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 Post subject: Pacific Northwest Ballet: Director's Choice Program (9/2006)
PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2006 11:00 am 
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Pacific Northwest Ballet's September series of programs gets an early start tonight (Friday, Septmeber 8, 2006) with the first of six "$5 Friday" performances in Studio C at the Phelps Center. Judy Chia Hui Hsu previews the program in the Seattle Times:

Seattle Times


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 12:55 pm 
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Casting is now available:

Director's Choice Program

Yes, the "R. Thomas" listed as a guest artist in "Fancy Free" is Rasta....


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2006 10:58 am 
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I had a brief encounter with "Fancy Free" and "Theme" at the Wednesday, September 13, 2006 studio rehearsal for donors. "Fancy Free" is still being set. Stager Judith Fugate sat front and center, occasionally calling out corrections or stopping to demonstrate. Artistic Director Peter Boal indicated that she was "on day seven" (having begun rehearsals on the Tuesday after Labor Day). Some of the sections had been set within the previous two hours -- a testament to how quickly the dancers learn and retain -- and the ending was not shown. The cast was essentiallly the opening night cast: Casey Herd, Josh Spell and Jonathan Porretta as the three sailors; Noelani Pantastico in the Muriel Bailey role and Louise Nadeau in the Janet Reed role. Rasta Thomas, listed on the PNB website as part of this cast, was not performing on this occasion. Million dollar donor Glenn Kawasaki was the bartender. There is a good deal of palpable excitement about presenting this work for the first time and considerable casting depth available. I look forward to the first public performances.

For the last 25 minutes of the one-hour rehearsal, the company ran through (omitting a couple of internal variations to ensure an on-time/no-overtime rehearsal ending) "Theme and Variations" with Carrie Imler and Batkhurel Bold in the principal roles; they will be performing on Saturday evening, September 23. (I am also intrigued by the pairing of Kaori Nakamura and Lucien Postlewaite at the matinee on the same date.)


Last edited by Francis Timlin on Thu Sep 14, 2006 5:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2006 12:55 pm 
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Thanks for the report!

I was intrigued to see that Rasta Thomas is being brought in to guest for "Fancy Free", given the number of talented male dancers within PNB. One wonders whether it's more a publicity thing - guest dancers do often draw in extra crowds - or whether the always teetery balance of casting was knocked askew by injuries or illness.

Slightly off topic, but I've always found Rasta Thomas to be a interesting case, as aside from one stint with the Kirov, he's never settled down. He doesn't seem to be short on chances to perform, but one wonders if he's suffered at all from a lack of a consistent training and performing situation. I often wonder if we might have seen so much more from him if he'd danced with a single company, and been able to really delve into a steady repertory and coaching.

You might get to try lots of things when you hop from guest stint to guest stint, but no-one can really be the master of it all. Even dancers like Johan Kobborg or Carlos Acosta who do a fair amount of guesting started out with long term stints in single companies and still have a company or two with which they are primarly associated and spend a good chunk of their yearly time.

I was hoping to Thomas dance with NYCB in "Stars & Stripes", but I believe he pulled out of those two nights due to injury.

Kate


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 11:09 am 
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Thomas was here last year, for a couple of performances in Red Angels. Stowell and Russell were not really interested in bringing in guest performers (they'd had a tough time at the beginning of their tenure convincing their board that the company could perform well without needing outside juice), but Boal doesn't seem to have the same point of view about visitors.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 10:04 am 
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R. M. Campbell in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a long piece on "Fancy Free" that appeared in the Friday arts magazine:

Seattle P-I


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 10:18 am 
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In response to a question at the post-performance discussion regarding his policy toward the use of guest dancers, Peter Boal replied that he was following the practice at New York City Ballet, wherein guest dancers are occasionally used. (The use of guest artists from other companies increased slightly during the Balanchine Centennial in 2004 and included an appearance by PNB Principals Noelani Pantastico and Olivier Wevers in "Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet," which was cited as an example.) He feels that there is an element of "healthy competition" inherent in the practice and that it is good for both the company dancers and the audience to have the opportunity to see (or be reassured) that the company dancers compare very favorably with "the best" guest artists. At last evening's performance, PNB Principals Casey Herd and Jonathan Porretta certainly compared very favorably with Guest Artist Rasta Thomas in their respective sailor roles in "Fancy Free."


