By: Hal de Becker
Photos by Virginia Trudeau
Nevada Ballet Theatre’s production of Lew Christensen’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was perhaps the most visually beautiful ever.
The fairy tale story and even its title possess an exotic appeal, and the first local performance of a full-length-story ballet is always especially exciting. Consequently a sense of anticipation pervaded the near-full Smith Center.
The work’s beauty was founded not on tricky technics, but on delightful choreography, skillful staging and sets and costumes that approached art gallery paintings and, of course, outstanding dancing.
The harmonious color scheme that informed scenery, costumes, lighting, even aspects of the music and dance, was based on sound aesthetic principles.
The women’s gorgeous costumes in shades of blue and pink often filled the stage like a resplendent bouquet of flowers. The unique Simian costumes were fascinatingly eccentric.
It was no surprise that the audience response to the ballet was overwhelming.
The music was set to various compositions by Tchaikovsky and woven together with good taste and sensitivity giving it the impression of a single score commissioned specifically for this ballet.
The fairy tale - not unlike Sleeping Beauty in reverse – was told with abundant dancing and just enough mime to convey the story:
Beast loves Beauty, holds her captive in his palace amidst wealth and luxury; she rejects his marriage proposal and is released but he succumbs to a broken heart. Beauty, realizing she loves him for his goodness, returns and with a kiss revives him, transformed into a handsome prince.
Emma McGirr and Sergio Alvarez made an attractive couple in the title roles. Her portrayal exuded charm and grace, but his was less like a feral beast and more like a ballet dancer simply wearing a leonine headpiece. Later, as the real Prince, his elegance was appropriate.
Their solos were technically challenging with choreography consisting of difficult steps often performed at high speeds. And their pas de deux – a true one with adagio, solos and coda - in the closing wedding scene was spiced with impressive one arm overhead lifts. Their smooth, graceful dancing made it all look easy.
Another notable couple was Kaori Fukui as a Bluebird and Jun Tanabe a Simian. She displayed unique classical purity and his elevation and turns were showstoppers.
In the Rose Waltz, Christine Ghiardi and Steven Goforth were well matched in appearance but not in their dancing. Ghiardi danced with her customary skill but Gorforth seemed sadly out of form.
Beauty’s jealous sisters were performed with genuine humor by Danielle Maas and Krista Baker. Dancer-actor Marcus Bugler portrayed the girls’ father with his usual expertise. Alissa Dale, with her special lyricism led the Magical Flowers segment.
One of the most dramatically effective scenes was the mysterious cortege in which a group of darkly robed figures carried the prostate Beast on a funeral bier as others held long poles surmounted with illuminated candles.
Another especially impressive element were the dancers who posed as statues wearing stone grey body leotards and who occasionally came to life.
The closing wedding scene in the palace ballroom was lavish and involved the entire cast. Everyone’s dancing, company members, apprentices and trainees, was captivating.
Peter Jakubowski, credited with recreating the lighting, suffused the ballet in a majestic golden aura that added to the work’s visual beauty.
The ballet was mounted under the aegis of NBT’s new artistic director Roy Kaiser and, if Beauty and the Beast is any indication, he’s off to an excellent start.