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Pacific Northwest Ballet


Talent's treasure trove

by Dean Speer

June 3 (evening) and June 9, 2006 -- Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, Seattle

Great pressure over time creates precious jewels such as diamonds. In ballet, it’s the needed pressure of melding time, talent, technique and artistry so that the burnished product is fully realized quickly. In turn this allows the bright stars of ballet to enjoy long careers, and their adoring public to enjoy watching them during their stage tenure.

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s premiere of Balanchine’s full-length abstract ballet “Jewels” presented two such diamonds in the shows that I caught. One brightly burning and nearing the conclusion of her performance career – Patricia Baker – and another making her first forays into the Van Cleef and Arpels-inspired role – Carla Körbes.

No less important are the beautiful French-perfumed Emeralds of the first section and the jazzy ‘American’ section with “Rubies.” The alchemy of the castings made for delightful and rich performances.

Patricia Barker really gave her considerable all. Steely strong, putting herself into every movement and attacking each phrase, such as the one with the piqué first arabesque turn with the right arm making a swirl and the head spotting the ceiling. She truly seemed to be enjoying herself, particularly during the conclusion of the pas de deux and the tutti Polonaise. Stanko Milov is a big mover and well proportioned and is a sympathetic partner with Barker.

Carla Köbes’ second performance in “Diamonds” was clearly phrased, nuanced, strong yet soft when needed. Jeffrey Stanton was her complementary partner who brought his considerable skills and experience as her consort. Stanton is a solid performer for whom we never have to sweat blood. His demonstration of high level technique relaxes the audience so we can enjoy the choreography and not worry about whether he’s going to make it through the thickets of demanding variations or tricky partnering.

If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn that both Louise Nadeau and her partner for the “Emeralds” pas de deux, Christophe Maraval, were French. I caught the scent of Chanel as they intertwined and danced the sometimes limpid, sometimes sharp shapes of Balanchine’s homage to things Gallic. In cyber-print, I’ve described Nadeau as ‘ravishing’ as this term is very apropos in this role.

Mara Vinson and Lucien Postlewaite were paired for “Emeralds” and they gave a solid performance. Both have amplitude of line and assurance. It’s clear that Postlewaite is a product of the PNB School – reliable technique, bright performance style, and an instinct for presenting beautiful line. Maria Chapman and Stanko Milov were teamed up for the second pas de deux and Chapman gave us an interpretation that was plastique, under-girded by her very strong pointes – her passe pied and piqué into her final pose before running off downstage left were bouncy, impressive and just right.

Ever since Dance Magazine came out with calling her “One, Hot Ballerina,” I’ve taken great pleasure in repeating that label of Ariana Lallone. It’s certainly apt and particularly in a part like the “tall girl” in “Rubies.” Fabulous gams – and she uses them so magnificently! This part is like a queen bee who knows what she’s doing and why. Her exit phrase of moving into quick grand pliés in second and a shift into arabesque penché was exciting.

No less impressive in the same part was Carrie Imler, whose joy of speed and attack of allegro were delicious.

Kaori Nakamura and Jonathan Porretta were hot, hot, hot and cool fun in the central pas de deux of “Rubies” first made for Patricia McBride and Edward Villella. Until Porretta’s quick turning emboîtés off (they increase in both speed and intensity), I had not seen anyone do these better or make them more exciting and virtuosic than had Robert Weiss when I first saw “Jewels” at NYBC in the mid-70s. The audience's cheering only added to the thrill.

The music for each section is some of the best and loveliest: Fauré for Emeralds; Stravinsky’s “Capriccio for piano and orchestra” for Rubies; and the last four movements of Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 3 in D Major” for Diamonds.

“Jewels” is a new treasure to PNB’s already rich repertory and one that heralded a sparkling and fitting conclusion to Peter Boal’s first year as Artistic Director.

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