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Pantages Theatre was the place to be Saturday night for an assortment of classic ballet snippets and modern ballet hits.

World Ballet Festival had descended on downtown Minneapolis with its "Ballet Blockbusters" as part of its four-city tour. With a cast of international guest stars, and dancers from World Ballet Company, which produced the show, and two local troupes, the evening broke down big ballets into bite-size pieces, and they often dazzled.

When Fabrice Calmels, a former principal dancer of Joffrey Ballet, and Andrea Lassakova, former principal dancer of Russia's Mikhailovsky Theatre, performed "Light Rain," they absolutely sizzled. Although Gerald Arpino, a Joffrey co-founder, choreographed the work in 1981, the piece felt contemporary and new, challenging classic ballet lines with slinky shapes and unusual lifts, all set to a percussive, pizzicato score by Douglas Adams and Russ Gauthier.

Sasha Gorskaya and Gulya Hartwick produce the World Ballet Festival. They formerly produced the U.S.-based Russian Ballet Theatre, but since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukraine war, have dropped that name. However, their mission remains the same — Gorskaya and Hartwick seek to make ballet accessible to a general audience. With short numbers and splashy moves, they take the best parts of the ballet repertoire and have them performed by stars from top ballet companies, while also spotlighting local companies based in the cities the tour visits.

Guest performer Lassakova, a Slovakia native who left Russia when the war in Ukraine began, also performed divinely in "Dying Swan." It's a short solo choreographed in 1907 for the great Anna Pavlova by Mikhail Fokin, set to music by Camille Saint-Saëns. Lassakova captured the emotional depth in the piece, stretching forward in grief and agony with vulnerability.

Constantine Geronik blended comedy and classic ballet lines as the Jester in “Swan Lake" at the World Ballet Festival.
Constantine Geronik blended comedy and classic ballet lines as the Jester in “Swan Lake" at the World Ballet Festival.

World Ballet Company

Sasha de Sola and Aaron Robison, from San Francisco Ballet, had great chemistry in "Blake Works," with its infusion of a pantomime and modern dance vocabulary choreographed by William Forsythe.

Besides the guest stars, the World Ballet Company dancers held their own, often bringing comical and character-driven works in between the heavier-hitting numbers. Constantine Geronik brought high energy as the Jester from "Swan Lake," while the company's performance of the "Suite From Cinderella" was wonderfully madcap.

Local companies Ballet Minnesota and Ballet Royale were a nice addition to the evening. The former performed "Bolero," choreographed by Andrew Rist, set to Maurice Ravel's masterpiece. It had a lovely gestural energy of patterns and movement. Ballet Royale's "Night at the Museum" was a fun, short piece that stirred the imagination.

There were issues with the sound system, which sounded a bit scratchy at times and served as a reminder of how much better the show would have been with live music. The last time Gorskaya and Hartwick brought the World Ballet here, they tapped STRINGenius to accompany the dances. For the World Ballet Festival, the show used recorded music, which was not as satisfying. And Aviva Gelfer-Mundl from Los Angeles Ballet seemed to wobble off balance a couple of times in "Black Swan Pas de Deux" from "Swan Lake," despite her high skill level.

Besides those hiccups, the audience went gaga for the show, crowding outside the doors on Hennepin Avenue excitedly beforehand, and vocally gasping and cheering throughout the evening.

It seemed like a good sign that there's still excitement for ballet here in the Twin Cities.