CriticalDance Forum

Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15
Page 1 of 2

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Feb 22, 2014 1:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

In the Oregonian, Grant Butler reports on the 2014-15 season announcement.


Author:  Dean Speer [ Mon Feb 24, 2014 6:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

All Grown Up
Oregon Ballet Theatre at 25
Announcement of 2014-15 Season
21 February, 2014
Keller Auditorium, Portland

by 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 blond!”

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, 2015

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Sep 11, 2014 12:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

A profile of principal dancer Xuan Cheng by Aaron Spencer for Willamette Week.

Willamette Week

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Oct 07, 2014 12:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

In the Huffington Post, Carla Escoda previews the 2014-15 season opening program, including Balanchine's "Agon," three pas de deux by Trey McIntyre, Christopher Stowell and James Canfield, and concluding with a Nicolo Fonte world premiere performed with Pink Martini, October 11-18, 2014 at Keller Auditorium in Portland.

Huffington Post

David Stabler previews the program for The Oregonian.

The Oregonian

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Oct 12, 2014 9:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

Grant Butler reviews the Saturday, October 11, 2014 opening night program for The Oregonian.

The Oregonian

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Oct 16, 2014 1:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

Kaitie Todd reviews the Saturday, October 11, 2014 gala opening program for Willamette Week.

Willamette Week

Author:  Dean Speer [ Fri Oct 17, 2014 2:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

A Golden Silver Anniversary
Oregon Ballet Theatre Celebrates “OBT 25"
Saturday, 11 October 2014, 7:30 p.m.
Keller Auditorium, Portland

by Dean Speer

Mr. Balanchine is quoted – even on film - as saying that a good dinner has a little something for everyone, comparing this to needing to have a variety of kinds of dances on programs. Some grand, some small, some dark and some light – and with different textures and flavors.

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s launch of its 2014-15 season is also the celebration of its 25th anniversary, begun by the merger of two troupes in 1989 – Pacific Ballet Theatre and Ballet Oregon, with James Canfield as its artistic head and Dennis Spaight as resident choreographer and artistic advisor. Kevin Irving, entering his second year and first full season as Artistic Director, smartly and wisely chose a program that had a little something for everyone, including an iconic Balanchine ballet, three pas de deux as a set, and a terrific new commission.

The new work, “Never Stop Falling (In Love)” with multiple dances conceived and set by choreographer Nicolo Fonte and performed live by Portland’s big-band Pink Martini, began with palpable energy from the orchestra as the curtain lifted and this new creation lifted us out of our seats. A fun showcase for the talented OBT dancers, what’s not to like about dancing to chanteuse China Forbes singing about love in English, German, French, and setting the tone for each entertaining dance? Fonte himself describes his vision as a “Hotel of Love” and this played out well as the 40 minute work flew by, as everyone had a happy time being in the moment. It was clear the cast knew they had a hit on their hands, being powerful yet relaxed from the beginning, building to an exciting finale with even a couple of the dancers taking part in the musical percussion.

In the finale, the ever amazing Chauncey Parsons got to regale us with his higher-than-high elevation, particularly one that split second position and then got even more extended, pulling his shins and feet up from a développé.

My only choreographic wish is that I was dying to see in the exclusive men’s section, the men making coupé jetés in a circle – and while I know this has been done elsewhere, famously in Balanchine’s “Star and Stripes,” it would have been fun never the less.

It was wonderful seeing and enjoying again Alison Roper as she reprised her Carmen role in the jailhouse scene with Mr. Parsons, choreography courtesy of Irving’s immediate predecessor, Christopher Stowell. She is one of the best on the planet and it was great seeing her back on stage again. Perhaps she can be persuaded to make future guest appearances now and then, not having to fret about the daily full-time wear-and-tear.

I’ve not seen too much of Canfield’s choreographic work but really liked his Bedroom Pas de Deux excerpted from his full-length “Romeo & Juliet” here with Ansa Deguchi and Brian Simcoe. It and they more than met my expectations, following the programmatic score and synopsis. Young and looking their parts, Deguchi and Simcoe gave their roles the right balance of technique and romantic sweep.

Last season’s “Robust American Love” created by Trey McIntyre was represented by the “He Doesn’t Know Why” excerpt, danced by Xuan Cheng and Michael Linsmeier. Its premise is pre-Civil War couples and a town and the audience being given intimate glimpses into their lives as the suggestion of what’s on the horizon colors their interactions.

