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Pacific Northwest Ballet: Nutcracker
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Nov 19, 2008 4:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Pacific Northwest Ballet: Nutcracker

Casting is already available for the opening weekend of The Nutcracker, Friday, November 28 through Sunday, November 30, 2008:

Nutcracker Casting

Follow this link for complete PNB Nutcracker information:

PNB Nutcracker

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Nov 21, 2008 11:33 am ]
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Doree Armstrong interviews some of the student cast participants in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Seattle P-I

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Nov 25, 2008 2:37 pm ]
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In the Seattle Times, Moira Macdonald talks to PNB Costume Shop Head Larae Hascall about maintaining costumes and PNB Technical Director Randall Chiarelli about maintaining sets for the Nutcracker:

Seattle Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:52 am ]
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R. M. Campbell reviews the opening night performance on Friday, November 28, 2008 in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Seattle P-I

Moira Macdonald reviews opening night in the Seattle Times:

Seattle Times

Author:  Dean Speer [ Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:29 pm ]
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Hymn For The Holidays
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Nutcracker” 2008
Opening Night, 28 November, McCaw Hall, Seattle, Washington

by Dean Speer

Twenty-five years is a lot of Sendak/Stowell designed Nutcrackers. Into the thousands actually; yet this year’s edition of the 1983 work is probably about as tight, seasoned, and fresh – in some ways more so than its Opening Night Cast of a quarter century ago.

I’ve happily lived through them all: PNB’s first foray into Nutcracker land with its Lew Christensen production. [Five total performances as I recall.] Today there are 42 performances with multiple castings of both children’s parts and adults. During my years as a studio director, each year I’d reserve 100 tickets for my ballet studio’s students and parents to enjoy the production, gleefully feeling a bit like Santa as I passed out the tickets at the show and in advance thoroughly enjoying figuring out the seating arrangements, spreading out the tickets on my large picnic dining room table [this was also my home office]. It always worked out and was a good way to expose them to professional level work and to the joys of this ballet. It helped inspire and inform the students and gave their support network a bit of a clue of what the dance world was like. This had the tertiary effect of validating the standards we had set for the studio. [Hooray!]

With PNB’s new production, it took some convincing as some missed the old and familiar one, but once they got accustomed to this lavish one – we used to joke that you could take away the dancing and just watch the sets go by and still be very entertained – they eagerly signed up for the annual Nutcracker field trip.

A large following has built around the experience of PNB’s Nutcracker. While they do start advertising ticket sales very early [this is a critical thing], it is a welcome start of the holiday season.

It’s been said that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. The creative team got the formula right here.

This year’s production benefits and reaps the rewards of what’s gone before. Staff, crew, dancers, musicians, know what to expect and even better, what to anticipate, making them all the more prepared. They are standing on the shoulders of previous artists and artisans. There is a real sense that everyone knows what this Nutcracker is about.

It was great to see that Uko Gorter has really made the character of Herr Drosselmeier his own, doing bits that his predecessors and even he have not done in the past, relishing little moments or a turn of the head that reads volumes.

Carrie Imler as the adult Clara and Batkhurel Bold as her Prince were quite an effective opening night pair. Each has technique and experience to spare and this gave their rendition an air of genuine authority. Imler, for example, did well more then a double pirouette during her “sugar plum” solo in Act II. Bold make each of his enchainements look elegant yet spectacular; the right amount of spark but not too flashy.

Also outstanding in Act 1 were Chalnessa Eames as the Ballerina Doll; Seth Orza as the jumping and leaping Sword-Dancer Doll; in the Masque which has some of the best classical-style steps [danse d’école], purposefully well showing each of the trio’s line and clean, clean technique – Leanne Duge, Anton Pankevitch, and Jerome Tisserand.

One of the highlights and strengths of this “new” Nutcracker is Kent Stowell’s choreography for the Snowflakes and his Waltz of the Flowers for Act II. Each deploys his strength of being able to move groups around easily using many set patterns and geometrical shapes. He wisely mixes small group actions with unison, making for arresting viewing, and giving the overall, arching shape of each dance time and room to breathe. Combining this with what has got to be some of Tchaikovsky’s best music and we get truly thrilling dancing and a couple of great moments in the theatre. It is what makes ballet, ballet.

