At first glance, Ballet West’s lineup for its Feb. 22 variety show, “Night of Shining Stars” appeared to be the usual grab-bag: a classical piece, a contemporary offering, another classical gem followed by something unconventional like a ballroom number.
But a closer look proved this wasn’t a mixed-bill performed by a single dance company trying on different hats. Instead Ballet West played host to its dance contemporaries with a wildly entertaining, genre-hopping program at the Capitol Theatre featuring both dance luminaries and promising young aspirants from around the globe.
Headliners for the event included 2019 Cats film star and Salt Lake native Robbie Fairchild, who revisited a dance number from his Tony-nominated performance in An American in Paris for the enthusiastic, mostly-millennial crowd.
Black Swan film star Sarah Lane of American Ballet Theatre danced with crisp technique in two exquisite classical pieces. Known, among other things, as actress Natalie Portman’s controversial body-double for the 2011 Oscar winning movie, the New York native reprised her Swan Lake role for the program. In the midst of the Oscar buzz, Lane became the poster child for disrespected dancers everywhere when Black Swan’s publicity team claimed the majority of the wide shots were danced by quick-study Portman instead of Lane, a distortion (soon exposed) that implied an extraordinary actress could master elite-level ballet in just over a year. Lane’s guest performance in Salt Lake proved, as she has many times before, that nothing beats the real thing.
Ballet West’s own principal dancer, Rex Tilton, who starred in the 2012 reality TV show Breaking Pointe, soared in a shimmering and haunting duet with partner Sayaka Ohtaka and ballroom royalty Casey Treu and Kayci Treu (BYU alumni) performed a jaw-dropping “Greatest Showman” duet that sent the audience into eruption.
The evening also featured a handful of mind-blowingly talented semi-finalists in the world’s largest amateur ballet competition, Youth America Grand Prix. Two soloists, a trio and two ensembles beat out hundreds for the opportunity to perform at the event and move on to the finals in New York City next month.
To watch a new generation of dancers hungry to raise the bar is to know with absolute certainty that–despite some Hollywood hoodwinking– it takes a lifetime of dedication to achieve what audiences witness onstage. Each stunning performance by these semifinalists affirmed anew that the future of dance is in exciting and capable hands–and perfectly pointed feet.