The Sacramento Ballet is giving local audiences a rare opportunity to experience some of the work of the greatest choreographer of the 20th century: George Balanchine. "Genius" is the first all-Balanchine program ever performed by the troupe here (although it did present such a program when it was invited to perform in the People’s Republic of China in 2007). Excerpts from six dances created between 1941 and 1964 are on the program, which will be presented at 2 p.m. today, 7 p.m. next Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. April 29 at the Ballet Company’s Studio at 17th and K streets.
Each program contains the same six dances but the order of performance and the featured dancers changes from show to show. That’s a testament to the breadth and depth of talent in this troupe that these dances can be double- and triple-cast. The performances are uniformly outstanding and the program is as informative as it is entertaining. The Ballet’s co-artistic director Carinne Binda delivers a concise biography of the choreographer and his career and provides brief introductions to each of the dance pieces.
Each work is a masterpiece and is masterfully performed. I have seen two sets of casts and found surprising strengths in each. The "La Sonnambula Pas de Deux (The Sleepwalker)" has been performed by Alexandra Cunningham and Oliver-Paul Adams and by Isha Lloyd and Richard Porter. Cunningham and Lloyd present contrasting appearances, the former blonde and alluring, the latter dark and mysterious. The men are both strong partners, Adams displaying an enticing romantic innocence and Porter exhibiting a flare for dramatic interaction.Bobbie Briscoe, a former member of the troupe who has spent the last few years dancing in Germany and Canada, returns to perform the only male role in "Concerto Barocco: 2nd Movement," pairing with several lead female dancers. He is a tower of strength in an endlessly complication gordian knot of a dance.
The classic "Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux," with its interesting tie to the "Swan Lake" ballet, has paired the lovely Amanda Peet with both Stefan Calka and Richard Porter, each of whom partnered expertly. Calka has a way of presenting his partner that makes her the center of his — as well as our — attention. It’s a rare gift, and one that Porter is beginning to express.The uber-American "Stars and Stripes" excerpts, set to the music of John Philip Sousa, features military precision from the women’s and men’s regiments, plus an excellent "4th campaign" pas de deux (performed by Nicole Haskins and Christopher Nachtrab and Alexandra Cunningham and Richard Smith in the two programs I’ve reviewed. Again, somewhat different approaches but equally satisfying results.
For reservations and more information, call the box office at (916) 552-5800, ext. 2 or visit www.sacballet.org. Admission may be available at the door. The Balanchine Trust has granted the company permission to present this program of excerpts on the condition that its performances be by donation only. Of course, the larger the donation, the more it helps the company. And whatever the amount, the show will be worth it.