Dances at a Recital
Pacific Northwest Ballet School's Annual Performance
by Dean Speer
June 16, 2012-- McCaw Hall, Seattle, WA
Balm for my eyes. I find myself saying this year after year and it’s true again. Most, but not all, dance school recitals remind us why we are in the arts field to in the first place. [Recitals have a partly-deserved reputation for being insufferable.] Seeing the evolution of students from level to level and over progressive years is its own reward. Enjoying what these youngsters can do and the high level of training, rigor, and self-discipline on display is refreshing and their sincerity and belief in what they are doing, satisfying.
When the curtain goes up and the first wave of “awe” at the platoons of pink-leotarded Level 1s begin – followed by Level II, you know you’re going to be in for a good time. Dane Holman and Meg Potter put together very effective material for their young charges, using opposition and theme which carried through the initial few classes.
I most thoroughly enjoyed Tatiana Cater’s Level V demo of her authoritative use of character work and how this may be combined with classical to make a delightful showcase for her young charges. They were clean and did the foot and heel work with attendant port de bras/épaulement well and seemed comfortable with and enjoyed the dance they were given.
My only fuss is that each level could have used live piano but didn’t – the dances to Czerny and the Joplin were to recordings. I know Czerny has a reputation for being hard but Joplin? Hmm...
Act II consisted of the highest levels of the School – VII, VIII and the Professional Division. Elaine Bauer’s depth of experience guided the choreography of her Level VII piece, set to Corelli.
While admirable on the surface, Peter Boal should steer clear of a comedy unless very disciplined with it. His “Ballet Ruse” [a pun intended] was a Salade Russe that had too many elements in it and little and not enough follow-through with any of them. Audience members who haplessly wander onto the stage and who then are led to their seats in full view of the house, a stage hand ends up partnering the ballerina, mismatched costumes from different eras of ballet, a dancer who nearly misses her finale pose, may I say, downstage dead center? Midway through, I was thinking this is really weird...and then the humorous tint dawned through. My first impression was that he was borrowing from Robbins’ “The Concert” and taking it from there, and thought, no, this cannot be it. The piece would have been stronger to have taken one or two of the ideas and more fully developed them. Was the program music credit for Mozart also a “ruse?” To my ear it wasn’t Mozart but sounded like a 19th-century waltz of some sort. I’d be curious to know what music it actually was.
One of Boal’s great and unexpected strengths – we had never expected him to either choreograph or stage, and this was overtly stated at the beginning of his tenure as Artistic Director – is his staging of ballets that he has either been cast in himself or with which he’s been closely associated. I’ve been impressed with each and the short Divertimento from “Le Baiser de la Fée” is a good example, showing off the deep training of the PD students – Towa Shinagawa, Sarah Chin, Ashley Davis and corps.
Strongly concluding the program was Company member Price Suddarth’s “Time Out” set to Bach and accompanied by the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra. Suddarth’s plan was clearly and cleanly laid out – sometimes choreographers try to squeeze in too much, feeling a bit like they have to tell the entire history of world in a few minutes. I like how “Time Out” was paced, beginning with a Men’s Section, followed by one for the Women, one Pas de Deux, a double pas de deux ‘Two Couples,’ and finishing nicely with a Finale.
These last three works were nicely accompanied by the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Radcliffe.
With screaming support from the top balcony (students) and parents, families, and extended supporters and fans, PNB School shows itself again to be tops during its 31st annual Performance. I was happy to be there at the beginning and again here over three decades later...balm for my eyes, indeed.
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