CriticalDance Forum

Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Feb 10, 2011 3:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

Oregon Ballet Theatre's 2011-12 season announcement, reported by Marty Hughley in The Oregonian.

The Oregonian

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Jun 04, 2011 1:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

Oregon Ballet Theatre announces arrivals and departures from the roster for 2011-12. Grant Butler reports in The Oregonian.

The Oregonian

Here is a copy of the full press release on the OBT website.

2011-12 roster changes

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

Oregon Ballet Theatre presents "OBT Exposed" at Director Park, 815 SW Park Avenue in Portland, July 18-23, 2011. Heather Wisner previews the events in Willamette Week.

Willamette Week

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Jul 19, 2011 10:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

In The Oregonian, Grant Butler reports on the first day of OBT Exposed.

The Oregonian

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Oct 07, 2011 1:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

OBT's 2011-12 season opens with the world premieres of Nicolo Fonte's "Petrouchka" and Christopher Stowell's "Carmen." Performances run from Saturday, October 8 through Saturday, October 15. Here is a link to the program information on the OBT website.

Petrouchka and Carmen

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

Marty Hughley previews the performances of "Petrouchka" and "Carmen" for The Oregonian.


Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

Martha Ullman West reviews "Petrouchka" and "Carmen" for The Oregonian.


Author:  Dean Speer [ Mon Oct 17, 2011 10:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

A Puppet Of Fate
Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Premiere of “Petrouchka” and “Carmen”
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Keller Auditorium

by Dean Speer

Iconic in the ballet canon, the Fokine/Diaghilev/Stravinsky 1911 production of Petrouchka is the one I’m familiar with and so had to re-tool my thinking in viewing Oregon Ballet Theatre’s newly-conceptualized production with choreography by Nicolo Fonte, as I found myself in my seat at intermission pausing and realizing I had virtually no reaction to it at all. This is not what I had expected of myself, so went back to the program notes, Linda Besant’s excellent pre-performance lecture, pondered, engaged in discussions amongst friends and colleagues, and recalled what the buzz was in the crowded foyer and vestibules at intermission.

Christopher Stowell’s “Carmen” on the other hand, elicited immediate reactions on several fronts – visceral, intellectual, and emotional.

Fonte’s premise was to have all the dancers wear masks, thereby frustrating audience members, some of whom had a difficult time trying to figure out who was dancing, but proving his point that anonymity is not a cool thing but that being and expressing one’s individual self is. [Actually, I could tell who was dancing what role, partly from having become familiar with individual dancers and how they move, but for some audience members, identity was lost.]

There are philosophers, writers, and other observers of the times who believe that we all wear masks in real life to some degree. In my own experience, I observed those with whom I grew up begin to assume these about the time we collectively went through junior high. Some stayed true to their selves, while many others began to hold their faces in neutral and spoke with only their lips; only by their blinking could you know that their facial muscles were still functioning. Perhaps they felt this was a road to maturity. I certainly found it to be not only a little disconcerting but maybe even a little creepy. Too many adults I find, do this. I used to refer to it as “The New York Mask,” whereby you could not tell what people were thinking or feeling.

In this regard, Fonte hit it right on the mark. I also liked how Fonte paid homage to the original by having the scene changes occur as they did before – during the percussive snare drum and trumpet duo where the drum beats out a rapid rhythm and the brass calls out Petrouchka’s theme. Having Petrouchka trapped in his own room and then visited by each of his friends made dramatic sense.

Brian Simcoe, who demonstrated an amazing and near-perfect arabesque penché, was the pioneer who led the troops to mutiny by pulling off their own masks, too. This pushed his Friend, Lucas Threefoot, to the end of his rope and who reverted, I believe, back to what was safe and then tattling to The Conjurer. Caught somewhat in the middle was The Girl, danced by Yuka Iino.

Guest artist Artur Sultanov assumed the role of The Conjurer. The Group was danced by seven couples, backed up by 8 corps members.

“Carmen” on the other hand, even stripped down to the bare bones of the story, was the tried and true and was very successful. Stowell made each scene clear and provided plenty of opportunity throughout the ranks for dancing. My only fusses would be two: just titling Escamillo as merely “his rival” when I believe he should be titled “Toreador,” particularly when Bizet’s character-specific music is used and most of us can not only hum along with the tune but know the words – at least call him “Bullfighter.” Perhaps “Bullfighter and Rival” would be the right mix.

