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 Post subject: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2000 12:22 pm 
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For the first mixed repertory bill of the 2000-01 season, Pacific Northwest Ballet will perform Kent Stowell's Dumbarton Oaks; William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated; Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux; and La Valse.<P>I had hoped to have access to the exact program order and casting prior to writing this preview, but these details have not been made available to me. I hope that the program order, given above, is the actual order. Stewart Kershaw, the PNB Music Director, had made fleeting reference at a pre-performance lecture for last month's Coppelia that he hoped they would program the Forsythe work at the end of the program so that the orchestra could go home early. For a variety of reasons, I hope that this is not the case, because I believe that this would be an unfortunate programming choice.<P>Mr. Stowell's Dumbarton Oaks, choreographed to the Stravinsky Concerto in E-flat for chamber orchestra (and subtitled Dumbarton Oaks, for the wooded estate in Washington, DC that has been the site of some noted peace conferences) is sunny and upbeat in mood and measure. The dancers are all in white (e.g., modified tennis) outfits and the overall effect is that of a carefree summer party on the veranda. A good, if not altogether compelling, work that has been in PNB's repertoire consistently throughout the past two decades.<P>Mr. Forsythe's In the middle...is being seen for the second time this calendar year; it premiered here last March to considerable critical acclaim. I look forward to seeing the work again. <P>The Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux is new to the PNB repertoire this season. I would very much enjoy having the ability (and funds) to see all of the casts. I am certain that this will be a work that we will see programmed in a variety of contexts over time.<P>We have not seen La Valse here in some years, so I am personally pleased to have it back in the repertoire. PNB Artistic Director Francia Russell is personally very invested in the Balanchine works that were created during her time with NYCB (mid-1950s through early 1960s), and La Valse (1957) is a work that was created during her time there and one in which she performed. (Others from the same time period include Divertimento No. 15 and Agon, both seen regularly here.) There is an abstract psychodrama lurking in the subtext of La Valse and I always look forward to another viewing.<P>Performances are at the Seattle Opera House, November 9-10 and 16-17 at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturdays, November 11 and 18 at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m. Anyone within range is highly encouraged to attend and to report back your impressions.


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2000 10:29 am 
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Casting has now been announced...I should have held off another day. All programs are triple cast with the exception of In the middle, which is double cast.<P>On Saturday, November 11, I will see Carrie Imler, Valeri Hristov and Astrit Zejnati as the principals in Dumbarton Oaks. Ms. Imler has been on the "fast track" since her arrival here; Mr. Zejnati, a corps member, has not been given so many opportunities in my experience; and Mr. Hristov is brand new this season. I will be particularly interested in observing the two men more closely. Other casts for Dumbarton Oaks: Arianna Lallone/Batkurel Bold/Charles Newton; and Kimberly Davey/Oleg Gorboulev/Casey Herd.<P>Three couples are scheduled to perform Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Lisa Apple and Stanko Milov (tall and taller); Patricia Barker and Batkurel Bold (an even match in height but approaching the work from radically different schooling and background); and Kaori Nakamura and Jeff Stanton (short and tall). As I mentioned in my comments on Copppelia, it is wonderful to see that Kaori is being given more opportunities here.<P>The La Valse principals are Alexandra Dickson, Charles Newton and Stanko Milov in one cast; Louise Nadeau, Olivier Wevers and Christophe Maraval for another; and Patricia Barker, Jeff Stanton and Christophe Maraval for a third. I don't believe that any of these dancers (with the possible exception of Louise and Patty) have performed La Valse hereabouts. I hope that they will enjoy it.<P>Of the two casts for In the middle, one is the original group (from last season): Arianna Lallone, Patty Barker, Kaori Nakamura, Carrie Imler, Kimberly Davey, Rachel Butler, Jeff Stanton, Olivier Wevers and Seth Belliston. The alternate cast includes some people who are new to the work: Melanie Skinner, Lisa Apple, Noelani Pantastico, Alexandra Dickson, Stacey Lowenberg, Rebecca Johnston, Casey Herd, Christophe Maraval and Jonathan Porretta. <P>And, it now appears that Stewart Kershaw was right...in the middle will be at the end of the program, with the two Balanchine pieces linked by a pause as the middle third of the program, and Dumbarton Oaks as the opener.


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2000 11:20 am 
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Francis, thank you so much for this wonderful write-up. It looks like it's time us Bay Areans make a trip up the coast to catch some good ballet.<P>As an aside, Christopher Stowell, Kent and Francia's son, is creating another ballet, not for his current company SFB but for Diablo Ballet. It's to music by Berlioz and I hear it's going to be a cracker.


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2000 11:30 am 
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Based on the reviews I have seen over the past couple of years, it seems that Chris has quite a talent for choreography. I'll probably have to come to The City to see it, however, since I think mum and dad would consider it a bit unseemly to appear to be pushing their child's work prominently before the public. To the extent that he is able to distil the best qualities of both Kent and Francia, I can well imagine that he would make a powerful statement.


