Colorado Ballet’s new top dancers face their first test with notoriously difficult, rib-popping moves
To become a matador a novillero must face his first bull, his alternativa, on the big stage of the corrida, the bull ring. For Mario Labrador, a new principal dancer with the Colorado Ballet, his alternativa comes Friday evening in the elegant but demanding “Theme and Variations.”
The ballet has challenged dancers for 75 years. The virtuoso Mikhail Baryshnikov said it was the hardest ballet he’d ever danced. Andrew Veyette, a principal with the New York City Ballet, called it a pass-fail moment.
Nor will it be any less challenging for Labrador’s partner Jennifer Grace, also a newly minted principal dancer. “Afterwards when you come off stage you look down and your legs are there but you’d never know it,” Gelsey Kirkland, who danced the ballet with Baryshnikov, once told an interviewer.
Kirkland, at the height of her career as a prima ballerina with American Ballet Theater, was asked about “Theme and Variations,” which she had first danced as a teenager. “It hasn’t gotten any easier or any better.”
So now come Grace and Labrador to the stage of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House to take up the mantle of the ballet often just called “T&V” — part of the company’s Master Works program running April 15-24.
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