There were many remarkable things about The Shanghai Ballet's production of "The Butterfly Lovers" that Dance St. Louis presented at the Touhill this weekend. The colorful costumes, the incredible athleticism and skill of the dancers, the incisive way artistic director Xin Lili's choreography illuminated character and defined action, and the powerful emotional pull of the tragic story were all reasons to take notice.
So: Take the 40 dancers of the Nashville Ballet; add 120 singers and 60 musicians, including The University of Missouri-St. Louis Orchestra and Singers, The Bach Society of Saint Louis, and The St. Louis Children’s Choir; then set them loose on Carl Orff's 1936 "Carmina Burana" on the Touhill Center's big stage. What you get is an impressive piece of dance theatre that succeeds both as Spectacle and as Art.
Every performing arts organization has its share of potboilers—light entertainments designed to reach a popular audience and boost box office revenues. Most have a short shelf life but some, like Verdi’s “Aida”, exceed expectations and wind up as part of the standard repertoire.