The other, as already noted by someone else in a published review, was a choreographic one – let’s leave out or modify the foot-stamping and hand-clapping, unless you’re going to make the choreographic style – its essence – truly Flamenco or Spanish. My principal qualm with it is that it seems to come out of nowhere – there’s no motif to set it up, and secondly was too rudimentary for professional dancers to be asked to perform, so it ended up having the unintended effect of almost being parody. It was embarrassing to watch. Either make it more [professional-level character dancing] and develop it or delete it.

In preparing for the trip south to Portland to see this opening night program, I was having a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of Alison Roper as a femme fatale, but she made a believer out of me. This girl was serious trouble. Don José, as danced by Chauncey Parsons was an innocent soldier driven to murder his inamorata by a pique of raging jealousy in a moment of losing control. Parsons was groomed and dressed in a somewhat gritty way, suggesting his lower-class status as a green soldier of non-important rank.

Representing “pure” love was Micaëla, beautifully danced by newcomer Principal dancer, Xuan Cheng, whose clean arabesques, crisp technique and interpretation brought poignancy to her two duets with Parsons.

The regiment of fine dancing soldiers were lead by newcomers Yang Zou (Captain of the Guard) with his Liuetenants, Ye Li and Michael Linsmeier. Zou looked particularly good and happy to be there, dancing strongly and cleaning with no muss or fuss to either execution or characterization.

In terms of a pure dance set, the Tavern scene provided a pas de deux by Julia Rowe and Javier Ubell, whose bravura was exciting and enraptured our viewing.

OBT’s Music Director and Conductor Niel DePonte made a musical arrangement for “Carmen,” drawing from Bizet but also from Rodion Shchedrin, who created his own score for his wife, the great Bolshoi ballerina, Maya Plisetskaya. Both this new hybrid score and the Stravinsky were exciting to hear, particularly “Petrouchka” which is all too rarely performed as a sonic symphonic programed venture.

Costume designs for both productions were created by Mark Zappone, with scenic creations each by Mimi Lien.

Artistic Director Christopher Stowell and Executive Director Diane Syrcle, who gave the pre-performance welcome and pep talk, were heralded by an orchestral prelude to “Carmen,” the orchestra lively led by Mr. DePonte.

Author:  Dean Speer [ Sun Feb 19, 2012 4:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

A Moving Experience
Dean Speer Previews Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “Giselle”
17 February 2012, OBT studios

I remember being very impressed when I read, many years ago, of how the dancers and artistic staff who were observing, were so moved that they wept during a run-through rehearsal of the Ashton ballet “Marguerite and Armand” with the great Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev as the leads and, sighing, thinking this could never happen to me, and if it did, how lucky and wonderful it would be.

Well, it did.

Who would have thought it possible in the heart of Portland’s old industrial section of town, just a few short blocks across the Willamette River from the downtown culture, boxed in by Tazo Tea on one side, the Lloyd Center to the north, and re-used warehouses, apartment buildings and recycled heritage churches, dedicated trunk rail lines south and east, and the falls of Oregon City to the south?

Occupying its own recycled building – a former bank, Oregon Ballet Theatre’s work – Company and School – in this part of Portland provides its heartbeat and artistic lifeblood.

Invited to observe a day of rehearsal for its upcoming production of “Giselle,” we all were greatly moved – to tears and applause – as a result of the deeply felt and exquisite Act II run-through of principal dancers Yuka Iino and Yang Zou. As I found myself more and more touched and feeling sobs welling up within me, I tried to hide my discomfiture by putting my head down and attempting to control myself. But looking surreptiously right and left [right at the stager Lola de Avila, ballet mistress Lisa Kipp, and Artistic Director Christopher Stowell and left to School Director Damara Bennett], I found myself in good company with many a red and misty eye. Simply said, the dancers were really "into it" and our reactions were visceral and okay.

A genuine treat just a few feet away from my own feet. I could hardy believe it and knew just how lucky we were.

This first run that we were fortunate to watch included Iino and Zou plus Xuan Cheng and Lucas Threefoot in the Peasant Pas de deux; a regal Kate Oderkirk as Myrtha; Brett Bauer as Hilarion; and Makino Hayashi as Moyna and Martina Chavez as Zulma, with Bennett as Bertha, Giselle’s mother.

