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 Post subject: Oregon Ballet Theatre: 2008-09 Season
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2008 2:53 pm 
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Oregon Ballet Theatre opened its 2008-09 season with "Swan Lake" on Saturday, October 11, 2008 at Keller Auditorium in Portland. Bob Hicks reviews the performance in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian

Yuka Iino and Ronnie Underwood performed the leads on opening night; Alison Roper and Artur Sultanov performed on Sunday, October 12.

Performances continue in the evening on Friday, October 17 (with the debut of Kathi Martuza as Odette/Odile, partnered by Ronnie Underwood), and a matinee (Yuka Iino/Ronnie Underwood) and evening performance (Alison Roper/Artur Sultanov) on Saturday, October 18.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2008 2:17 pm 
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Iino’s Ease
Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “Swan Lake”
Keller Auditorium, Portland, Oregon, 11 October 2008

by Dean Speer

I’ve previously reported how Margot Fonteyn used to rate the difficulty of the roles she tackled by the level of fear-factor she experienced. “Swan Lake” “...was sheer terror. Everything about it is enormous.”

We don’t know if Yuka Iino experienced sheer terror in dancing Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Opening Night “Swan Lake” as Odette/Odile but if she did, it certainly did not show. I found her Odette interpretation fitted her quite well and the ease with which she met the technical requirements of Odile’s assignment was quite satisfying. In terms of acting, her Odile’s maniacal laugh at having successfully duped and deceived Prince Siegfried [Ronnie Underwood] was glorious. Yet, I’d like her phrasing in Act III to be sharper.

For example, during the Pas de deux, when she does the tour jeté to the floor, finishing in èffacé to face him, to hold the shape as she comes up and reaches yearningly for him longer, and then to very sharply turn away from him, effectively rebuffing and confusing the poor sap. As danced Saturday night, the movement was all essentially timed evenly. She can and should keep her legato line going but give it more peaks and valleys.

I wasn’t Siegfried but I was certainly also dazzled by her fouettés – doubles right away which continued to nearly the end when she pulled in for a clean finish. My only fuss was that she got slightly off the downbeat, making it harder to count exactly how many she did in toto.

Ronnie Underwood’s debut as the hapless prince was note worthy. Underwood possesses the attributes and qualities sought in a danseur noble – length of line, strong features, facility of clean technique. During one of his variations, his sauté à la seconde that cuts into jeté en tournant were done with amplitude of jump, ease, and control. The depth and maturity of his interpretation will only continue to broaden over time and through multiple outings in the part.

It was great to see Gavin Larsen back on the boards after being out rehabilitating from an injury most of last season. Her pas de trois in Act III that she did with Daniela Deloe and newcomer Chauncey Parson was quite good until the very end when, I believe, he mis-remembered and thought he was to partner her turning for a concluding duet, when in fact, she was to sit on his knee – which she did and he gamely knelt.

The marathon gold medal award, however, has to go to OBT’s mightiest mover, Anne Mueller who danced in all four acts – and not just a little bit. Pas de Trois in Act I; a “big” swan in Acts II and IV; and the ‘Neapolitan’ dance in Act III. Mueller’s verve, attack, and ability to shift from one kind of dance to another were very enjoyable to watch. The ‘Neapolitan’ dance is particularly well suited and a nice match for both her and her partner, Steven Houser.

Kathi Martuza was appropriately sumptuous and regal as the Russian in Act III. It’s become a fun piece with just the right amount of danse d’école with character-flavored steps and épaulement. I was sorry I couldn’t attend her debut as Odette/Odile the following week. My guess is that it was probably glorious.

A couple of unfortunate lighting mistakes happened during Act IV – the House lights came on during a critical lighting change, then were turned off but threatened to come up again a little later. This finally seemed to get resolved. I’m sure the stage manager and technical director were tearing their hair out somewhere.

The glory of any production of “Swan Lake” must be its corps de ballet, here finely represented by 16 cygnets in sync during Act II and appropriately morose during the concluding Act IV. The “Four Little Swans” rendition of their iconically precision dance was letter-perfect and as always a crowd pleaser.

Artistic Director Christopher Stowell, his artistic team and support staff continue to elevate the level of OBT. We hunger for more and look forward to each repertory program throughout the year.

The mighty OBT Orchestra was led by Maestro Niel DePonte.

_________________
Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:50 pm 
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Portland press reviews of OBT's winter program: Peter Martins' "Ash," the premiere of Christopher Stowell's "The Rite of Spring," and the OBT premiere of Val Caniparoli's "Lambarena."

