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Oregon Ballet Theater

'Eyes on You' Program: Répétez s'il vous plaít

by Dean Speer

April 28, 2007 -- Newmark Theatre, Portland, Oregon

When I initially reviewed Christopher Stowell’s first choreographic outing for Oregon Ballet Theatre – his “Adin” (which translates “one”) – I asked, “Will there be a ‘dva’ (two)?” I’m very glad there was a “dva” from previous seasons of two pieces on Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “Eyes on You” Spring bill program. Repeating repertory is good for both sides of the stage, and this effect proved true Saturday night. Both “Il Nodo” and the eponymous “Eyes on You” looked fresh, and I felt I was seeing them anew. The three works on the program made for a nice helix, spiraling around each other in a way that built well and made for a rich yet nourishing balletic diet.

“Il Nodo” impressed one of my new-to-ballet subscriber friends as a depiction of children’s games and how they just “are” – no themes, no building to a climax, just ending – as in okay, the school bell’s rung; come in from recess now.

Julia Adam inventively shows us just about everything you can do with a rope, including yes, hanging yourself. It’s a light and fun piece (which includes someone rather vigorously rolling themselves off the stage and into the orchestra pit!) that I have to admit I appreciate more this time than I did at its premiere.

Brennan Boyer, Jon Drake, Adrian Fry, Anne Mueller, Alison Roper, Brian Simcoe, and Holly Zimmerman each brought the right sense of play to Adam’s work.

Christopher Stowell’s Cole Porter ballet looks better, more seasoned, secure. Showcasing the men, “Just One of Those Things” wowed the audience – and we would have welcomed a reprise. Perhaps a suggestion for future performances, somewhat like the anticipated – and now expected – reprisal of “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham” in Alvin Ailey’s great “Revelations.”

Kathi Martuza and guest dancer from Pacific Northwest Ballet, Batkhurel Bold, had the je ne sais quois quality of a ’30s couple vamping. Mueller was delightful in the jazzy – and slightly “naughty but fun” – “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”

“Eyes” finishes as it begins – with the cast in a row of movie theatre seats with the backdrop projecting “The End!” Stowell’s work is measured well and builds nicely to its energtic “Anything Goes” finale. Each of the duets were accompanied by soprano Pamela South and pianist Richard Bower.

New to OBT’s repertory is the important addition of the inimitable “Apollo” which was terrific – clean and neatly danced by Alison Roper as Terpsichore, Yuka Iino as Polyhymnia, Calliope as rendered by Kathi Martuza, and as our newly-born Olympic god, Ronnie Underwood. Leto was laboriously danced by Valerie Limbrunner, Graham-like contractions and all. Her handmaids and the unravelers of the god’s swaddling clothes were Andrea Cooper and Grace Shibley.

Nearly 80 years old, “Apollo” unfolds its scenes tidily yet in a stately and unhurried way – this is, after all, a ballet about gods and muses. Its power is ever there, burnished by the score and Balanchine’s spare, tensile choreography – staged by Francia Russell.

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