The second run of the afternoon featured Michael Linsmeier paired with Cheng in the Peasant Pas de deux; Julie Rowe and Brian Simcoe as the title heroine and her two-timing inamorata, Albrecht; Candace Bouchard as a commanding Myrtha; and Threefoot as Hilarion.

Hearing music other than the usual Meyerbeer for the Peasant Pas de deux, I asked the conductor whose it was. Apparently it’s culled from the end of the Adam score and stager Lola de Avila told me that the choreography too is historic and was originally a second duet for Giselle and Albrecht, dropped and not-too-many years ago reconstructed by Pierre Lacotte [of the Paris Opera Ballet]. She said she found the Meyerbeer “too bright” and felt this historic dance fitted in better.

I think viewers will be very, very pleased with its charm, fleet footwork and intricate detail and partnering.

I also liked how this production in Act I makes clear the delineation between the villager and those of the court – in terms of stage placement but also with “attitude” of the body, face and gesture.

Another good notch in the pointe shoe is that the choreography is blessedly interesting and not of the banal that you sometimes get in other versions where the dances for the corps de ballet seem watered-down and too simple. Here, while clear and not fussy, they do nevertheless provide a good degree of visual interest and development, not filler. Dances that could stand on their own two feet, pun intended.

The working atmosphere at Oregon Ballet Theatre impresses one right away with its collegiality. That of a high level of professionalism but also of calmness and reasonableness and not of tightly wound emotion. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, which felt great – not only to us press-types but also and consistently to each other. Dancers helping dancers with bits in between, casual conversations seemed focused on business – and as hard as they were working there was also a neat sense of joy and fun – an enfoldment of family dedicated to the great art that ballet is and to a production of which everyone is justifiably proud.

Six hours of round-trip driving to Portland from Seattle and worth it by being anointed with six hours of dancing and immersion in a positive ballet atmosphere. With gratitude for the invitation, I was hyped-up at the end by this heady experience. What’s not to like?

A dramatic and moving treat, Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “Giselle” opens Saturday 25 February at Keller Auditorium with the mighty OBT Orchestra led by maestro Neil de Ponte.

For more information and tickets, go to:

Author:  Dean Speer [ Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

Roper Ropes It In
Interview with Alison Roper, Oregon Ballet Theatre
17 February 2012

by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin

We were able to sit down and have an all-too-brief visit with Oregon Principal Dancer Alison Roper on a break while they were in the midst of preparing for a new staging of the Romantic-era iconic ballet, “Giselle.”

Thanks for your time in meeting with us. It’s great to see you again and have the opportunity to talk about your role in the upcoming “Giselle.” I’d like to first hear how this version compares and contrasts with your previous experiences with earlier OBT Giselles.

We last did “Giselle” in 2003 but I had to pass on participating that time due to expecting a baby, but the last time I did do it was in 1998 when I was cast, as I am now, as Myrtha. The coaching experience I received then was so helpful. This was from our then Ballet Mistress, Sarah Slipper who is now heading Northwest Dance Project. She was so exacting and detailed – we’d spend 45 minutes and repeat many times just the chausé, grand jeté section.

I’m grateful for the coaching that I received in this early phase of my career and find that it’s really nice to return to the role. It’s interesting to return with a more mature understanding that every step has some singular meaning.

I now feel that our approach this time is that Act II is to be very calm – Myrtha is very cold but does not have to angry and vindictive – through harsh gestures. She should be more royal and commanding.

How has it been working with stager Lola de Avila?

It’s been great! I wish we had more time with her. She liked my interpretation and it was amazing that it felt as familiar as it did, considering it’s been since 1998. In her one Company class that she taught she talked a lot about fluidity and port de bras. She came for a week during the run of “Nutcracker” and now has been here for a couple of weeks. She has tried to make the ballet more organic, has coached us to be elastic in our roles and encourages us.

How are your children? What other projects are you up to?

The two boys are great! I’m setting “Like a Samba” for Trey McIntyre at Washington Ballet. It’s one I’ve done before but have only five days to stage it this time. I’m also working on “Liturgy” for Chris Wheeldon. I’ll be teaching at Artur’s [Sultanov – guest artist with OBT] school and may try my hand again at choreography. Many years ago I did two pieces – the first was fun to do and the second, not, so we’ll see.

