Pacific Northwest Ballet School’s Annual Performance
Saturday, 19 June, 2010, 7:00 p.m.
McCaw Hall, Seattle
by Dean Speer
Ochre costumed long-haired maidens danced through my head
while visions of circling 16 young men
making coupé jètés all kept me from my bed
Round and round they went – lofty leaps and leg beats aplenty
surpassed by nearly nothing – pointes, pirouettes, patterns and steps
Elegant, praise-worthy of an old sea-shanty
Artfully dancing, keeping us abiding,
‘til at last, applause thund’ring.
Partnering with the long-established Seattle Youth Symphony, PNB’s Annual School Performance’s evening show was one of it best in recent memory. A complete Balanchine ballet, “Chaconne” was given to conclude Act II after intermission which opened with the ‘Men’s Regiment’ from another of Mr. B.’s popular works, “Stars and Stripes,” staged by faculty member Timothy Lynch.
Act I opened with a Bruce Wells’creation for Levels VII and VIII, set to a selection of Strauss which, in his own words, “...showed ‘Ballet 101.” Group formations, patterns, and sequences, each designed to show off the [considerable] strengths of these students. Wells is a very experienced choreographer and his thoughtful insight into composition is deployed neatly and nicely throughout.
Act I concluded with a premiere of choreographer Kiyon Gaines latest ballet, “10: “Un” A’frayed Edges.” Gaines knows how to move people and it’s clear his preference palette is filled with pigments of quick and darting movement, fast and sharp attacks, and invention built from a ballet vocabulary. I was very impressed with his first work and continue to be so as we’ve observed many of his subsequent dances. This is a choreographer who likes to move and it shows in what he makes – and how the dancers positively respond to the challenges.
At least for me, the ‘Men’s Regiment’ from “Stars and Stripes” is what this ballet choreographically builds up to – it’s like the release of energy that comes to full throttle on an open highway. There lots of good buildup to get there and when you are, you can open up speed and arms to the sunny skies. This section is based and built upon what’s considered the fundamental “male” ballet vocabulary – tours en l’air, entre chats (such as six), big jumps such as sauté arabesque, and marching patterns. When the 17 [total] men leave the stage and then come trouping back in and salute us as if they are participating in a “Trouping of the Colors” for the Queen of England, we all eat it up. Then there’s the circle of 16 men making unison coupé jeté with one of them in the center, either making relevé tours á la seconde as in this case, or double tours en l’air that spectacularly finish in a split second. Bravo to Lynch who staged and coached his classes to a very good and clean performance level.
Seeing this staging [Marisa Albee, Elaine Bauer, and Peter Boal] of the 1976 “Chaconne” made me realize this elegant ballet has been away from PNB’s mainstage performance series too long. The other, unstated thing is how marvelous it is that PNB School has sufficient numbers of Professional Division students who are of a technical altitude and fortitude who can bring off this ballet, while looking youthful in all the blessed ways, but didn’t come across as being “studenty.”
Conductor Stephen Radcliffe allowed the music to breathe (thank you) and didn’t seem in an all-fired rush to catch a ferry (thank you, again). The young musicians sounded well-schooled, practiced and up for what I hope will be future collaborations with PNB School.
PNB School has a depth of talent and training, providing students and their families [and friends] with the tools they need to succeed either as dancers, as teachers, or perhaps as knowledgeable and committed supporters of the larger arts family of the world.