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Pacific Northwest Ballet - 'Serenade' and 'Carmina
by Mike Saunders
April 17, 2004 --
McCaw Hall, Seattle
For me, the strongest parts of "Carmina"
were the last two movements -- first the wonderful and often extended pas
with Patricia Barker and Olivier Wevers. My favorite moments were the "quieter"
moments, especially when the wonderful soprano soloist sang. Barker's gorgeous
upper body phrasing showed her immense talents: I just sat and stared. I
also enjoyed the ending when the entire cast is brought upon the stageÖI
still canít fathom how Kent got everyone to look so good together. Choreographing
that many people must be difficult, but it worked and brought the piece
to a nice finish.
"Serenade" is a piece that I've seen performed rather poorly
and also extremely well. It took the latter to show me what Balanchine's
choreography could really do; I wasn't a Balanchine fan until I saw this
piece "done right" (which to me, implies that the corps are
tight, technically proficient, and very well coached). If there's any
piece that I've seen that has fairly stringent requirements on the excellence
of the corps dancers, "Serenade" is it. Of course this plays
into PNB's hand as a company, as I've always thought one of the strengths
of PNB was the immense depth of their corps. Add to this Francia Russell's
expert staging, and this piece was everything it should be. Besides the
corps, standouts were Carrie Imler, Melanie Skinner, Jeff Stanton, and
of course, the incomparable Louise Nadeau.
The opening movements were pleasant, the costumes gorgeous as usual, but
for me this piece grows stronger as it progresses. Each series within
each movement builds upon the prior, culminating in the defining highlight
of this weekend's performance -- the staggering, breathtaking final movement.
Simply put, Louise Nadeau knocked this one clearly out of the ballpark
-- out of the neighborhood, county, and over the state line as well, for
that matter. Like others who have reviewed this piece, I think I noticed
my "allergies" suddenly increasing during that last movement
as I wiped my eyes more than once. Truly impressive.
I struggle trying to define exactly what it is that I see in Nadeau, being
neither a choreographer nor a dancer myself. She's always precise, yet
gentle in that precision. More than that, she innately understands the
"feel" of the beat. Nadeau just "knows" where to place
things in time, but that's not the whole picture. She has amazing quickness,
yet in a fraction of the moment can morph from quick and precise to elongated
and elegant -- almost as if she changes body type at the precise moment
needed by the work at hand. Add to these traits a staggering amount of
artistry -- bottom line: I could watch this woman dance until the sun
burnt out and the universe collapsed.
"Carmina Burana" poses an interesting quandary for a "reviewer."
Does one look at the piece as a whole "experience," or does
one look at it strictly as a ballet? The addition of a massive choir and
a fantastic set gives "Carmina Burana" more of a "show"
feeling than strictly a ballet at times, so I think it has to be evaluated
through both views.
From an "experience" viewpoint, "Carmina Burana" is
a sure-fire audience pleasing showstopper. Almost constant frenetic movement,
layer after layer of dancers on stage, the huge "wheel of fortune,"
the choir, the vocal soloists wandering on stage, and the massive orchestral
arrangements all make this a spectacle that needs to be seen, felt, and
heard in real life. From this viewpoint, I think "Carmina Burana"
succeeds. The audience gasped when the curtain was raised, and the movement
kept the audience's attention until the very end, bringing a rousing standing
ovation from the house.
From a "ballet" viewpoint, I found the opening series very modern-like
-- something I've not really seen in my admittedly limited viewing of
Kent's choreography, and I enjoyed the first movement quite a bit. The
men were showcased here, and once again the depth of PNB's dancers was
a strength. Of the ladies (as seemingly always happens when I see PNB
dance), a corps member I really haven't "noticed" before comes
out, and in this case it was Lesley Rausch who fit well with the excellent
Mara Vinson and Melanie Skinner.
The "Primo Vere" section was an area where I was of two minds.
First, Noelani Pantastico was featured with Jeff Stanton. Pantastico is
to me one of the future stars of PNB, already clearly on her way as a
brilliant, expressive, joyous dancer. The problem though, was I thought
this whole section didn't stand out so strongly in terms of choreography
as compared to other sections, and maybe went on a little too long for
my taste. However, things heated up next when Ariana Lallone strutted
onto the stage in the "In Taberna" section.
I wish I could name some of the standouts in the corps here, because there
were at least four or five that caught my eye, but I'd have to see this
piece a lot more (as well as the company as a whole a lot more) in order
to do so. But as mentioned, Barker, Pantastico, Lallone, and those fantastically
talented men all shined.
Edited by Lori Ibay
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