FORT WORTH The feathers fly in Ballet Frontier of Texas’ production of Igor Stravinsky’s beloved The Firebird, which opened a two-performance set at Scott Theatre on Saturday.
But only in the most artistic of ways.
This ballet, which made its debut in 1910, was the first that Stravinsky did with the legendary impresario Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. It tells a story of a magic bird and a pair of young lovers kept apart by a czar who falls prey to an evil spell after munching on an apple intended to bring immortality. But thanks to some fancy footwork, all the spells are ultimately broken and everyone lives happily ever after.
Ballet Frontier founder and artistic director Chung-Lin Tseng created his own version of this famous work, which was performed by the mostly school-age members of the company, and a handful of visiting professionals from Texas Ballet Theater.
The 48-minute piece, which comprised the second half of Saturday’s program, was beautifully presented. The costume designs by Rhonda Moore and Jeania Phillips were gorgeous and a couple of scenic backdrops added a bit of atmosphere. Lighting this ever-moving story ballet is quite a challenge but, with just a few exceptions, designer Milton Tatum met the difficulties of the job well.
The guest artists’ performances were all impressive. Robin Bangert, wearing the brilliantly scarlet tutu of the title role, did an outstanding job of dancing in character. Her fluttering en pointe work and exceptionally graceful arm movements had a particular avian quality. She was as lovely as she was correct.
Paul Adams and Paige Nyman, as the lovestruck prince and princess, made a dazzling pair. Adams’s strengths were his precision and unerring control. Nyman floated through her role so effortlessly that it was no surprise that she seemed to take on a feather-like lightness when Adams lifted her high above his head.
The first half of the program was devoted to three works by Peter Tchaikovsky choreographed by Tseng.
The most engaging of the trio was a highly energetic response to the third movement of the Russian master’s Piano Concerto No. 1, which featured Russian-born Marina Goshko and Andrey Prikhodko, a husband and wife who are in their third season with Ballet Frontier. The piece had plenty of fine individual efforts, but saved its best for last with a large, ensemble finish.
Also quite pleasing was the Serenade Melancolique, which offered three pairs of dancers trying to outdo one another. But, in the end, it was impossible to pick a winner among the equally strong and fluid couples.
On the down side, the performances were supported by a recorded score. That has become the norm with nearly all of our ballet companies (and certainly a financial necessity in this case), but it is still always a disappointment. Making matters worse, however, was that the music was sometimes set too loudly, creating a harsh soundbed for the dancers.