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2000 10:34 pm 
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Yes, Christopher does seem to know his stuff. Apparently, for his new ballet, he had figured out most of his choreography by the time he had dancers to work with. Impressive.<P>I saw a work of his for Diablo Ballet last year of which I wrote, "Christopher Stowell though stole the hearts of the ballet lovers among the audience, with his simple yet effervescent “Sonata No. 1.” I am tempted to call this a classical work but I think “romantic” is a better term to use, as the choreography exhibits a passion of life that took my breath away. There are also enough intricate partnering sequences, like the women leaping into the men’s arms, to keep contemporary ballet fans interested. This is a short and very sweet work."<P>His recent work for SFB's Discovery program was also quite good.<P>However, going back to PNB, I may make the trip up there just to see Forsythe's "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" again. Which evening/cast would you recommend, Francis?


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2000 7:56 am 
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I'm very pleased that you might consider coming for a performance, Azlan. I can only recommend the cast that I have seen, which is the "A" cast with Arianna, Patty, Olivier, et al. They are scheduled for Thursday, 11/9, Saturday evening, 11/11, Friday, 11/17 and Saturday evening, 11/18. The alternate cast is scheduled for Friday, 11/10, both Saturday matinees, 11/11 and 11/18, and Thursday, 11/16. I have no doubt that they will be excellent as well. Do let me know what you decide....


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2000 9:07 pm 
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Hmm... well, my schedule may permit an afternoon visit on the 18th. I must see In the Middle as well as La Valse... The Tchai Pas will also make a nice addition, even if I did see it several times last year at NCYB.


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2000 4:44 pm 
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<---------no longer flies - is also envious......


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2000 10:29 pm 
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Well, you may not be so envious when you see my schedule! I think Michael Phelan once said he didn't know it was possible for someone to take in so many performances until he met me...


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2000 11:05 am 
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Francis, PNB seems to be importing a lot of Russian dancers these days..or it is just my imagination? Do they have some special "pipeline" to these dancers?


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2000 8:50 am 
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Is it normal for this company to perform two Balanchine ballets in one program? I find it interesting Pacific Northwest Ballet has two ballets by the same choreographer in one program. The only company I have seen with more than one Balanchine ballet in a mixed-repertory program is New York City Ballet.


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2000 8:28 pm 
Albrecht, I don't think that there's anything unusual in having 2 Balanchine ballets in the same triple bill programme; after all PNB has a large Balanchine repertory due to Francia Russell's NYCB background. The Kirov Ballet did the whole "Jewels" recently as well as an all-Balanchine programme, and Paris Opera Ballet will do Jewels as well next month. Re New York City Ballet, I seem to notice however that the percentage of Balanchine ballets in the repertory in recent seasons seems to be gradually decreasing.


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2000 11:32 am 
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Here are the Seattle Times and Seattle P-I reviews of the PNB November Rep:<BR> <A HREF="http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis/web/vortex/display?slug=pnb11&date=20001111" TARGET=_blank>http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/<BR>texis/web/vortex/display?slug=pnb11&date=20001111</A> <BR> <A HREF="http://seattlep-i.nwsource.com/classical/pnbq3.shtml" TARGET=_blank>http://seattlep-i.nwsource.com/classical/pnbq3.shtml</A> <P>The Times reviewed the opening night (Thursday, November 9) cast; the P-I reviewed the Saturday matinee (November 11) cast.<P>I will review the Saturday evening, November 11 cast as soon as I have a chance....<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited November 13, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2000 11:53 am 
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Trina, I'm not really sure that I would identify the increase in dancers from Eastern Europe as any particular trend in the company, although certainly the comparative challenges of finding and retaining a position in Eastern Europe have undoubtedly driven many to seek opportunities in the U.S. PNB conducts auditions in various locations (including New York) and has contracted with many dancers on the basis of these auditions.<P>Albrecht, I second Kevin's comments. It is not at all unusual for PNB to have all-Balanchine evenings. We revel in those here....