Catherine Thomas in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian

Kelly Clarke in Willamette Week:

Willamette Week


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 8:09 pm 
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A delightful program, with the crowd-pleasing "Lambarena" by Val Caniparoli bringing the house down. After years of watching this Afro-Classical piece performed by a dozen or so companies, I expected to be bored but I still enjoyed it immensely. Perhaps it comes from the excitement emanating from the entertained crowd. These OBT dancers -- especially Gavin Larsen and Javier Ubell -- can move with the best of them when it comes to African steps and body gyrations.

Peter Martins' "Ash" to a Michael Torke composition showed off the strength of the company for Ballanchine/NYCB style choreography and Christopher Stowell's "Rite of Spring" was theatrical at times, beautiful at times and a little drawn out at times...

This program pleased the audience immensely. So Stowell must know what he's doing.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2009 5:52 pm 
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We Are Still Here
Oregon Ballet Theatre, 28 February 2009
“Ash,” “The Rite of Spring,” “Lambarena”

by Dean Speer

The concluding message from a recent letter, addressing current economic issues, by the president of my alma mater states in part, “...to experience the artistic promise of the next generation is not only healing...but inspiring.” I might have reversed that to say that this promise is not only inspiring but healing. Certainly a comforting message in today’s climes.

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s recent program provided that much needed balm. Never the less, I should note that in the interest of full disclosure and support, both the pre-performance presenter and then later in a curtain-warmer welcome speech by OBT’s board chair and its artistic head, each emphasized that now is the time to financially support and bolster OBT – the message being to act now, rather than to hear down the road that the ballet had suffered or closed down because help didn’t come in time since nobody knew.

Back to the healing message of its product – the ballets themselves. The heart of the bill was a new production of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” with choreography by Christopher Stowell, with the assistance of Anne Mueller who was also one of its central figures.

While touted as not following the original narrative structure, it, never the less, does follow the structure of the music and clearly shows ritual, perhaps not one of literally dancing a sacrificial victim to their demise but one that’s obvious in its primal intentions and source. Masses swirl and seem to worship (?) around each of the two central couples: Mueller partnered by Adrian Fry and later Grace Shibley paired with Artur Sultanov.

This music, along with the composer’s “Firebird” are both what I’d call “problem” ballets leftover from Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. I have seen the original Fokine choreography to “Firebird” along with many subsequent iterations and a handful of choreographic versions of “Rite,” yet I’ve found none that are completely satisfying, and I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps the music doesn’t need visuals; just the music itself is all that is required to suggest a narrative or perfume the atmosphere. It’s ironic that the most satisfying version of “Rite” to date for me is Disney’s “Fantasia” movie – of the volatile geographic spasms of the earth itself and of the dying dinosaurs. This may be a ballet that’s impossible to realize one hundred percent on the live stage.

Yet “Rite” is an exciting and strong choreographic showcase for the company. It’s one of Stowell’s best. An added bonus was being able to enjoy the original two piano version played by Carol Rich and Susan Dewitt Smith.

“Rite” was bookended by Peter Martins’ expansive “Ash” and another ritual-rich dance – “Lambarena” by Northwest native son Val Caniparoli. Each were well received by an adoring and informed audience who filled Keller Auditorium. Presumably they, like me, are attracted by OBT’s increasingly lofty and artistic programs, interpreted by beautiful and dedicated dancers, and enabled by a talented staff of artists.

_________________
Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 1:49 pm 
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In The Oregonian, Barry Johnson reports on a visit by representatives from Oregon Ballet Theatre, Portland Opera, Oregon Symphony and Portland Center Stage with members of The Oregonian's editorial board seeking support:

The Oregonian


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2009 9:54 pm 
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I have to say I'm becoming a fan of Kudelka's current crop of works. His "Hush" performed by a large corps of dancers to celtic harp music is a study in choreographic craftsmanship, winding down from a softly lyrical beginning to an understated but spiritually evocative hush. As with some of other of Kudelka's ballets, images such as the onstage harps, dancers walking on pointe, and atmospheric lighting sear themselves into the memory.

This afternoon's "Tarantella" performed by Julia Rowe and Javier Ubell, staged by Christopher Stowell and Sandra Jennings, is one of the most exciting renditions I've seen with both performers scoring very high on the "adorability" scale.

Nicolo Fonte's "Left Unsaid" didn't seem to work for me in a matinee setting. I found it somewhat subdued compared to other Fonte works I've seen. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the strong performances by the dancers, especially Candace Bouchard and Grace Shibley.

