One More Time!
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Encore” Program
Sunday, 13 June 2010, 6:30 p.m.
McCaw Hall, Seattle, Washington
by Dean Speer
It began with death but ended with frolicking merriment. Perhaps it was departed and retired music director and conductor Stewart Kershaw’s humorous sense of the macabre or that he thought it was good, dramatic musical programming, but there were some oddities scattered among the tea leaves.
The bill was not only to be Pacific Northwest Ballet’s valedictory tribute to its season just concluded, but importantly, a way to acknowledge and thank Kershaw for his many contributions as music director and conductor for many years – and to two, dear departing dancers, in particular Mara Vinson and Jordan Pacitti.
It started with an extended introduction of timpani pounding out Tybalt’s death scene from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” included the entr’acte from a ballet PNB has never done, “Raymonda,” and concluded with the surprise encore inclusion of one that they’re not likely to include on a mainstage bill again, the “Rug Dance” from PNB’s 2008 Laugh Out Loud! Festival to Italian folk music, recorded by Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare, Padano di Piadena Choir and Matteo Salvatore with choreography conceived and directed by Sara Pearson and Patrik Widrig, created in collaboration with members of PEARSONWIDRIG DANCETHEATER. This Encore performance included a cast consisting of company women: Jessika Anspach, Leanne Duge, Ariana Lallone, Brittany Reid, Liora Reshef, Sara Ricard Orza; and company men: Andrew Bartee, Kiyon Gaines, Eric Hipolito, Barry Kerollis, Jordan Pacitti, Jonathan Spell, and Jerome Tisserand. I recall that this piece began with the dancers recreating a bit of Italian folkloric culture – heaving oranges into the air and spearing them with sharp knives. The “Rug Dance” then became a bit of the rustic extended into craziness. Just right for a frothsome program, and again, a way to showcase Pacitti.
Anecdotal remarks were made in tribute to Kershaw by former PNB star and much beloved ballerina, Louise Nadeau and introduced by artistic director Peter Boal.
Lesley Rausch displayed her solid balances and breathtaking and quick à la seconde développés that were held, in her reprise of the Rose Adagio from “The Sleeping Beauty.” I also appreciated how she repositioned her head to the audience at the start of each of the four promenades, rather than just have it turned to each suitor. This is a detail that the great Fonteyn always put in, and it was satisfying to see it included in Rausch’s interpretation. This was to have been followed by an excerpt from Marco Goecke’s “Mopey.” As the pause lengthened, it became apparent that there were backstage difficulties. Finally, an announcement was made that “Mopey” would not be performed and the program would continue with “Autumn” from “The Seasons.” Apparently, the dancer scheduled to perform “Mopey,” Benjamin Griffiths, was stricken by a leg cramp while preparing to go onstage; hence, the sudden decision to cancel the work and move on.
I enjoyed the reprise of Val Caniparoli’s “The Seasons,” with strongly defined performances by Ariana Lallone and Karel Cruz as Baccante and Bacchus. The choreography for this work, while not uniformly inspired, is certainly deserving of repeat programming.
Following intermission, the program continued with a finely etched performance by Lindsi Dec in the fourth variation, ‘Choleric,’ and finale of “The Four Temperaments,” as staged by Francia Russell. Would that time had allowed for the entire work to be shown, as it remains among PNB’s signature works. Undoubtedly at the request of the retiring Jordan Pacitti, Ulysses Dove’s “Red Angels” followed on the program with excellent performances by Carla Körbes and Batkhurel Bold; and Carrie Imler partnered by Pacitti.
The program closed with the Act III Pas de Deux and Finale from “Coppélia.” James Moore as Franz and Vinson as Swanilda showed us why each is a respected dancer and why, by this occasion, Vinson’s classicism will be sorely missed. She was strong, steely with her technique, yet soft and sweet in this wedding duet. At bows, she continued in class and character, never given to tearful farewell, smiling and radiating warmth and good cheer. I can only wish that her leaving PNB is a hiatus only and that, should she wish to return, she’ll find again her rightful home and classification.
Encore was a fitting conclusion to a strong season for PNB, a bit of a guilty pleasure, and a means to say thank-you! and best wishes to more than a few.