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Young Enough to Do it Again

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Season Encore Performance

by Dean Speer

June 10, 2012-- McCaw Hall, Seattle, WA

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s annual Season Encore Performance reminds us why we are so fortunate to have this major ballet company right here in our own Puget Sound backyard. It becomes easy to take something for granted when it is there all the time and continually produces a level of work and repertory seasons that become destination landmarks.

Showing the range of repertory and the artistic agility of the dancers, the crew, and the “village” it takes to pull off each show [about 200 employees for each rep] this one-off program was book-ended by Balanchine and in between we were tantalized with other tasty morceaux – “After the Rain Pas de deux” by Christopher Wheeldon and his “Carousel (A Dance)”; an intriguing film clip from the first movement of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Cylindrical Shadows.” This was unusual in that the film built via location changes, paralleling the building of the choreography – using many Seattle-area locations, from hillside staircases to a train yard to a large public pier.

English choreographer David Dawson’s “A Million Kisses to my Skin;” contemporary French dance maker Jean-Christophe Maillot's contribution was the Balcony pas de deux from his “Roméo et Juliette;” concluding with the Danilova/Balanchine staging of the Coda and Finale from Act III of their jointly staged “Coppélia.” In between were two additional Balanchine gems – the complete, sans birth scene and the climbing up to Mount Parnassus at the end, of his seminal 1928 “Apollo” and from the following year of 1929, the duet between the Siren the protagonist of “Prodigal Son.”

The one I needed the most, coming at the end of a very long work day and collegiate commencement weekend, was the lively, effervescent and sunny “Coppélia” with the strong James Moore as Franz and the virtuostic Leta Biasucci as Swanhilda. Elizabeth Murphy, Emma Love, and Jessika Anspach as Dawn, Prayer, and Spinner. Carli Samuelson led in the charge of the 24 PNB School students for a glimmer of the Waltz of the Golden Hours.

Of the few new works represented, Dawson’s is the strongest choreographically, though it has, what is to me, an unfortunate title. It tends to suggest something carnal, yet by his own explanation is meant to be spiritual – the exhilaration and joy he has felt when a performance has gone very well and has lifted itself above the merely scholastic [steps] into the artistic and poetic. “Goosebumps” is not exactly poetic either but is this not the feeling he had in mind? I’m dry on a better title but do wish, while keeping the choreography and concept, it could be changed to something a little more evocative than suggestive.

This was also the bittersweet time we were saying goodbye, thank-you, and good luck to two departing artists – one, Abby Relic, who is leaving to “pursue other interests” and Lucien Postlewaite who is taking a leap of faith across the pond to work with Maillot’s company in Monte Carlo.

Relic we enjoyed three times – in the Divertimento from Balanchine’s “Le Baiser de la Fée,” in “Carousel...,” and as a Jesterette in the concluding “Coppélia.”

Somehow it’s fitting that Postlewaite’s last dance with us was in the very same piece that first exposed him to Maillot’s work and that drew him away – “Roméo et Juliette.” He and his dance partner, Kaori Nakamura, have a enjoyed a very good partnership and each gave their considerable all and élan to this tender yet doomed story. The mutual warmth and appreciation the public has felt was appropriately expressed by many cheers and bravos. Earlier in the evening Mr. Postlewaite appeared as the Prodigal Son and as Apollo where his muses were Carla Körbes, Kylee Kitchens, and Lesley Rausch.

The might PNB Orchestra was alternately lead by Music Director Emil de Cou and Allan Dameron.

PNB’s Fortieth Anniversary (yikes – already!?) in the upcoming 2012-13 season brings us a couple of exciting items that whet our appetite already: a world premiere by Seattle native Mark Morris; and some audience favorites including “Swan Lake."

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