Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It's Good to Be the King

[Dance] The ornate costumes, tight choreography and impeccable technique showcased at the first performance of The Three Musketeers—incidentally the opening night of Ballet West's 2007-08 season (Nov. 2)—proved that the company's international reputation as a world-class dance company still holds.

There were a few opening night glitches (damn you, fake stage door that won’t open!), but the palpable energy of the corps and the dynamic performances of the lead dancers—notably Christiana Bennett, masterfully portraying the evil Countess De Winter)—compensated from any technical problems.

The indisputable highlight of The Three Musketeers was demi-soloist Jeff Herbig’s Captain Jack Sparrow-esque portrayal of His Majesty King Louis XIII of France. Herbig’s pompous, self-interested Louis dominated the stage, even though his role was primary a character part with very little actual dancing. Every detail—from his childish lip curl to the way he gazed at his jeweled fingers instead of the people surrounding him—was spot on the entire time. Like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, Herbig employed a cocky strut to communicate his character’s vanity and laughable obliviousness to everyone and everything around him. King Louis’s oversized wig, tiny pet dog—a live, squirming dog who exited the stage in a hurry—and white, red-heeled boots were another glaring indication of his garishness.

Character roles are the true test of a ballet dancer. It is possible to have flawless technique, and still forge absolutely no connection with the audience. Herbig consistently garnered the most laughter and applause because he kept the audience engaged every second he was on stage.

Physical comedy is much more challenging than drama, especially in a ballet production. So, if you’re looking to be wowed by a live performance, check out Jeff Herbig’s portrayal of King Louis in The Three Musketeers. His ingenuous interpretation of a pompous French ruler will remind you why live performances trump YouTube. (Jenny Poplar)

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