In this production, gone is the Arabian Coffee dance but we get instead Ariana Lallone as Peacock. She has made this part “hers.” Like Imler, she demonstrated beautiful control, slowing bringing down one foot into sous-sus after one turning sequence. A richly exotic and imaginative dance – and costume, aromatic as coffee might be.

Zippy and quick dancing – petite allegro, turns, plunges and perky partnering mix together for Commedia also known as Mirlitons or Dance of the Reed Flutes. Eames returned with Jodie Thomas, and Lucien Postlewaite.

Clearly, the audience was as pleased as I, clapping and cheering, when Mara Vinson made her turn as Flora [the lead bloom] in Waltz of the Flowers. Vinson had been on maternity leave and looked as if she’d never been away. Strong, confident, clean, dancing with precision and a sparkle that we associate with her. Fouettés were quite good, as were her many sautés – nice elevation and ballon.

Looking over the head of conductor Stewart Kershaw into the amber glow of the orchestra pit, and taking in the whole ambiance of attentive audience, a company that’s reaping the radiance of maturity, I was again reminded how fortunate we are to have PNB right in our own damp backyard.

As our world continues to change, I and so many others look forward to many future Nutcrackers, to the new and returning ballets that grace our stage, and to welcoming generations among the throngs of happy dance goers. It’s an adventure we can all enjoy.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:45 am ]
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R. M. Campbell talks to photographer Angela Sterling about photographing "The Nutcracker" in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Seattle P-I

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Jan 05, 2009 1:24 pm ]
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In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, R. M. Campbell reviews the closing performance on Tuesday, December 30:

Seattle P-I

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:52 pm ]
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The 2009 edition of PNB's "Nutcracker" will run from Friday, November 27 through Wednesday, December 30. Here is a link to casting:

Nutcracker Casting

Here is a link to the Nutcracker main page on the PNB website:

Nutcracker main page

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Nov 27, 2009 3:27 pm ]
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On page A-1 of the Seattle Times on Friday, November 27, 2009 is a story written from the backstage perspective of Times writer Moira Macdonald:

Seattle Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Nov 29, 2009 10:28 pm ]
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Lynn Jacobson reviews the Friday, November 27, 2009 opening night perfrmance of the Nutcracker in the Seattle Times:

Seattle Times

Author:  Dean Speer [ Wed Dec 02, 2009 3:14 pm ]
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Knowing Nutcracker
Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker"
27 November 2009, 7:30 p.m.

by Dean Speer

Comfort Food may provide temporary respite from the clatter and chatter of the world, but Pacific Northwest Ballet's 1983 Maurice Sendak/Kent Stowell "Nutcracker" creation better temporizes the inspiration and lift we collectively need for the long term.

I was most pleased to be able to take along a new Russian friend and her granddaughter to this, their first PNB "Nutcracker." The grandmother was thrilled to be able to get out of the suburbs and to be re-acquainted with high art and culture for the first time since immigrating to Washington, not knowing a word of English, 20 years ago.

Their interest was part of my delight in reveling in the unveiling of the 2009 run of PNB's unique and very spectacular production. This show gallops along, giving us scenes and scenery that invite us to say hello to the familiar and to find new details. Perhaps it was the angle from which I viewed the stage, but I was amused to see how the wife of the Foreign Guest (Claire Stallman), can...and with the Ballerina Doll (Rachel Foster). Tonight, she was tilting the head of the [live] doll, taking its arms up (and down) to make various ballet port de bras positions. My wicked sense of humor kicked in, knowing that, per one of the honored traditions of the theatre, if this cast member wanted to see if she could crack up her colleague, this would be an effective and vulnerable place to do it. I'm not sure I could restrain myself as this person did.

Jordan Pacitti in the dual role of Drosselmeier/Pasha lent the right amount of zesty zeal to this lightly dark and sometimes mean-spirited character. I swear he was genuinely enjoying cracking his whip at the opening of the second act. This character is a good example of how one person's sense of humor is someone's else's practical-joke-in-bad-taste. He sets in motion the nightmare fantasy which inhabits the mind of the young and older/transformed Clara. (She dreams of being with a prince, being bitten by a rat, and turning suddenly into an old maid. Drosselmeier knows this and not only gives her little brother a stuffed rat doll with which to annoy her, he has also arranged for and causes to be performed the same nightmare as a masque with three dancers portraying the three parts right smack in the middle of Clara's parents' Christmas Party. No wonder she goes to bed with bad dreams.)

