Everything looks so easy and beautiful at the ballet that you could be fooled into thinking Utah Ballet's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" really is easy. That's a nice way to react, but you may have a little shake from Puck's magic flower in your eyes if you're thinking "easy."
This story ballet in three short acts, professionally produced, visually beautiful, interestingly choreographed and smooth-running, probably represents the most work that Utah Ballet has ever put into a production. Certainly it's among the company's finest shows ever, with a company of 24, plus about an equal number of children (50 children in all, in alternate casts). Many of the dancers have been with the company for several seasons, with very evident growth in artistic and technical maturity.Could Mendelssohn have visualized his incidental music to Shakespeare's comedy in balletic incarnation? Probably not, for ballet was just coming into its own when he died. But his gift was for lightness, melodic charm and dramatic colorations, and probably nothing could please him more than to see the capital ballets that a number of people have done on his music.
There is some debt in style and choreographic devices to Balanchine, but Ludlow is at his most original best, turning in his finest choreography yet to make a "Dream" come true. Nothing can keep the first of this tale from being thoroughly confusing, but he soon sorts out the strands and gets the daftness weaving in and out with the liveliest good humor.
Almost everything moves at a clip, suitable to the convolutions of this one hectic night of moon madness, with the fleeting, flitting passages of fairy folk through the forest and demented encounters between the lovers, catching the gist of the music in the exact right movement. Even the romantic pas de deux only slow to an amiable andante.
These pas de deux are short and somewhat episodic, that for Titania and Oberon being the longest - a graceful pastoral dance of great civility, yet punctuated by Ludlow's spectacular lifts, tosses and fishes. Frances Tiberi makes an enchanting Titania, and Jef Horne is at his strongest as a quicksilver Oberon with dashing leaps and rapid footwork. The relationship of these two is more playful and gentle than in Ashton's version. For example, Titania gives the Indian child to Oberon, and Oberon quickly disenchants Titania rather than prolonging the joke with the ass.
Young dancers from eight area studios are the elves, moths, butterflies and ladies in waiting, all rehearsed to a turn and beautifully costumed in shimmering, spangled shifts or painted leotards, with filmy wings. Indeed the costuming designed by David Heuvel is a strong point in this production. Romance is the key word, with filmy, floating, leaf- and flower-bedecked gowns, and men in gallant Elizabethan finery.
Puck's soft, almost transparent netted costume well suits Robyn Johnson's feminine Puck, again an enchanting sprite with the corners rounded off, who rolls with gentle humor through her trickery, rather than hurtling about, delivering rapier thrusts.
Lynda Hurkmans and Vincent Baltierre, Yvonne Racz and Scott Mitchell have a wonderful time as the lovers, overflowing with extravagant emotions which are never caricatured out of proportion.
This is a production too good to miss. If money's a problem, remember Saturday's matinee costs only $1, for parent or child, with free coupons at ZCMI or MacDonald's. So take the kids out for a hamburger, then up to the ballet.