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Review: 'Pinocchio' by Ballet Frontier of Texas

Posted 7:28am on Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2013

FORT WORTH -- Ballet Frontier of Texas seems to be stuck in that place where growing performing arts organizations sometimes find themselves for way too long: vision, creative talent and ambition in droves, but -- probably because of finances -- inconsistent levels of talent in the performers.

The result is often performances filled with promise and with many wonderful moments, but giving an overall feeling of what could have been had everyone been on the same level. That was the case with Saturday's "An Evening of Ballet and Pinocchio" at the Scott Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

All three works on the program are by artistic director Chung-Lin Tseng, with the "Evening" portion in the first act comprising two works, Piano Concerto No. 1 (set to the Tchaikovsky composition for which Van Cliburn became most famous) and Ode to Heavenly Joy, set to a movement of Mahler's Symphony No. 4.

Piano Concerto No. 1 made great use of principal dancers Andrey Prikhodko and Marina Goshko, plus Paul Adams, Caitlin Shaw and nine other dancers from Texas Ballet Theater and Ballet Frontier.

With the ladies in purple and the men in white, it was symmetrical in its crisscross patterns (with the dancers too often out of sync) and benefited from a lovely central pas de deux and a rousing finale with major lifts. Overall, tighter unisons would have greatly improved the reaction.

Heavenly Joy mostly used the youth company trainee dancers, dressed in green as if forest fairies, who were adorable in a piece that seems designed for young dancers, with not too much athleticism required.

After intermission was the anticipated Pinocchio, inspired by the tale of the wooden puppet that comes to life, and using music by Grofe and Pierne.

This is a terrific story ballet that Tseng can add to his repertory of shows that could be periodic moneymakers, because it's a well-known story with a large, youthful cast.

As the title character, Robin Bangert was delightful as the puppet came to life and instantly started getting into mischief. Paul Adams played Geppetto, with Pridhodko and Goshko as a gypsy couple and an excellent Philip Slocki as the talking cricket.

You can bet that Ballet Frontier will repeat this one frequently.

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