If any one subsequent to the original cast has made any part their own, among current performers, this would have to be Ariana Lallone, hands-down, as the Peacock of Act II. This is someone who "takes" the stage each time she steps onto it. When she *held* an attitude early on and only came down because she had to go on to the next step, this was truly an exciting demonstration of phrasing and control. Her four relevé arabesque turns were solid, well-defined, and the last one, nicely rotated and suspended.

Comforting too were the lead couple of Carla Körbes and her Nutcracker Prince/Cavalier Stanko Milov. In one audacious move, choreographer Kent Stowell, tossed out the Snow King and Queen pas de deux often inserted before the Snowflakes comes swirling and twirling on, with a duet for the transformed Clara and her savior Prince. This means they get a lot more to do. In addition to this pas, there is the traditional grand pas de deux of Act II, plus "introducing" themselves to the Pasha's court of Act II and getting there along the way upon a too small sailing vessel that traverses choppy waters -- and encounters some leaping (and very musical) dolphins along the way.

Körbes and Milov are what every ballet company needs and deserves--dance artists who have top-drawer technique, sensitivity to phrasing and, in this case, who take genuine enjoyment in dancing and love to move. Milov is a strong partner and pairs well with Körbes. His Act II solo was well-received.

As exciting as having two pas de deux is, for sheer dancing, nothing highlights this viewer's Nutcracker experience more than its two big group dance numbers--the Snowflakes from the conclusion of Act I, and the "Waltz of the Flowers." For those who know me, they know I'm happy when I report having enjoyed experiencing "Waltz of the [insert name of your favorite blossom here]" such as Waltz of the Petunias. Stowell is really adept at makinginteresting large-scale group dances. By interesting, I specifically mean ever-changing patterns, spicy and not dull steps, good use of compositional and choreographic tools, and an eye for keeping things fresh. As I’ve mentioned in years past, his Snowflake scene is one of the best anywhere and this year’s work of the corps de ballet in it is exceptional, showing precision, verve, and unison – and a sincerity of spirit. Experienced viewers can tell when cast members are feeling one attitude but pasting on another. [Here I am in yet another nutty Nutcracker...but I’m going to smile, smile, smile my little heart out anyway.] PNB’s dedicated cast put themselves out there truly in the moment. They believe in what they are doing...and it shows.

For these two nuggets, there is all this...and more.

One more is Mara Vinson as Flora, the head bloom. This part well suits her technique, temperament, and what she excels in doing -- allegro in this case; entre chats, grand jetés, fouettées and having to move big and be intricate at the same time.

The Commedia [aka, Harlequin] of Benjamin Griffiths, Liora Reshef, and Rachel Foster is a good example of how steps can create characters, in this case, as "buffo" roles flirting. This pas de trois requires fearless dancers, precision timing, and superb dancing. Griffiths is among the best technicians on the planet and it was fun seeing his interpretation -- and how he centers himself while moving and in position.

Kudos to the entire cast of corps members, soloists, principals, musicians, crew, staff, and the many volunteers it takes to pull such a big and complex show together so seamlessly.

When the teeth of the nutcracker set come snapping together at the conclusion of this ballet, you know that you have had one, swell evening of dance, flavored with a bit of the "Where the Wild Things Are" atmosphere, and simmered with excellent dancing, tropical settings, and more than enough Comfort Food to last until 2010.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Northwest Ballet: Nutcracker

Members of the Cast A Fight Scene have written an letter to the editor in protest of Seattle Times reviewer Lynn Jacobson's description of them as "little tots in soldier suits."

Seattle Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Nov 06, 2010 2:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Northwest Ballet: Nutcracker

"Nutcracker" rehearsals are already in fll swing by early November 2010. Advani Nadkarni profiles a young dancer in the Puyallup Herald, reprinted in the Seattle Times.

Seattle Times

An article on a different "Nutcracker" dancer in the Ballard News Tribune.

Ballard News Tribune

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Northwest Ballet: Nutcracker

A profile of Alexa Domenden, a student who began in the DanceChance program at age eight, who is now preparing for her fourth "Nutcracker" in 2010. Steve Hunter writes in the Kent Reporter.

Kent Reporter

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Nov 17, 2010 4:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Pacific Northwest Ballet: Nutcracker

"The Nutcracker" runs from Friday, November 26 through Monday, December 27, 2010. Here is a link to the main "Nutcracker" page on the PNB website:

Nutcracker home page

Here is a link to the casting page:


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