Dance through the ages, Italian-style |

Dance through the ages, Italian-style

Special to the Daily
Special to the Daily/Rex KeepRiccardo Massimi, ensemble soloist, La Scala Ballet

Vying for the attention of a woman.

Is there a more noble or time-honored tradition amongst men? La Scala Ballet, direct from Italy, offers an entertaining glimpse into that competition between virile men. “Summer Breeze,” performed by soloists of the renowned ballet, kicks off the evening of La Scala at Ford Amphitheater in Vail today at 7:30 p.m.

Under the direction of choreographer Robert North, four dancers tell the story of three men trying to win the attentions of a woman on the beach.

North’s gift for storytelling through dance is showcased by these dancers who convey the levity of the piece without compromising the artistry of the demanding dance.

“It’s a privilege for me to work with dancers of this caliber,” said North. “They allow me, as a choreographer, to do a range of technical things you’re not always able to do.”

That range is especially apparent in another piece by North, “Amazone,” which along with “Summer Breeze,” premiered at the Vail International Dance Festival.

“Amazone” is a re-working, for eight women, of the all-male ballet “Troy Game,” first performed in the early ’70s. The story was inspired by the ancient Greeks’ preparations for combat through the Pyrrhic Dances – a kind of combat training to music.

“Whenever I’ve done this ballet,” said North, “the girls in the companies have asked if they could dance it. Feminism has changed ballet over the years and it doesn’t have to be light and en pointe all the time to be great work. Women can now dance strong roles like those in “Amazone.’ The women of La Scala have the talent and the grace to make this piece work very well.”

Other pieces in tonight’s repertoire include “Napoli,” a work that was first presented by the Royal Danish Ballet in 1842. The classic piece remains the same and is still danced today as it was more than 150 years ago. That is not the case, however, with tonight’s “Giselle,” choreographed by Mats Ek. Ek’s version of the classic moves the betrayed Giselle out of the fairy tale folk village and into a more contemporary setting, a psychiatric home, where young girls with broken lives are treated.

Today’s performance, from the drama of “Giselle” to the comedy of “Summer Breeze” are united by the ballet company’s strength. The ensemble soloists of La Scala Ballet take the audience on a journey.

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