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 Post subject: Re: PNB November Repertory
PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2000 2:28 pm 
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PNB is now a company of 50 dancers, allowing for the comparative luxury of triple casting on most series of performances. Of the four works featured on the current November repertory program, three are triple cast; the fourth (in the middle...) is double cast, offering committed performances from a veteran cast as well as a cast that is relatively new to their roles. Two of the other casts have already been reviewed by the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reviewers. I will focus on the cast from Saturday evening, November 11.<P>The evening opened with Kent Stowell's Dumbarton Oaks, set to Stravinsky's 1938 Concerto in E-flat for Chamber Orchestra, subtitled Dumbarton Oaks, and commissioned by Mr. & Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, the owners of the Washington, DC estate. The music is middle-period, neoclassical Stravinsky; very difficult to play and, in this case, with choreography to match. The work has a surface simplicity and geniality that is emphasized by the "tennis anyone?" costumes, halcyon blue background, and sunny lighting design. Both the music and the choreography share rapid directional shifts, a rapid undercurrent of rhythmic subdivisions with accents that shift and meters that constantly change. I find the piece to be underrated. Granted, it may suffer in comparison to Balanchine and Forsythe, but it is, nonetheless, worthy of being seen and provides a fine curtain raiser. The lead trio is comprised of one woman and two men. Carrie Imler, who joined PNB as an apprentice in 1995, served as a corps member from 1996-99, and is now in her second season as a soloist, demonstrated her solid range of technical skills. Trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and at PNB School, Ms. Imler has been on a "fast track" since her corps years and will likely attain principal rank in the near future. She was joined by Valeri Hristov, who joined PNB as a soloist this season, and by Astrit Zejnati, a corps member since 1996. I was particularly pleased to see Mr. Zejnati in solo roles in both this work and in La Valse. He enjoyed a career as a principal with the National Ballet of Albania prior to his arrival in the U.S., where he attended the University of Oklahoma and performed with Tulsa Ballet Theatre and Oklahoma Festival Ballet. Perhaps this recent solo exposure portends a promotion for him. This is the first performance that I have had the opportunity to see Mr. Hristov. From Sofia, Bulgaria, a finalist at international competitions in Varna and Paris, and most recently a member of the PACT Ballet in Pretoria, South Africa, he impresses me at once with his clarity and precision of movement, particularly in his use of port de bras, hands, upper body and head. A young Malakhov, perhaps.<P>To conclude the program's first section, the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux followed a five minute pause. This work was originally intended as the Act III pas de deux from Swan Lake, but was abandoned as "too rhythmically complex" and languished in the Bolshoi archives until 1953. Balanchine intended for the piece to mirror the style of a typical Bolshoi concert piece. It was premiered by Violette Verdy and Conrad Ludlow in 1960. As staged by Francia Russell, the Saturday evening cast paired principals Lisa Apple and Stanko Milov. A principal since, 1998, Ms. Apple was trained at the School of American Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet School and has performed previously with San Francisco Ballet and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. I was particularly impressed with her intelligence and responsiveness while working in the studio with Melissa Hayden last spring, and was therefore not at all surprised that she carried off her debut in this pas de deux with self-assured flair. Mr. Milov, acquired last season from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, was her partner. There are some obvious reasons why Mr. Milov was hired; his height first and foremost. Variously reported as 6'4" or 6'5" -- he provides a good foil to 5'6" or 5'7" partners who add inches en pointe. There was some initial grumbling from various quarters about a certain coarseness to his performance. Some of this initial coarseness appears to have achieved a certain measure of polish in the present. I am also certain that this development will continue as long as he remains here. (He also had the misfortune of spending a significant period of last season on the injured list.) It is clear to me, however, that there is a significant difference in the aesthetic under which Mr. Milov was trained and inculcated and the dominant aesthetic of PNB, which will continue to be a matter in the process of resolution for a time.<P><BR>La Valse followed the first intermission. Choreographed in 1951, the work pairs a suite of orchestrated piano waltzes (Valses nobles et sentimentales, 1911/12) with a scored commissioned (but never used) by Diaghilev from Ravel in 1920. In Balanchine's hands, the work becomes an abstract psychodrama on fatal attractions. Alexandra Dickson, trained at the Goh Academy in Vancouver and at PNB School, made a splendid case for the lead woman in white, a naif who is inexorably drawn away from the relatively innocuous attentions of her dance partner for the evening (Charles Newton, a PNB School product) toward Stanko Milov's icy portrayal of death. These roles are exceptional opportunities for all three leads, and they performed with passionate precision. Solo turns were also taken in the "part 1" section by Rachel Butler and Astrit Zejnati; Kimberly Davey and Batkhurel Bold; and Lisa Apple and Christophe Maraval. The orchestra acquitted itself admirably.<P>Following the second intermission, the place of honor was given to William Forsythe's "In the middle, somewhat elevated." Created for Paris Opera Ballet on a commission from Rudolf Nureyev in 1987, the work is performed to an electronic score by Thom Willems and performed against a black backdrop with harsh side lighting. The dominant aesthetic of the work appears (to me) to be alienation and its byproduct, indifferent cruelty. The piece requires nine performers to utilize the equivalent of what we, in the music world, might describe as "extended performance techniques." The dancers pour themselves into this work. The Saturday evening cast was a largely veteran cast, most of whom had worked directly with Glen Tuggle (Forsythe's stager) on last season's premiere: Ariana Lallone, Jeff Stanton and Patricia Barker; Kaori Nakamura and Olivier Wevers; Carrie Imler and Jonathan Porretta; and Kimberly Davey and Rachel Butler. The conclusion of this piece causes the audience to erupt in an instant standing ovation. Perhaps they were wise to program it at the end, despite my previous misgivings.


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