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Ballet mixes heat, exuberance

The Arizona Republic, by Richard Nilsen

Ballet Arizona’s “Mixed Repertory” is an evening-long crescendo: Starting slow with classical ballet, turning up the heat with Balanchine and ending at a rolling boil with Twyla Tharp’s study in frantic perpetual motion.

An invited audience to Thursday’s preview performance shouted bravos and hoohahs at the end of the rousing finale, in a display of enthusiasm unusual for the dance world – more like the crowd reaction at a jazz festival.

The program, the best so far in a season stuffed with chestnuts, shows us what Ballet Arizona can do best: It is brilliant at Balanchine (as it should be under the guidance of Balanchine protege Ib Andersen), and it seemed liberated by Tharp’s exuberance.

The only disappointments were the opening two excerpts from the classical dance of 19th-century choreographer August Bournonville. They were danced beautifully by the company but seemed too static and symmetrical compared with the brilliance of Balanchine and Tharp to come.

Balanchine’s “Rubies” is the middle section of his full-length Jewels and displays his genius at complex and expressive movements by massed dancers. One audience member at intermission gushed it was like “a kaleidoscope.” Tharp’s “Golden Section,” the abstract finale to her Catherine Wheel, is a never-ending cascade of inventive motion, dancers running, bouncing, flying, dropping, crashing, sashaying and swaying, and it is the physical embodiment of William Blake’s dictum: “Energy is eternal delight.”