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Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Nov 06, 2003 10:41 am ]
Post subject:  Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003

Here is a direct link to "all things Nutcracker" at Pacific Northwest Ballet:

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Nov 24, 2003 10:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003

In the King County Journal, Carole Beers launches the season with the first preview:

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Nov 26, 2003 5:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003

Casting is now available for opening (Friday, November 28) through Saturday evening, December 6:

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Nov 28, 2003 1:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003

Both Seattle papers have features today on the children who are performing in PNB's Nutcracker. R. M. Campbell' story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer features a photo gallery that is only available on-line:

Mary Murfin Bayley in the Seattle Times:

The Everett Herald also previews the PNB Nutcracker:

Author:  Dean Speer [ Sat Nov 29, 2003 2:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003

20 Years of Glory A Review of PNB's Stowell/Sendack Nutcracker
By Dean Speer

Attending PNB’s Opening Night performance of their unique, Kent Stowell/Maurice Sendack production of Nutcracker was a thrill and, as I like to say, “Balm for my eyes!” Although there was an afternoon matinee showing, the official Nutcracker season around Puget Sound was declared “open” with the evening performance. And as Mr. Stowell himself said during Intermission, “36 more opportunities left to see other casts!”

[On a side bar, I must note that the conductor, Stewart Kershaw, will mark his 500th performance during the December run! Quite an impressive record.]

Many things have helped put PNB on the ballet map and the December 1983 premiere of this ballet certainly helped to do that in a major way.

Tonight’s cast was strong, confident, experienced and also gave experience to younger performers in a glorious setting, which includes the lovely and acoustically marvelous theatre, the Marion O. McCaw Hall.

The “older” Clara was danced by PNB star and veteran Patricia Barker, who probably never looked better. I found that she looked happy, relaxed and in complete control of her technical and interpretive facilities. She has always been “one to watch” and I feel that in the past couple of years, she has really come in to her own as an artist of taste and level of maturity. Please, PNB Management, encourage her to allow us audience types to reflect in her radiant glory for AT LEAST five more years! (Or longer!!)

Barker was well matched with hunky Stanko Milov, the Bulgarian trained partner of a dream. His partnering is expert and attentive always and I loved how he handled Barker. For example, at the end of the coda section of Act II where she is up in a shoulder sit, he puts her down (she in a tight sous-sus) very slowly in a way that made the descent look rapturous, with her floating. And his own dancing, as in the Act II Cavalier/Prince solo gains in finesse that is rising to the level of his raw power and strong technique and presence.

Stowell’s Act I is filled with dramatic detail. There is a lot happening at this Party! I have seen this production many, many times and continue to find things that delight and surprise me. A fun example of this is when Mozart is inserted into the action. (A pas de trois that illustrates to Clara the nightmare she’s been having.) Drosselmeyer gestures to a bust of Mozart in the Stahlbaum home. It’s really a crack-up! I also like how this character seemingly appears out of nowhere just as the Party is really getting underway, early in Act I.

Stacey Lowenberg was a precise and confident Ballerina Doll and Jordan Pacitti a strong and fearsome Sword-Dancer Doll.

Glorious is the Snow Scene at the conclusion of Act I. The corps as Swirling Snowflakes in a snow fall that gets increasingly heavier until it’s practically a blizzard is heavenly. Mr. Stowell shows his craft and eye for large, group movement and patterns here to the Nth degree.

Ditto for Act II’s famous Waltz of the Flowers. Mara Vinson was truly joyful, light, strong and led the corps of flowers in an ensemble of patterns, bringing them to a tight “bud” at the end that bursts open to a Spring like pose.

In this production, the Clara and Prince dance both the Snow (Act I) and Grand Pas de Deux. In “traditional” productions, we think of these as Snow Queen and King and Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Barker and Milov were once again “on” for the concluding Pas and matched the challenging and beautiful choreography with elegance, energy, and intelligence.

At a charming, post-performance reception, there was a reunion of the many Claras (“young” and “old”). It was delightful seeing familiar faces and the artists upon whom the tradition of Nutcracker has been built.

Seattle and the Northwest has had many Nutcrackers and continues to do so, including many fine “community” productions small and large scale. However, PNB’s is definitely the leader of the pack. I have come to like this production more and more over the course of its 20-year run and hope we get to enjoy it for at least another 20! PNB has given us a treasure and I encourage ballet fans, old and new, to get out and see this show whenever you are in town, or as PNB”s own press department likes to say, “See it again for the first time!” 36 more showings between now and the end of 2003.

<small>[ 01 December 2003, 11:15 AM: Message edited by: Francis Timlin ]</small>

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Dec 01, 2003 10:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003

R. M. Campbell reviews the evening performance of Saturday, November 29 (Kaori Nakamura and Jeff Stanton) in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Author:  Matthew [ Mon Dec 01, 2003 7:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003

Dean How did you find McCaw Hall in the context of the performance?

