Whistling woodwinds and deep percussion sounds fill the auditorium with a familiar classic as a dancing pair makes their entrée to center stage.
But soon, audience members will tilt their heads and crinkle their brows, confused by the combination of Tchaikovsky's traditional "Swan Lake" and an unconventional display of romantic drama. The male dancer runs from his playful lover, and both get low to the ground, flexing their feet and contracting their bodies.
This is not a group of inexperienced ballerinas, but a company of contemporary dancers, parading their creativity and avant-garde style. It's Denver-based Ballet Nouveau Colorado (BNC), which will join Colorado's Classical Youth Ballet for two Feb. 21 performances in the Cheyenne Mountain High School Theatre.
During the latter half of Lullabies and Love, BNC will present excerpts from its own Love. an internal affair., including an original piece by BNC artistic director Garrett Ammon.
Ammon, 34, danced professionally for 11 years and is in his eighth year as a choreographer. Though he's spent only two seasons with BNC, his work has already become a staple of the company's identity.
"Our movement is grounded, low and athletic," Ammon says. "We use classical techniques as a launching pad for exploration of new work in the contemporary style."
It seems Ammon has struck gold with his edgy approach: BNC was named in Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" list in 2009. While Ammon admits it was a huge honor to be included, he spends more time thinking about connecting with the audience.
"The way I approach my work is about showing the humanity that we exist in every day," Ammon says. "Classical ballet is superhuman, with dancers floating across the stage. It's almost mythical. Our work generally goes in the opposite direction. It's about everyday realities."
The 12 BNC dancers often use their diverse talents to showcase the "flaws of humanity," to help forge an intimate relationship with the audience instead of the fantasy relationship created by many traditional ballets.
In "For the Love of Pete," Ammon approaches three romantic relationships with quirky humor, as its pairing with "Swan Lake" suggests.
In addition to Ammon's pieces, four other BNC members will present their own original choreography. Also, the Colorado Classical Youth Ballet will perform the classic Paquita, and mezzo soprano Jennifer DeDominici (of last year's Opera Theatre of the Rockies performance of Carmen) will sing "A Charm of Lullabies," accompanied by pianist Janice Saffir.