Opening the show was the 1957, now iconic, Balanchine/Stravinsky collaboration, “Agon.” Staged by Bart Cook, it features 12 dancers in 12 sections to Stravinsky’s experiment with 12-tone music.

Notable were Mr. Parsons’ solo – ‘Sarabande,’ the second pas de trois with Candace Bouchard, Adam Hartley, and Jordan Kindell, and Martina Chavez and Mr. Simcoe in the central pas de deux with its interesting look at extended partnering shapes and unusual technical challenges, such as having to partner the female while the man lies on his back and shuffles his feet and body around to turn – promenade – her.

Another showcase piece book-ending the program, the company looked terrific yet it left me feeling a bit disconsolate, I believe in part due to their having to render this great ballet to recorded music, rather than being able to respond to the freshness that an orchestra or piano brings. This, in turn, gave the sense that the ballet felt rehearsed, rather than spontaneous.

Some of the evening’s nicest gala surprises included the front-of-the-curtain appearances by Stowell and Trey McIntyre, tributes and remarks by former dancers, the former mayor, and a warm welcome by Irving. We all loved it when Roper came out shortly before her dancing turn and gave McIntyre a big hug, kicking her feet underneath.

She showed what the rest of us were feeling – the squeal of delight and celebration of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s milestone, but even more importantly, the feeling that comes from being part of something exciting and of an important cultural institution that is making a difference. OBT 25 included us all in that pride and glory.

File comment: Oregon Ballet Theatre's Chauncy Parsons [above] and Colby Parsons [below] in Nicolo Fonte's "Never Stop Falling (In Love)." Photo © James McGrew.
OBT25_Parsons_Photo -- James McGrew_WEB.jpg
OBT25_Parsons_Photo -- James McGrew_WEB.jpg [ 92.63 KiB | Viewed 7923 times ]

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Oct 18, 2014 2:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

Corps de ballet member Martina Chavez has been promoted to soloist. Artistic director Kevin Irving made the announcement at the post-performance celebration on Saturday, October 11, 2014. Broadway World reports.

Broadway World

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Oct 19, 2014 7:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

Kelly Clarke reviews the Saturday, October 11, 2014 opening night program for Portland Monthly.

Portland Monthly

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Feb 24, 2015 1:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

In the Oregonian, Grant Butler previews Ben Stevenson's "Cinderella," February 28 through March 7, 2015 at Keller Auditorium in Portland.

The Oregonian

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Mar 02, 2015 12:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

Grant Butler reviews the Saturday, February 28, 2015 performance of Ben Stevenson's "Cinderella" at Portland's Keller Auditorium for the Oregonian.

The Oregonian

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Mar 02, 2015 12:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

Kelly Clarke talks about ballet myths with OBT dancers in the Portland Monthly.

Portland Monthly

Author:  Dean Speer [ Fri Mar 06, 2015 11:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

For The Love Of Three Oranges
Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Company Premiere of “Cinderella”
Saturday, 28 February 2015
Keller Auditorium, Portland

by Dean Speer

During the second act ballroom scene of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s presentation of the Ben Stevenson production of the classic and cautionary tale, Cinderella, the prince gives each of his guests an orange as a gift. One fruit short, the transformed from rags to tutu and crown Cinderella offers the shorter of her two stepsisters her own, which is eagerly accepted.

Ushers at West End Theatres in London historically sold orange juice and ice cream up and down the aisles. No popcorn but these things were considered luxury items and nice to have.

Today’s populace doesn’t perhaps realize just how rare and valuable oranges once were. They certainly didn’t grow in England or in Russia but were most likely imported at great care and expense from Valencia, Spain or those environs.

It’s an important and dramatic telling point in the ballet, further enhancing our viewpoint and insight into Cinderella’s character and values – and she’s certainly not found wanting. The crone/fairy godmother of act one gives a similar litmus test to our heroine – she comes in uninvited and is welcomed to the hearth and fed by Cinderella. As we all know, she then rewards Cinderella by magically transforming her and sending her off to the ball in a pumpkin carriage pulled by four mice/horses.

I think that the topic of oranges needs to be added to the already informative and lively pre-performance perspectives, as I’m guessing that it may seem odd to many benighted audience members why the prince give these out. After all, can’t we just go down to Safeway and easily buy a carton of them?