One of my favorite ballets of all time, the fast and furious "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude," was ably danced and I noted that Mia Leimkuhler has improved tremendously, in my mind making a successful turn towards professionalism from her days as a young dancer fresh from Marin Ballet school. Kathi Martuza is of course always a joy to watch.

And if you ever visit Portland for OBT, consider checking out the Oregon Symphony Orchestra. This evening I was treated to a glorious playing of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, with Garrick Ohlsson on piano and returning director James DePreist conducting.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 1:34 pm 
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Thank you, Azlan, for the in person review!

Here is Bob Hicks' review in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 2:02 pm 
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A bit out of sequence, but here is Marty Hughley's preview of the April 2009 OBT program in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 10:12 am 
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Kelly Clarke reviews the April program in Willamette Week:

Willamette Week


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 4:27 pm 
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Compare and Contrast
Oregon Ballet Theatre
“Left Unsaid” Program
25 April 2009, Evening Performance
Newmark Theatre, Portland

by Dean Speer

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s latest program left me in a conundrum – how to write a fair review that’s supportive yet expresses clearly my impression of an evening that had fabulous dancing, some good pieces, yet challenging programing that didn’t always show off each to its best advantage.

Selecting ballets to be performed is one important step in the process but just as important is when, how, and in what order to present them. James Kuldeka’s premiere of “Hush” suffered by being on the tail end. It may be that he specifically requested it go there or was given this prestige slot in deference to his choreographic oeuvre, but given its length of about over 30 minutes and its kinetic style, it ended up being a hard work to sit through. Artistic Director Christopher Stowell didn’t really have any one work this time that could be categorized as a “closer” with perhaps the opening work by William Forsythe, “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” being an exception.

Overall, the Forsythe piece and a newly acquired Nicolo Fonte work – the second work on the bill – were the strongest.

“Left Unsaid” by Fonte to a tape of unaccompanied Bach violin works, was impressive in its very inventive and creative partnerings of various numbers. My only fuss would be, that even in this current economic downturn climate, it would have been much better to have had this work accompanied by the lone violinist it would have required. In terms of his musical selection, Fonte too would have strengthened his piece more by selecting fewer adagio/legato movements from the Bach works and inserting more allegro. The pacing ended up dull when it didn’t need to. This piece did take off but needed a better landing pad.

“Vertiginous” is a thrill partly because Forsythe had the good sense not to tamper with the music, which then naturally informed choreographic structure and pacing. The adoring public was easily able to follow the line of the choreography and we all knowingly and happily sighed when the cast each “took” fifth position for its conclusion.

I surprised myself by finding that Balanchine’s duet morceau, “Tarentella,” never totally took off for me. Several times I found myself thinking, “Wow, this is going to be great!” and then not getting the goose bumps I was hoping for. Why? Perhaps it was the recording that, maybe through adjustments for tempi, pauses, and cues, or age was so distorted that it was way off pitch [shouldn’t the music director listen to these things first?] that it was very hard to listen to. Even if it’s the “official” recording from the Balanchine Trust, its needs to be chucked. Again, I find myself advising, please use the piano rehearsal version of the score – with someone at the keyboard. We can live without a full orchestra but suffering through a poor recording is not my idea of a good time.

I’m all for giving company artists opportunities – we all need them, definitely – but have to wonder if the piece might have had more “Wow!” if it had been danced by senior company members. The cast – Julia Rowe and Javier Ubell – did a very good job; smiling hard, dancing even harder and expending lots of energy and faithfully executing the steps. Yet for all of that (and it’s considerable) it somehow never quite jelled.

“Hush” had all the elements of a really good ballet – live new music by a Canadian composer for two different kinds of harps, one Celtic, the other pedal; an inspired, heavenly theme; the stars of the company; a big cast; and movement made by one of Canada’s most famous contemporary choreographers.

Yet Kudelka’s kinetic movement palette was too evenly paced – mostly at a ‘walking’ tempo. We are advised that he was trying to show the arch of human life, and that’s a fine hook. The weakest section was the one for the men who are joined by three veiled women and basically all the men are given to do are endless sideways grapevine and tombé, pas de bourée patterns with essentially the only variation being whether they were facing upstage or down and moving stage left or right. Oh, dear.

He concludes with the entire cast coming on from upstage left and making three columned lines to the front, with the middle one receding to the back, fed by the two outside lines until all have passed through.