I want to dance as long as possible, which means doing fewer performances. For example, not being cast as Giselle herself probably extended my career by a year. I see what they go through, and knowing how hard it can be on the body, am grateful.

The current makeup of the Company feels strong and the new hires are working very hard.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

Heather Wisner previews "Giselle" for Willamette Week.

Willamette Week

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Feb 23, 2012 1:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

Bob Hicks previews "Giselle" for the Oregonian.


Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Feb 27, 2012 2:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

In the Oregonian, Martha Ullman West reviews the Saturday, February 25, 2012 opening performance of "Giselle," with Haiyan Wu as Giselle, Chauncey Parsons as Albrecht, and Alison Roper as Myrtha.


Author:  Dean Speer [ Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

1841 to 2012 – 171 Years, One Great Performance
Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “Giselle”
Saturday Evening, 3 March 2012

by Dean Speer

Simple. Elegant. Profound. Moving. Sad. Precise. Eloquent. Beautiful.

These are just some of the adjectives that came to mind while viewing Oregon Ballet Theatre’s new production of “Giselle” which closed Saturday night at the Keller Auditorium.

Descriptors, however, fail to adequately paint a word picture of just how impressive the production, in toto, is. With intricate and lovely drops, properties, and costumes shipped over from Florence and a fresh and interesting, yet “traditional” staging by Lola de Avila, this “Giselle” never fails to inspire, read clearly, and move as this Romantic-era story plays out.

I was also impressed by just how many people were jamming the lines to the box office, queuing up to get into the closing night show, not wanting to miss it. I was even more impressed with how knowledgeable the OBT audiences have become – applauding the first appearance of the ghostly Queen of the Willis, Myrtha, as she floated across the stage making liquid bourées [Alison Roper], lauding Xuan Cheng’s [Giselle] dainty hops on pointe to clapping for her Act II entrance from the grave, spinning madly in attitude for Myrtha, and finally, showing their recognition and well-deserved appreciation of both Chauncey Parsons’ turn as Albrecht and that of Lucas Threefoot as Hilarion.

Applauded too was the corps de ballet with their ensemble “chugs” in arabesque, building the tutti effect as successive lines from each side of the stage came charging in to join the group. They were a group cool to Hilarion’s ineffective pleas for mercy as they were later to Albrecht’s but, he, saved literally by the bell of dawn was left to mourn and regret his actions.

We were treated to a new-to-us version of the Peasant Pas de Deux that traces its roots to one of the original productions where apparently not one but two duets had been prepared for Act II for the two lead characters, Giselle and Albrecht, but which was either dropped early or not done. Reconstructed by Pierre Lacotte of the Paris Opera Ballet, de Avila replaces most of the Peasant pas with this, the exception being the coda of emboîté sauté and balancé phrases and poses. Delightful were Julia Rowe and Ye Li. Trained at the legendary Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and at the San Francisco Ballet School, recently promoted soloist Rowe was partnered by new-to-the-company Li who originally hails from China and most recently had been with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Both were 100 percent into their parts, showing élan and charm and technique to burn.

I’ve long been a “Giselle” watcher ever since my first male ballet teacher, William Earl, regaled us with stories – particularly of the one where, in Germany, he was taking the lead role of Albrecht and decided, that being American he should take more of a John Wayne approach to the part than the usual remorseful and slow walking onto the stage in Act II, with black cape flowing and trailing behind [the longer the cape, the more remorseful and Romantic]. So he waits until the last minute, runs over to Giselle’s grave, thrusting out his arm to ask forgiveness. The German dance critic later sniffed, “Mr. Earl brought everything to the part of Albrecht on stage except his horse.”

Fortunately, for us there was no horsing around with this production, where each cast member played their role seriously and were of one artistic goal or palette and where the evening more than met my expectations of not merely a good time at the ballet but a great one.

The mighty OBT Orchestra was led by Maestro Niel DePonte.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2011-12

Oregon Ballet Theatre presents "Chromatic Quartet," a mixed reportory program that includes Balanchine's "Stravinsky Violin Concerto," the world premiere of Matjash Mrozewski's "The Lost Dance," Christopher Wheeldon's "Liturgy" and Val Caniparoli's "Lambarena." Performances will be held at the Newmark Theatre in Portland, April 19-28, 2012. Here is a link to information on the OBT website.

Chromatic Quartet

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