Ballet Concerto’s 35th Summer Dance Concert, which opened Thursday at Trinity Park Pavilion, felt momentous for several reasons.
One was a stunning new ballet from Spaniard Luis Montero, a setting of Shakespeare’s Othello.
The bigger event was that Michele Gifford, formerly of New York City Ballet and Texas Ballet Theater, is making her official stage retirement not only as Desdemona in that work, but in a Paul Mejia pas de deux. This is her 13th and last time to perform at Ballet Concerto’s summer event.
First on the program was the late Dennis Spaight’s Irish Suite, in a restaging by Webster Dean after the staging by Carol Shults. Set to Irish music by Leroy Anderson, it’s a series of six scenes of Irish folk mostly doing everyday things, such as the wash, “wearing of the green,” dancing around the maypole and preparing for war. Light and jubilant, it felt perfect for slightly breezy night.
Then Gifford, in white, and Shea Johnson, in black, danced an evocative pas de deux by Mejia called Inspiration. Her long lines and expressive face will be missed onstage.
Montero’s Othello featured Johnson as the Moor, Gifford as Desdemona, Brandon Nguyen as villain Iago, Melian Izotova as Emelia, Jordan Nelson as Cassio and Lea Zablocki as Bianca. Montero usually blends flamenco and ballet, and while there is no outright flamenco in this work, those shapes come through in his athletic, emotional ballet.
Nguyen made for a cunning bad guy, and the physically larger Johnson a commanding, ragingly jealous Othello. The fight between Iago and Othello was thrilling, filled with lifts and weight sharing. The standout was Gifford’s heartbreaking solo before her final, fateful scene.
After a brief, castanet-heavy performance of La Vida Breve with music by Manuel de Falla, featuring longtime BC flamenco guest artists Margarita Bruce and Perla Montoya came the program’s second world premiere.
Retro Motion is the second ballet by Elise Lavallee, who created her first ballet for Ballet Concerto last year. Using a rolling door, several dancers walked into a 1920s speakeasy. The dance mixes ballet, street dance and 1920s social styles, using 20s-flavored contemporary songs (such as Daft Punk’s Get Lucky and Fiona Apple’s Criminal) from the soundtrack of the latest film of The Great Gatsby.
There are a lot of good ideas here, but too much going on in scenes with the dancers rolling out tables and chairs, in addition to the door, to the point of feeling messy and unfocused. The dancers, especially the men, showed a knack for hip-hop movement; and the women doing pointe work in the midst of the chaos was interesting. One character dressed as a half-man, half-woman is a provocative presence.
Overall, though, it feels like a work in progress.
Ballet Concerto’s Summer Dance Concert
8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Trinity Park Pavilion, 2300 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth
Free for lawn seating; $35 for reserved table seating
817-738- 7915; www.balletconcerto.com