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 Post subject: Ballet Bellevue: The Firebird & Whim W'him: Les Sylphides
PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 12:50 pm 

Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 688
Location: Seattle, WA. USA
Two Fokine We Go
Ballet Bellevue and Whim W’him
Friday, 10 October 2014
Meydenbauer Theatre, Bellevue, Washington

by Dean Speer

Ballet Bellevue’s joint venture with guest company, Olivier Wevers’ Whim W’him, marks an important milestone in this suburban troupe’s history. United Way likes to remind us that the number one reason people don’t do something is that they were not asked. Asking an exciting up-and-coming dance company to share the Fall season performance bill was a smart plan, as each company has its own following and artistic voice, is a relatively modest venture, yet each could and can use the joint strengthening of resources, including dancers.

The program opened with Wevers’ re-imagining of the now iconic “Les Sylphides” first made as “Chopiniana” by Fokine and now in a very contemporary setting – the premise being a small dinner party thrown by 20- and 30-somethings and the very silly behavior that individuals and couples stereotypically bring to that dynamic. That and one extremely versatile table. The host couple only marginally gets along and the distaff side fantasizes and pursues one of her guests. One guest arrives either stoned or living in a parallel universe. It was like watch a whirlpool of poor behavior swirl these party goers into a vortex as the event got worse and worse, virtually self-nominating themselves for a group appearance on the popular TV talk show, "Dr. Phil."

It concluded pretty much as it began with the guests exiting through/behind the door/table and the hosts being exhausted – and alone with themselves.

Light fare that was fun and but which also got rather PG-rated about two-thirds of the way through when hostess made the mostest of one of her male guests – on the table and then behind it, then being caught in flagrante delicto, by yet another guest who, finding this funny, laughs and points.

Dancers Kyle Johnson, Jim Kent, Mia Monteabaro, Tory Peil, Thomas Phelan, Justin Reiter, and Lara Seefeldt all made the most of their assignment. Wevers is very fortunate to have a cadre of dancers who are technically adept and who are mature enough to delve into and respond well to the wide range of dances his company performs.

“Firebird” is a 1910 exotic whose Stravinsky score is both beautiful and compelling can be a difficult ballet not only to produce well but also to bring off. I’ve seen the original Fokine choreography and many subsequent versions. Kyle Johnson’s concept and choreography for Ballet Bellevue works. It does so because it doesn’t try to mimic or do a pared-down version of the original, but rather it is set in a gritty urban milieu where you had better hang onto your wallet and cover your head as you quickly walk through it.

The evil Kashtchei is played as a pimp, and the usual princesses as “his girls.” Ivan is clearly an outsider or out-of-towner who, finding himself on the wrong side of town and being mugged, summons The Firebird [a lady in red, who gives him a magic feather] who lulls the baddies, tells Ivan to tear up a paper contract – the source of Kashtchei’s control, thus freeing the ladies.

Ali Cushing as The Firebird had the technique, extension, lightness of quality and the quicksilver associated with this role, regardless of version. Johnson took on the role of Ivan, while Kyle Bernbach that of the pimp. Notable too were Lorraine Constantine, Maya Felten, Emily Lubinksi, and Mireya Mascarello as the ladies who were too into shopping [sauntering with bags, sunglasses, fancy shoes and all] and assisting themselves to the wares of strangers, aided by Henchmen Nathan Cook, Lionel Flynn, and Thomas Phelan.

One of the BEST parts of the evening was the accompaniment of the full score by the Ballet Bellevue Orchestra – on and upstage, under the baton of maestro Philip Tschopp.

I’m only sorry that more of the general public weren’t in the audience to enjoy what was a very memorable evening of dance and ballet.

My only fusses are two – it seemed logical to me that this wonderful orchestra should and could have played for the Chopin of the first work, and secondly to have had female dancers of Firebird in tights. I’m not a fan of bare legs on dancers – except for some very rare instances, and they are not done any favors without them. Looking at the lines of the legs is much better than the leg itself, and certainly more flattering.

Ballet Bellevue is to be praised and commended for its continuing commitment to bringing high art to Puget Sound’s Eastside community.

Dean Speer

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