I keep finding myself saying that what choreographers need probably beyond anything else – other than divine inspiration and the ability of craft – are mentors who will provide compositional feedback. Composers and playwrights benefit and enjoy this and it’s a process that is expected nearly every time through readings, informal workshop performances, and subsequent rewrites and edits. Perhaps dance doesn’t have that luxury of time, but it sure would be nice. Unlike Broadway shows, neither generally do we have out of town tryouts – and that would be nice too – to be able to tweak pieces as they are actually seen on stage. I know from personal experience it’s very hard to envision what your work will look like on stage...and sometimes you don’t truly know until it’s actually up on the boards.

Outstanding were the entire cast of “Vertiginous:” Candace Bouchard; Daniela DeLoe; Kathi Martuza; Brennan Boyer; and Adrian Fry. Each performance with aplomb and just the right amount of gusto this exciting work demands. Ditto for “Left Unsaid’s” cast of DeLoe; powerhouse Anne Mueller; Yuka Iino; Artur Sultanov – who just keeps getting better; Brian Simcoe; and Steven Houser.

Gavin Larsen and Chauncey Parsons brought their respective grace and elegance to the second section of “Hush.” Larsen is a class act and I believe that Parsons is a very good match for her and perhaps this delightful pairing will be done more frequently in the future.

One of the most arresting moments of the evening occurred when Fry and Mueller came in front of the curtain to make an “ask” of the audience. From a few gasps, it was apparent that some had not yet heard that OBT is facing difficult financial times – even as subscriptions are on the rise as is its artistic standard – and has made a planned, deep budget cut for its 2009-10 season, principally cutting the OBT Orchestra from the run of “Nutcracker,” among other measures.

Both were well spoken and prepared, Mueller being particularly sharp witted, engaging and fun. They enumerated ways in which the public can support OBT – by being vocal advocates; by subscribing; and by making a financial commitment. Hopefully, through a combination of these OBT will not only ride the economic waves but rise above them to ascendancy that will bring calm to its future, vibrancy to its cluster of constituents, and bolster its important contribution to Portland’s cultural life.

“Left Unsaid” was a program danced beautifully and one that caused spirited discourse and discussion, which can be an important outcome of the arts. And in this, OBT’s April repertory bill was very successful and which leaves me looking forward to returning in June for its “Rush and Robbins” concluding offering of this season.

_________________
Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 11:37 am 
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Bad news: OBT needs $750,000 by June 30, 2009 to pay current expenses and creditors. "Dance United," a gala fundraiser performance, will be held on Friday, June 12, 2009. A growing list of companies is sending dancers to perform on behalf of OBT, including New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Barry Johnson reports in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian

Further details are available on the OBT website:

Dance United


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 Post subject: OBT Needs Our Financial Help...NOW! Here is GALA Info...
PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 11:27 am 
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Be sure to click on the posted link to donate! From OBT as of late Friday:

The following companies are confirmed, and we're starting to get names and pieces from each!

NEW YORK CITY BALLET
George Balanchine’s Tarantella
• Megan Fairchild & Daniel Ulbricht

SAN FRANCISCO BALLET
Christpoher Wheeldon’s After the Rain
• Sarah Van Patten & Damian Smith

BALLET WEST
Petipa’s White Swan Pas de Deux
• Christiana Bennett & Christopher Ruud

HOUSTON BALLET
Antony Tudor’s The Leaves are Fading Pas de Deux
• Melody Herrera & Ian Casady

TREY MCINTYRE PROJECT
TBD solo by Trey McIntyre
• John Michael Schert

PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET
George Balanchine's Diamonds
• Carla Korbes & Jeffrey Stanton

THE NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA
Maurice Béjart's Greek Dances
• Zdenek Konvalina

WHITE BIRD is presenting MINH TRAN & COMPANY

OREGON BALLET THEATRE
William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude
• Candace Bouchard, Ansa Deguchi, Daniela DeLoe, Adrian Fry & Christian Squires

James Kudelka's Almost Mozart Pas de Deux
• Alison Roper & Ronnie Underwood

Christopher Wheeldon's RUSH Finale
• Gavin Larsen & Ronnie Underwood with
• Leta Biasucci, Brennan Boyer, Martina Chavez, Ansa Deguchi, Adrian Fry, Steven Houser, Mia Leimkuhler, Anne Mueller, Matthew Pippin, Julia Rowe, Grace Shibley, Brian Simcoe and Christian Squires


BALLET WEST
CONDUIT
BODYVOX
JOFFREY BALLET
WASHINGTON BALLET
BOSTON BALLET

_________________
Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2009 2:13 pm 
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More background on the fiscal situation at OBT, from Barry Johnson in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:07 pm 
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Mark Woolley, owner of the Mark Woolley Gallery in Portland, has an interesting perspective on the financial shortfall at OBT. By D. K. Row in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian


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