Ballet Idaho is at a crossroads. On one hand, it's crippled by lackluster artistic direction and substandard choreography, yet it's overflowing with diamond-in-the-rough performers who can make even the most bland production sizzle with excitement, tension and grace.
But the performers can only take the company so far. Their talent and enthusiasm simply can't sustain an entire organization single-handedly, and it's foolish for Ballet Idaho to hedge its bets on the performers alone. It's no different than professional sports, when teams stocked with all-star players is scuttled by a poor coaching staff and inferior administrative support.
An Artistic dilemma
To put it bluntly, Ballet Idaho has hit a glass ceiling. And it's hard to say if it can push through. To do so would clearly require stronger artistic direction, or at the very least a major breakthrough by current artistic director Peter Anastos. But since the bulk of Anastos's career is behind him, the latter is very unlikely.
While he does have a certain talent for stage direction, the extra "pizzazz" simply isn't there, likely as a result of never working at a higher level as a dancer himself.
As a result Anastos's choreographies feel more academic than artistic. They look as though they've been built based entirely from textbook instructions rather than artistic vision. To his credit, he's taught himself the fundamentals of "Ballet Choreography 101," but hasn't developed beyond that into a director capable of pushing performances into the realm of intangible beauty.
Unfortunately, the organization itself seems positioned to keep pushing forward, perhaps even becoming one of the most respected Pacific Northwest Ballet Companies, but it has topped out. To use a cliché, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And now that the chain is under tension, Anastos's limitations are hamstringing the entire company.
What's Next For Ballet Idaho?
Idaho's premier ballet company is at an impasse: Should the organization continue it's current course of stagnation or look for new direction capable of pushing the company to new heights? Sadly, there are no easy answers. While it would benefit the company to find a more capable director, doing so is easier said than done.
For starters, established Ballet directors come at a heavy price, and it's unclear if Ballet Idaho is prepared or even capable of financially supporting a proven talent at it's highest artistic position. Secondly, the company hasn't built a strong enough reputation to lure such choreographers and directors away from the prestigious jobs they've already secured.
That leaves only one real option: Use their scouting talent to find a "diamond-in-the-rough" kind of guy or gal that has been looked over by the country's A-list Ballet Companies. These kind of people are out there, and a very tenacious search should turn them up. Besides, Ballet Idaho has a knack for finding amazing dancers that, by most rights, could easily be dancing at the next level. The scouting techniques are there, it's just a matter of expanding them to fill an administrative void.
Or perhaps the dance company is perfectly fine where it's at: A decent, small-to-mid-market ballet company that still fills up the majority of the seats at each performance. If that's the case, then Ballet Idaho is doing just fine; but if it wants to become a force in the national or even international ballet communities, it will need to build a stronger chain.