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Pacific Northwest Ballet's Opening Gala - 'Soirée'

Thanking our lucky stars

by Dean Speer

September 17, 2005 -- MOM Hall, Seattle, Washington

There are galas and then there are Galas. PNB’s latest edition was one of the latter. An elegant and fun evening among ballet friends and supporters, it showcased three complete ballets and one excerpt from this coming season’s repertoire.

Displaying George Balanchine’s 1967 choreography of the “Diamonds” pas de deux from his full-length abstract ballet, “Jewels,” Patricia Barker and Stanko Milov were glittering gems themselves in this homage to Petipa and Tchaikovsky. Exhibiting tensile strength yet languid in the many unique partnering shapes that Balanchine created, Barker looked completely in command of her considerable technique, star presence and rich stage experience. Milov has continued to grow in stature as an artist with PNB and it’s nice to see him given the challenge of this pas. The two were unfolding the choreography for us and I cannot wait to see them and additional casts when the complete ballet graces the boards next June.

Staged by Peter Boal, “Red Angels” by Ulysses Dove is also one of PNB’s latest acquisitions. Dancing with fierce intensity and focus were two principal dancers and two corps members: Ariana Lallone, Olivier Wevers, Lesley Rausch, and Jordan Pacitti. I liked Dove’s exploration of finding new motifs -- a hip thrust out there, the ribs in isolation here. Truly his was a modern dance aesthetic which he fused with the ballet idiom. Violinist Mary Rowell gave an impassioned reading of Richard Einhorn’s score for electric violin which is titled “Maxwell’s Demon.” Perhaps this was the genesis for Dove’s thinking about what and who the red angels were.

Balanchine’s morceau of a ballet, “Duo Concertant” was a joy to see with not four but five cast members: the two musicians and the two dancers, Louise Nadeau and Wevers, with Boal making a cameo appearance in the second and spotlighted section of the dramatic and unexpected ending. Originally slated to appear in this ballet all the way through with Nadeau, one of his classmates from the School of American Ballet, Boal sustained an injury in Company Class the day before that prevented him from doing so. He was heartily cheered as he stepped in, replacing Wevers for the last bit.

As Margot Fonteyn once said about “Swan Lake,” “Everything about it is big.” The same can easily be said for Balanchine’s1972 work to a score by his colleague and friend Igor Stravinksy -- “Symphony in Three Movements.” Also a welcome new addition to PNB, it is replete with big gestures and movement. From start to finish, we are treated to sharp images and a tableaux that really push and test the limits of the stage space. Each of the dancers looked great and especially notable were the principals, paired in three couples: Carrie Imler with Jonathan Porretta; Kaori Nakamura with Jeffrey Stanton; and Noelani Pantastico with Batkhurel Bold. It’s an exciting ballet to an equally exciting score. Visually, it’s a modern painting come to ballet life.

Following the concert, there was an elegant dinner onstage for patrons where guests got to mingle with the dancers and staff.

This was a well-planned and fun evening for everyone, and a great way to launch PNB’s 2005-06 season, the first as Boal as its artistic head.

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