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The Way It Ought To Be

Pacific Northwest Ballet's 'School Performance'

by Dean Speer

14 June 2008 -- Seattle

The piece that Pacific Northwest Ballet should acquisition from the Balanchine Trust into its main company stable of ballets, “Cortège Hongrois,” is the one its School students performed so admirably over this past weekend, during its 27th annual “School Performance”.It combines a “character” corps and principal couple with a “classical” corps and principal couple, in the “grand” ballet tradition.

I remember seeing a wonderful picture of Melissa Hayden that came out nationally when press was released announcing, first, her retirement in 1973 from the New York City Ballet and, second, of Mr. Balanchine’s making “Cortège” as an homage to her.  The image that sticks in my mind is of the sheer joy and energy radiating from this senior ballerina – sharp on what was also her 50th birthday year.  This same energy touched everything she did the year that she was artistic head of PNB (1976-77).  I too recall her slapping the floor of the studio with her hand, in order to get the right effect and technique going for assemblé jumps.  She showed the same energy, when many years later, she returned to the new PNB studios for a taping of her coaching of some PNB dancers in a couple of Balanchine roles that she originated.

Emma Love and Sean Rollofson were the “character” principal couple and Margaret Mullin and Andrew Bartee were the “classical” pair.  Except for a small slip in Bartee’s solo before he relaxed into his work, their pas de deux was quite nice.

Excerpts from Balanchine’s bon-bon creation, “Who Cares?” were staged by faculty members. Melanie Skinner and Nicholas Ade and were strongly supported in their realization by pianist Donald A. Vollema.  Each student danced with appropriate verve and clarity.

Sonia Dawkins’ new “Radio Broadway” was an acceptable vehicle but promised more than it delivered.  She could have had a “wow!” piece on her hands had she allowed the choreography to happen and break loose  as it wanted to, such as when the dancers were turned profile to stage left and began a canonic sequence that simply was crying to develop and burst out. But it ultimately was re-directed and controlled into something else.

The training of PNB School students is as it ought to be: lucid, clean, each who are strong and who have facility are built into their vocabulary.  I’ve found that each year, the students, their fine dancing and performances are “balm for my eyes”, and this edition was no exception.


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