Although this is The Year of Cinderella – in plays, musicals, and movies [every producer must have gotten the same memo], presenting a large-scale blockbuster ballet like this is all too rare and happily for us, is the first new full-length ballet added to OBT’s repertory by its new Artistic Director, Kevin Irving. From start to finish it is a happy experience, even for the stepsisters and the mean stepmother, who is forgiven and hugged at the end.

Glorious music melded with a well thought out concept from choreographer Ben Stevenson – who was espied in the foyer, attempting to tackle [not too successfully] its cash machine and who got to take a bow with the company, along with stager Janie Parker. Costumes and sets [on loan from Texas Ballet Theatre] were excellent, too. Just right in their complementary values and hues.

Dancing was on a high level too – everyone looked tight, in shape, primed and thoroughly ready, as was the mighty OBT Orchestra. A nice addition and use of the company men was the inclusion of them as “Dragonflies” to accompany the season fairies. One of them, Avery Reiners did double and amazing duty not only as a snappy dragonfly but also displayed much equal pizzazz as the court Jester in Act II and his split in second leaps and a final double tour en l’air that ended in second position in the air before alighting were exciting and thrilling, and one that is rarely done.

The fairies, danced by Ansa Deguchi [Spring]; Jessica Lind [Summer]; Candace Bouchard [Fall]; and Eva Burton [Winter] each represented a different side to what they were telling Cinderella through their strong dancing, with one being spritely and another more languid and lyrical yet together, rounding each other out. Perhaps this is why the Fairy Godmother [Martina Chavez] shows them to her charge, giving Cinderella a sense of beauty and hope [and a chance for her to discreetly run off stage and change into her ballgown tutu].

Part of the joy of observing OBT over the past dozen years is to see the growth of its dancer-artists and the reward that comes with it. This is the case with Brian Simcoe, a native of Grants Pass, whose transformation from corps to starring prince is exciting and certainly well-deserved. Not only has he, like so many, worked hard, but he has deployed his natural talents in a focused and clear way – clean lines, strong technique, excellent partnering skills, and the depth that only experience brings. When he is onstage, we are confident in his abundant abilities and his authoritative and calm presence, which calms us so that we can fully enjoy the show.

Similar praises can easily be told of Xuan Cheng, our Cinderella of the Opening Night. Well cast, she also brings great technique – sparkling, strong, and with depth and nuance of acting to her scenes and interactions.

Brett Bauer made for a very tall and husky stepsister, with Michael Linsmeier as his/her perfect foil, with much of the visual comedy and pratfalls centered around this unlikely and funny pair.

OBT’s ballet masters were put to work and good use as the Stepmother [Lisa Kipp] and the hapless and weak-spined Stepfather [Jeffrey Stanton].

I was thrilled too that the second balcony of Keller Auditorium seemed to be filled as well. Too often we’ve enjoyed great ballets by OBT but only to see that the region’s population needed to do a better job of showing up. I hope this healthy trend continues in the long term future and also in the near term, for OBT’s next show of the Spring in the Newmark, a few blocks away.

File comment: Avery Reiners as the Jester in OBT's "Cinderella." Photo © Zingzi Zhao.
OBT_Cinderella_Avery Reiners_Photo_Jingzi Zhao_small.jpg
OBT_Cinderella_Avery Reiners_Photo_Jingzi Zhao_small.jpg [ 98.1 KiB | Viewed 7246 times ]

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Mar 10, 2015 11:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

In Willamette Week, Kaitie Todd reviews the Friday, March 6, 2015 performance of Ben Stevenson's "Cinderella."

Willamette Week

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Apr 03, 2015 11:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre 2014-15

In the Bend Bulletin, Kathleen McCool previews the April 16-25, 2015 performances of "IMPACT" at Portland's Newmark Theatre. The program includes a world premiere by Darrell Grand Moultrie, Dennis Spaight's "Crayola," Nicolo Fonte's "Presto" and Nacho Duato's "Rassemblement."

Bend Bulletin

Choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie will participate in a City Club Forum, "A Leap Forward: Oregon Ballet Theatre's New Vision for Community Engagement," Friday, April 3, 2015 at 12:15 p.m. at the City Club of Portland.

Portland Monthly Magazine

Page 1 of 2 All times are UTC - 7 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group