All Grown Up
Oregon Ballet Theatre at 25
Announcement of 2014-15 Season
21 February, 2014
Keller Auditorium, Portlandby Dean Speer
Six hours of round-trip driving was worthwhile. When I was director of Chehalis Ballet Center, I used to commute to and from this half-way point [Chehalis] from Seattle to Portland at least three times each week regularly – for 11 years -- so releasing the brakes and rolling a bit further down the I-5 tarmac for a pleasant reason was a piece of cake. The catalyst this time was being invited to the press conference Oregon Ballet Theatre organized to announce its 2014-15 season, coinciding with its 25th anniversary.
At OBT’s regular opera house venue, Keller Auditorium, held on the level of the first balcony lounge overlooking beautiful Keller Fountain across the street – a whole block of delightful and imaginative combined use of water and sculpture -- patrons were excited as was I.
Welcomed and checked in by a smiling and engaging person inside the front door, we were ushered upstairs for the announcement and a promised sneak preview.
There is a whole cadre of Portlanders who have long supported and continue to want to have OBT be all that it can, the audience included not only members of the press but patrons, former OBT dancers, current Company members, artistic staff, area teachers, and in one case, the cute and very energetic and bouncy toddler son of two retired OBT principal dancers, Kathi Martuza and Kester Cotton. [The kid thought this was great...and obviously done especially for him.]
Artistic Director Kevin Irving gave brief introductory remarks and then asked a few of his colleagues to give their thoughts about the eras of each of his predecessors [James Canfield and Christopher Stowell] – beginning with Alison Roper, who spoke about Trey McIntrye, a resident choreographer during a couple of the Canfield years, and what it was like to be cast in his first piece, made for them when he was only 26.
Kathi Martuza then relayed her memories of having Stowell make what was her first pas de deux, that was a part of another first, Stowell’s first OBT creation, “Adin,” with a slide shown of her kneeling with Stowell behind her, creating/coaching.
OBT Historian Linda Besant’s time has overlapped with all three directors and she commented how important it is that ballet companies “ground” themselves in the classical ballet genre, as this develops both audiences and dancers alike. They grow together. Even while bringing in the new and experimental, “grounding” it provides a foundation. She further observed that they were a bit nervous about what direction Irving might be taking the Company and expressed her satisfaction of his programming OBT’s first “Cinderella” in 2015, which she believes bodes well for the Company’s future, to which Irving wryly replied, “I may be blond, but I’m not that
Carol Shults spoke poignantly about OBT’s first resident choreographer, Dennis Spaight and the making of his enduring first ballet, made initially on Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1979, “Crayola.” A ballet to no music, it is being revived for an important presumed staging by Shults that marks the launching of an exciting new OBT initiative, its second company OBT II. Shults further remarked that people still let her know that they remember the ballet for its vivid colors and that the only music is the natural accompaniment of pointe shoes on the stage floor.
Irving then summarized what promises to be an exciting year, expressing gratitude to the Boeing company and to a local company that specializes in converting VHS tapes to digital who not only provided slides and clips on a screen during the event but who also filmed OBT’s “Nutcracker” in high-definition TV in 2013, the edited results we all got to enjoy.
Invited then into the theatre itself, we were lucky to see Jordan Kindell wonderfully dance a solo section, excerpted from the upcoming “Rassemblement” by Nacho Duato, staged by OBT ballet master Jeffrey Stanton. This short bit teased us with its contemporary shapes and combined floor and standing work, danced in a 100 percent committed way by Kindell. I also thought both what an honor but also a daunting thing to be ask to do a solo on stage by yourself in a mostly vast and empty auditorium for your boss, your peers, and those in the know. All love and support you but those for whom the ballet barre is set high. Kindell’s authority and elegant strength never waned and my overall impression was that he was enjoying the piece and himself.
As we said our thanks and adieux, we remarked how much we enjoyed the event, were glad that we attended and, as we pushed the car back up to Seattle, were made even the more keen to when we turn it around for gliding back downhill the following week to Portland to see OBT’s mid-Winter offering, its Reveal program.Oregon Ballet Theatre in 2014-15:
OBT at 25 featuring Agon; Love X 3; and a Nicolo Fonte world premiere
October 11-18, 2014
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
December 13-27, 2014
Cinderella, with choreography by Ben Stevenson
February 28-March 7, 2015
Impact with three dances – Rassemblement; Crayola and a new work by Darrell Gran-Moultrie
April 16-27, 2015http://www.obt.org/