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 1:57 pm 
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Seattle press reviews of Opening Night on Thursday, September 21, 2006.

R. M. Campbell in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Seattle P-I

Moira Macdonald in the Seattle Times:

Seattle Times


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2006 1:37 pm 
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Carole Beers reviews the Thursday, September 21, 2006 opening night cast in the King County Journal:

King County Journal

Rosemary Jones talks to Casey Herd and Peter Boal about the opening repertory program in the Queen Anne News:

Queen Anne News


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 1:55 pm 
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Roger Downey reviews the Thursday, September 21 performance in the Seattle Weekly:

Seattle Weekly


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 2:56 pm 
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Roger Downey sounds like an old fuddy-duddy.

I saw three shows last weekend: the Friday night, 9/22, and both Saturday shows on 9/23, with the first and second casts. I enjoyed myself greatly, and I think the highlight for me was "In the middle somewhat elevated", despite finding out later that it was staged by the first cast who danced it years ago instead of an official Forsythe stager. It was still effective, and very fresh --- I wonder what Forsythe would have produced had he continued along those lines. I've been wondering about the piece ever since, and it's said that it's like a post-modern Serenade, with Forsythe inspired by the internal politics of the POB he witnessed when he was trying to set the piece: that explains why dancers in the shadows are showing off very hard ballet tricks when a main couple or dancer is dancing in the foreground, because that actually happened when he was there. He brings this atmosphere of competition, both passive and aggressive, into the piece from the very beginning: we start out seeing two dancers comparing their feet en pointe, and I thought the first cast (Lallone, Barker, Stanton) brought this out very well throughout the whole piece. And the piece ends with a dancer in the shadows upstaging the main couple who are dancing the famous pas de duex.

But I think the piece is also a tribute to classical ballet both for its weirdness and beauty. For those of us used to seeing a lot of ballet, we become numb to what people who haven't seen much find odd or unnatural. I wonder if "In the middle" is Forsythe's way of shaking up jaded ballet audiences by trying to communicate to us how weird as well as beautiful this art is. His choice of overhead lighting accentuates dancers' fabulous bodies by harshly revealing all the contours of the body. We can appreciate their physical form, but it's revealed in an off-putting way.

Similarly with his movements, which combine both classical ballet and very un-ballet like undulations of the torso and arms. This mix of the two disturbs our sense of classical form as well as reveals the beauty of the movement. The music is foreign sounding, like sampled construction noise put into a drum kit, perhaps showing us how alien ballet music really is to lay ears. And also with the extreme extensions and partnering: in classical ballet, what people are doing is really amazing, but we become jaded and start counting pirouettes, or number of tricks, or something else that distracts us from the true wonder of classical technique.

"In the middle" is like a cross-section of the rarified air of the ballet world with all its good and bad: the politics, the beauty, and the strangeness. If that's the case, I think both PNB casts brought it out very well. The women were standouts for me: my favorite moment was the ending when you had either Maria Chapman or Patricia Barker dancing the competing girl (the girl not in the pas) doing just classical port de bras. Enunciating their bodies' natural gifts in hyperextension and beautiful feet, seeing them doing poses at the side of the stage with the overhead lighting showing all of their muscles is an image that I'll carry with me for a very long time.

As for the rest of the program, Fancy Free was all right, and again I though the women carried it off better than the men. The one exception was Jeffrey Stanton's Rumba sailor who had so much personality and brought the character to life. Though I have to say that Jonathan Porreta's double tour en l'air into the splits was pretty darn impressive. But I think Fancy Free is a piece that has to be carried by personality rather than being beaten into the ground with technique.

My favorite Theme and Variations cast was Saturday afternoon with Kaori Nakamura and Lucien Postelwaite who were matched both in style and dancing. Both had technique to burn, and made the choreography almost look easy.

--Andre


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 9:05 pm 
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I felt privileged to have seen a talented cast and orchestra for "Theme and Variations" but "In The Middle Somewhat Elevated" was the highlight of the program for me, with some sharp performances, especially on subsequent nights, by not only only the principals but also the corps dancers.

"Fancy Free" is something I have seen many times, each time with less enthusiasm. However, it was interesting to see how the men in this company adapted to this ballet, especially Jonathan Porretta. The introduction of Rasta Thomas, inspite of his very nice performance, was disappointing as he didn't bring anything special to his role.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 7:08 pm 
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The Fab Three
“Director’s Choice” Pacific Northwest Ballet
21 & 23 September, 2006
McCaw Hall, Seattle, Washington

by Dean Speer

If music has given us the Fab Four, then Peter Boal’s selection of ballets to begin his second season as Artistic Director of Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet, then we have to call this “The Fab Three.”

