A Collection of Beauties, presented by Municipal Ballet Co. under the direction of Sarah Longoria, was a concise, aesthetically driven, and immersive experience. Utilizing The Clubhouse (formerly the Ladies’ Literary Club), the show was committed to the classic, rose-colored-glasses ideals of the 1920s and 1930s. From the soft, loosefitting peach- and cream-colored costumes to the cabaret-style tables and plush couches lining the performance area, the show created and maintained an atmosphere of time travel.
Coming in at around 40 minutes, including an intermission, the performance was concise and composed of movement vignettes set to the music of Matteo, a (formerly) local band. Although each song featured choreography by a different artist, separating the movements didn’t feel necessary, as both the auditory and visual aesthetic were carried throughout the performance.
I cannot recall a ballet performance I’ve seen that utilizes such an intimate space and performer-audience relationship. The nature of The Clubhouse requires the dancers to enter through the audience and dance in close proximity to both each other and audience members. Throughout the performance, this was both an advantage and a hindrance. Instead of projecting false emotions, the dancers looked at ease with the movement and it showed through their characterizations; although there were a few moments, specifically some grand jetés, that felt cramped in the space, overall the dancing felt like it was actually for the individuals in the audience rather than for an unknown collective audience entity.
The weakest element of the show was the inclusion of a narrative in the program notes. The choreography itself did not portray a narrative beyond that of a group of friends that came together to dance with each other; which, for me, was not enough to warrant its inclusion in the program. The show did not need to be, nor was, a story ballet; even the title, A Collection …, insinuated that it was a presentation of dancers or dances rather than a story. I wish I hadn’t read about the narrative in the program, as it hindered my ability to fully enjoy the movement while searching for a story where there didn’t seem to be one. That being said, the overall environment was enjoyable and relaxed, which was a sufficient tone for me.
As a company, I was impressed with Municipal Ballet Co. — I know it is connected to and draws from the local dance community in a number of ways, and is currently host to a number of technically strong dancers, but I hadn’t had the pleasure to see a performance previously. Both the company’s relationship to the community, as well as its dancers’ strengths, made the community created onstage feel all the more authentic. The dancers truly seemed to enjoy what they were doing and as an audience member, this allowed me to sit back and be present for the experience.
This article is published in collaboration with loveDANCEmore.org.
Natalie Gotter is a performer, choreographer, instructor, filmmaker, and researcher. She recently completed her MFA in Modern Dance at the University of Utah and is on faculty at Utah Valley University, Westminster College, and Salt Lake Community College.