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Pacific Northwest Ballet's Open Rehearsal - Balanchine Centenary Program

by Francis Timlin

February 2004 -- McCaw Hall, Seattle

I spent an enjoyable evening in the second balcony at dress rehearsal on Wednesday. This is a very well rehearsed program and has something for everyone, whether you are a classicist ("Divertimento No. 15"), a modernist ("Agon"), or a romantic ("Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet").

In "Divertimento No. 15," Noelani Pantastico looks splendid in the Tanaquil LeClerq role (as does Kaori Nakamura in an alternate cast), and Louise Nadeau was radiant in the Diana Adams role. Ms. Pantastico continues to claim new principal dancer territory for her own, although she remains a soloist. It is gratifying to see Ms. Nadeau looking strong, confident, and extending herself to capture and own each moment of the choreography. The men (Le Yin, Christophe Maraval, and Olivier Wevers in this cast) were appropriately classical and attentive to their several partners (a ratio of three men to five women in this work). Allan Dameron kept the tempos well under control. The simple production designs -- preponderantly yellow with robins egg blue filigree -- further the aura of the late 18th century.

"Agon" adheres as closely as possible to its original 1957 form, including its black and white "practice clothes" costuming. Paul Gibson, Melanie Skinner, and Alexandra Dickson were well matched in the first Pas de Trois. Kaori Nakamura was outstanding in the second Pas de Trois (the Melissa Hayden role), partnered by Jordan Pacitti and Casey Herd. Ms. Russell wants the clapping (performed by the men during the female variation) to be audible; the conductor, Stewart Kershaw, wants it in time with the orchestra -- should be do-able by tonight. Patricia Barker and Jeff Stanton performed the Pas de Deux. Ms. Barker "owns" this Diana Adams role and has performed it within recent memory with more than one partner. The barometer will continue to rise through the run of performances.

We were also treated to a look at an alternate cast following the first run-through of "Agon." The first Pas de Trois features Jonathan Porretta, Stacy Lowenberg, and Kylee Kitchens; the second, Noelani Pantastico with Oleg Gorboulev and Christophe Maraval. The Pas de Deux couple (whom I had seen at an earlier rehearsal) is superb: Louise Nadeau and Olivier Wevers. It would be worthwhile to attend a second performance to ensure seeing both Pas de Deux couples in Agon.

Although "Divertimento No. 15" and "Agon" would appear on the surface to be a strong stylistic contrast, they share a time frame within the Balanchine canon: the mid-1950s. With the "Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet," we are in another time frame (1966), and a different group of dancers has appeared -- most notably, Patricia McBride and Suzanne Farrell. Watching this work alongside the work of the previous decade is an interesting study in Balanchine's development.

In the first movement, Kaori Nakamura and Jeff Stanton took the Melissa Hayden/Andre Prokovsky roles, while Ariana Lallone hovered about in a role that strikes me as being created for Violette Verdy (if anyone knows for certain, please let me know). Louise Nadeau and Christophe Maraval radiated youthful charm in the Patricia McBride/Conrad Ludlow roles in the second movement. Patricia Barker and Stanko Milov moved majestically in the third movement. Carrie Imler and Casey Herd commanded the stage in the finale. Ms. Imler's speed, precise articulation, elevation, and lightning fast pirouettes were an inspiration. On a second run-through of selected spots, we also saw Ariana Lallone and Stanko Milov (out of costume, but eager to have their time with the orchestra) in the fourth movement. Their movement dynamics are a contrast to Ms. Imler and Mr. Herd, but no less effective.

Edited by Lori Ibay

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