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Dec 02, 2003 9:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003

Mary Murfin Bayley reviews the Opening Friday evening performance (Patricia Barker, Stanko Milov) in the Seattle Times:

Author:  Dean Speer [ Thu Dec 04, 2003 1:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003

Matthew - McCaw Hall is great! Beautiful inside and alive, warm acoustics. While I'll admit I did enjoy seeing NUT last year in the ornate Paramount Theatre, it's wonderful having PNB back in its new home. I thought this production of PNB's NUT, as a production, never looked better. Have seen many, many terrific and awesome dancers it in over the years, but on the whole, the Company looked tight and the orchestra sounded and played particulary well.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Dec 05, 2003 1:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003

One more review of last Friday's opening night performance, by Paula Tackaberry in the Everett Herald:

Author:  Dean Speer [ Mon Dec 29, 2003 4:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Nortwest Ballet: Nutcracker 2003

Custom and Tailor-Made to Wear -- A Review of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Closing Nutcracker Performance for 2004
by Dean Speer

If ever a ballet company looked better than PNB at the conclusion of its perennial run of Nutcracker, I don’t know which it would be. I found that nearly 40 performances had finely burnished this already tight and highly proficient ensemble of artists. Having caught the evening show of the first day of the run (Friday of Thanksgiving weekend), it was interesting to reflect on how the two compared, overall, and with a different cast.

The Company as a whole looked physically stronger, completely alert and totally in command of the material. And in the context of the material, many dancers were pushing themselves beyond the median and doing extraordinary things, even at this juncture, which was thrilling and rewarding. Among these in particular were Maria Chapman as the “Peacock” who used rubato effectively as an interpretive device. For example when she held an arabesque, she *really* held it, and made up the time for it as she moved into the next pose and sequence. She made what is already an exotic dance, exciting, and truly phrased the choreography.

Olivier Wevers as Herr Drosselmeier really got under the skin of this complex, and in this version, dark(er) character. I liked how his gestures and body language in the opening really told the audience of his thought process in coming up with the scheme of making a triangle of the Nutcracker Prince, the Rat King, and Clara and pitting the Rat against and playing up Clara’s worst nightmare, which he then carried over into the “actual” Party Scene, and concluding in Act II with his maniacal laughter at having duped Clara into coming to the Pasha’s exotic land and revealing himself to her and that it was all a fake. The “adult” Clara then crumples into a pile of crying, quivering Jello and runs off, only to reveal that it was “young” Clara really having a bad dream. Wevers is a very talented principal dancer with an impressive and in-depth European background who can not only look and be a danseur noble but who also enjoys character parts as well.

Speaking of “adult” Clara, this was my first time enjoying the interpretation of principal dancer Carrie Imler. She was very well matched with soloist Batkhurel Bold, a Russian-trained Mongolian. I’ve enjoyed Mr. Bold from the moment he first joined PNB in 1996 and I have to wonder if he realizes just how good he is! Sympathetic partnering throughout and 400 watt solo turns. He has amazing elevation and balon. Ms. Imler was regal and carried the part consistently, never flagging in her characterization nor in deploying her steely technique and bright interpretation. In an earlier interview for, she observed how she enjoys allegro, jumping and such and this was abundantly clear as she moved boldly through the Sugar Plum Fairy solo (it is not called this in this production, but that’s what it is) and with the Grand Pas de Deux. She expresses confidence to such a degree that it has the wonderful effect of relaxing the audience which allows us to enjoy the ballet even more.

And what can I say about Dewdrop (my titling!) of Noelani Pantastico, whom I predict will soon someday become a Principal. Her fearlessness and attack in everything come very close to matching one of my favorite joys, Colleen Neary who absolutely sizzled through and in everything she danced. Probably there isn’t anyone on the planet to match her but Ms. Pantastico reaches to that level and in her own way. Radiant. Someone else who also held balances and poses and who pushed herself in a way that was fun and most pleasing.

Also of special note from Act I, are Kara Zimmerman as the Ballerina Doll, Jordan Pacitti as the Sword-Dancer Doll, and in the Masque that continues to play out Clara’s nightmare were the trio Kylee Kitchens, Nicholas Ade, and Josh Spell.

Karel Cruz, whose legs are wonderfully endless, with beautiful line played a strong chief Warrior Mouse. My only suggestion for interpretive guidance would be for him to continue to develop an increasing sense of line and use of dynamic phrasing, such as rubato. For example, this character makes an entrance from downstage left and makes an attitude croisé (with a bit of a reverse) that I’d like to see held a bit longer before going charging off into the next sequence. In other words, I’d like to see him “model” the choreography a little more.

Artistic Directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell certainly deserve high praise and credit for commissioning and creating this 20-year old masterpiece of dance theatre.

Maestro Stewart Kershaw reached the milestone of his 500th PNB Nutcracker performance at this show and was thanked on stage by the Artistic Directors at the conclusion of the tutti bows.

Burnished though they were, I have to note that when the final curtain rang down, it was fun to hear the Company CHEER from backstage!

Of course, being the “Dizzy” Dean that I am, I look forward to PNB’s fun run of this ballet in 2004 and suggest, that if they can stand it, to extend the run some more. The houses I attended were packed with enthusiastic audience members.

<small>[ 02 January 2004, 06:06 PM: Message edited by: Dean Speer ]</small>

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