I had always wanted to see Robbins’ first and justly-famous “Fancy Free,” so it was a treat to enjoy two casts making their foray into characters first made alive in 1944. The buzz among audience members was that they really liked the middle work of the trio, “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated;” and who could not become thrilled during the rousing grand Polonaise of the Balanchine/Tchaikovsky “Theme and Variations.”

There is a Northwest connection with “Fancy Free.” Original cast member, Janet Reed, originally from a small town near Medford, Oregon, was PNB’s first – what we would now properly title Artistic Director but then known as its Ballet Mistress and Director of its School. I remember her energy well and how proud she was to be from Medford. We had a brief discussion many years ago about small towns, and I recall how she intoned, “Well, I’m from Medford! ” the inference being that she was proud of her roots and it doesn’t matter where you’re from – you can still “make it.” I also recall how at a panel forum she described how she liked to historically think of her career: ‘30s San Francisco Ballet; ‘40s (American) Ballet Theatre; ‘50s New York City Ballet. I also remember like it was yesterday, the start of a very challenging pirouette combination she gave: from 5th croisé, relevé with a rond de jambe to 4th position croisé left, into plié and then turn from there. It was a little sad that her feet didn’t point much anymore – perhaps from those years on hard stages and venues across the country.

Everyone who saw her perform reports that she was a great comedienne. Knowing this background I tried to imagine what Reed must have been like the role of the second female “Passer-by”which was played to great effect by Louise Nadeau.

Our trio of sailors were fabulous too: Casey Herd; Jonathan Porretta and guest artist Rasta Thomas. Each was into the acting that comes with this choreographic territory: Herd into a Rhumba; Thomas with his newly-found dance partner; and Porretta as the happy but scrappy “tough” dog. Both audiences “oooh’d and ah’d” at his double tours en l’air ending in the splits.

While a sunny dance, I found myself on one hand smiling at its conclusion, and on the other hand left with a feeling of sadness. The sadness comes from the realization that this work depicts an innocent view our country’s past and that we can never have again. I think today if sailors on shore leave tried doing what these three did (flirting with a female passerby, taking her purse and tossing it among themselves while she tried to get it back), there might be serious repercussions.

Unsentimentally edgy is one way to describe William Forythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.” Echoing through my head too is the observation of a colleague from a few years ago upon her first viewing this work: “If Balanchine were alive now, THAT’S what he’d choreograph!” And I believe this could have been true, too. Comparing and contrasting this 1987 work with Balanchine’s 1947 “Theme,” I found it interesting that there were many similarities, even though the movement palette from which is drawn is different.

Forsythe uses themes – glissade soubresaut being one; uses the balletic hierarchy of principals, soloists, and corps (two persons in this case); and develops, extends and pushes his theme. Sometimes he breaks what might be typical molds. The music is a commissioned , recorded score by Thom Willems that's played with a lot of "presence." I think both he and the choreographer wanted audience members to actively participate in their viewing experience.

On opening night half of the corps, Stacy Lowenberg, did four pirouettes en attitude devant. In fact, the entire cast was powered-up. The ballet begins with two dancers, Ariana Lallone and Patricia Baker making faux casual leg gestures and then rips into its material. It’s clear to me that dancers really like doing this piece. It’s a chance to show off what they can really do, retains enough formality to give it classical form and shape, and is non-stop action and about as far as you can go with the demands of the steps.

Ever glorious is “Theme and Variations.” Forty years younger than “Middle,” it too is filled with steps and patterns and is also non-stop action but appearing to be so in a more “traditional” way. We forget that Mr. Balanchine nearly always pushed the form too and this work is no different. Gone are elaborate preparations and slow, slow adagios. Barker and Stanko Milov were both regal and sparklingly kinetic as the central, principal couple on opening night. The balletic human dynamo known as Carrie Imler and her male counterpart, Batkhurel Bold, attacked their parts on the Saturday evening’s program as if there were no ballet tomorrow. All in all, a thrilling work at each viewing.

"Director's Choice’s” ‘Fab Three’ was a pleasing and fun night out at the ballet.

_________________
Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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