

Until then, here’s a look at what I couldn’t resist visually in the Ballet Austin wardrobe workshop.

IMG_3737
Cawood mostly uses acrylic paint to dye ballet shoes, carefully mixing different hues to match the color of custom-dyed tights and costumes.

 

 

IMG_3729
Ballet Austin’s wardrobe workshop is a meticulously organized room that’s filled with the colorful tools of the costuming trade. Rows of thread stand at the ready.

 

IMG_3730
After a while, the canvas drop cloth Cawood uses on her work table becomes a work of abstract art in itself.

 

 

IMG_3742
Simple haphazard arrangements emerge as visually intriguing arrangements. Here, elastic straps recently dyed purple dry against a well-used canvas drop cloth

 

 

 

Review: Ballet Austin’s “The Firebird” and “Agon”

(This review is by American-Statesman freelance writer Claire Christine Spera.)

Ballet Austin’s productions of “Agon” and “The Firebird” at the Long Center made for an evening of contrasts threaded together with a commonality: Both ballets are set to Igor Stravinsky scores, beautifully performed in this case by the Austin Symphony Orchestra.

The differences between “Agon” and “The Firebird” are stark: Abstract dance versus story ballet; basic leotards and tights versus Russian-themed character costuming; a plain stage versus scenic design; and classic George Balanchine choreography versus that by Ballet Austin’s artistic director, Stephen Mills.

In “Agon,” presented by Ballet Austin by arrangement with The George Balanchine Trust, the choreography demands exactitude. The simple garments and adornment-free stage, which features only a blue background, leave us to focus exclusively on the dance, set to a Stravinsky score with memorable horn melodies. The classical vocabulary of arabesques, pirouettes and tableaus comes with contemporary flairs. The women, though dancing en pointe, bend their supporting legs and perform flat-footed turns; meanwhile, the ensemble unfurls their legs into high extensions and thrusts the hips forward, out of classical alignment. In comical moments, small body wiggles had the audience laughing. The tableaus often have the women balancing in one-legged positions between male partners.

From the series of duets, trios and quartets that make up the ballet, the long lines of Ashley Lynn Sherman and Christopher Swaim at the Sept. 27 performance stood out. In a moment of contrast, they both came to a hunched-forward position, with one of Sherman’s legs wrapped around the back of Swaim’s neck.

 

140925-P-003-03-5130.jpg

From the moment the overture begins for Mills’ version of “The Firebird,” we’re thrust into the foreboding realm of an enchanted forest, ruled over by Kastchei the Immortal (Edward Carr, in a creepy skeleton-esque costume). The guttural humming of strings gives way to outbursts of energy when the Firebird enters, flashing around the stage in a red-gold tutu (all sets and costumes were on loan from Louisville Ballet). As the Firebird, Jaime Lynn Witts transformed her body, incorporating a twitching head and quivering arms to bring the wings of the creature to life. Her one-legged hops in arabesque gave a flighty air to scene.

Mills’ choreography has many lovely moments. Nine princesses — led by Sherman, with whom Ivan (Frank Shott) falls in love — pluck golden apples from a tree that they toss and roll around the forest. When the evil Kastchei captures Ivan, the ensemble of castle guards, wives and princesses fills the stage, creating a feast of dynamic visual patterns accented by the Russian-flavored costuming. Ultimately, the Firebird rushes to Ivan’s aid, and though winds up mortally wounded by Kastchei, Ivan discovers the egg that contains the skeleton king’s soul and smashes it to the ground, giving his protectress new life.

Ballet Austin’s program over the weekend showed that just as the Firebird is reborn, so is ballet; from classical to contemporary, today’s ballet dancers are expected to do it all.