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 Post subject: Oregon Ballet Theatre: 2009-10 Season
PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:32 pm 
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OBT's season announcement for the 2009-10 season:

OBT 2009-10 Season


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 2:39 pm 
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Bad news at OBT for 2009-10: $1.9 million in budget cuts; no live orchestra. Grant Butler reports in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:10 pm 
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Oregonian music critic David Stabler writes about the perceived unraveling of Portland arts in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 12:44 pm 
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Oregon Ballet Theatre opens the 2009-10 season with Balanchine's "Emeralds" and excerpts from works especially created for OBT over the past 20 years. Performances will be at Keller Auditorium in Portland on October 10 (evening), October 11 (matinee), October 16 (evening) and October 17 (matinee and evening). Here is a link to the complete program information on the OBT website:

Emerald Retrospective Program


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 12:57 pm 
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Please see the topic on Oregon Ballet Theatre Management Issues in the Managing Dance forum:

OBT Management Issues


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 09, 2009 1:43 pm 
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Martha Ullman West previews the October 10, 2009 opening of the "Emerald Aniversary" program in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:51 pm 
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The Saturday, October 10, 2009 opening night performance is reviewed by Martha Ullman West in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 10:06 am 
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“Traditions! Traditions!”
Oregon Ballet Theatre's "Emerald Retrospective" Program, 10 October 2009
Keller Auditorium, Portland

by Dean Speer

Oregon Ballet Theatre was created in 1989 by a merger of two professional companies, Ballet Oregon and Pacific Ballet Theatre. In celebration of its twentieth anniversary season, OBT gave us a program that commemorates its accomplishments, pays tribute to contributing artists of the past, and addresses its continuing artistic mission -- to build on the platform of classical ballet by performing earlier works of significance, maintaining and adding to a stable of contemporary ballets, and commissioning new works.

This mission was well represented with the OBT premiere of Balanchine's "Emeralds," part one of the triptych known as "Jewels," precisely staged by Elyse Borne and neatly danced by the cast.

It was fun seeing Yuka Iino in the role first created by the French ballerina Violette Verdy and Alison Roper in the role first created by Mimi Paul, particularly the "walking duet." Ronnie Underwood and Artur Sultanov were their respective partners. All of the men looked sharp, including Chauncey Parsons (in the trio with Candace Bouchard and Ansa Deguchi ) whose long, clean lines and technique are outstanding.

Following intermission, the program continued with ten excerpts chosen to demonstrate the breadth and variety of works that have been created for OBT over the past 20 years. Regrettably, no works by Founding Artistic Director James Canfield were included.

One of the best excerpts was from former Associate Artistic Director Dennis Spaight's "Gloria," which set a standard of both artistic and technical expression that whet our appetite. This kind of excerpt format often lends itself to providing opportunities for dancers of lesser rank to show their stuff and this was true with the solo opening, passionately danced in an appropriate liturgical style by Leta Biasucci. When Brian Simcoe came charging in on coupé jetés, we knew we were in for good time.

While historically interesting, the excerpt from Dennis Spaight's "Ellington Suite" seemed too much of a light morceaux and seemed oddly misplaced on the program. Perhaps I would have better enjoyed an excerpt from another of his works. Nevertheless, the work showed off the range and abilities of the three performers -- Candace Bouchard, Steven Houser and Grace Shibley -- very nicely.

The most choreographically surprising work to me was Trey McIntyre's "Speak," in which the movement palette is derived from hip-hop culture. While I do tend to think of his work in contemporary terms, I hadn't known that he did a hip-hop piece. Anne Mueller and Lucas Threefoot were perfect for strutting their stuff around. This genre falls into what the great music comedienne and satirist Anna Russell used to call "The Angry Young Man School." My gaggle of friends liked the movement and its fine execution but not the words of the "song."

The evening's most exquisitely performed duet was Yuri Possokhov's "La Valse," set to the adagio movement from Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major. Lovely and rightly paired were Gavin Larsen and Artur Sultanov, who were elegance and romance-at-arms-length personified. This is the evening's only work performed to much-missed live music, nicely and strongly played by Carol Rich and Susan DeWitt Smith at two pianos, one taking the orchestral reduction and the other the piano solo.

One of Christopher Stowell's best pieces of showcase choreography that I have yet seen is his cleverly titled "Rose City Waltz" featuring oodles of young and beautifully trained talent from the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre. Clear in his assignment, Stowell smartly deployed the students, showing them off to best advantage. The older men were especially impressive -- strong and clean with good elevation and no problems doing double tours en l'air and various beats. The women were also clean, energetic in their attack and the audience held no fear for them (a good thing).

Already a major artist when she migrated north from San Francisco Ballet, it's such a pleasure to see Kathi Martuza being given assignments that tap into her considerable experience and also expand her development. Paired with someone who also does not allow himself to be static, Ronnie Underwood, in James Kudelka's "Almost Mozart" was a lesson in the spare and understated. Kudelka had given himself the task of creating a ballet where the couple never lets go of each other. It's one of his most impressive and lovely pieces.

Stowell's other representative group creation was the scherzo from his full-length "A Midsummer Night's Dream." He demonstrates his ability to move large groups of dancers around effectively. This can be one of the most daunting things for ballet choreographers to master and some avoid it completely, taking the easy way out by mostly doing only solos, duets, and small ensemble works. Here he fearlessly tackles both moving the story line forward and making entertaining dances. Yuka Iino and Chauncey Parsons as Titania and Oberon were equally effective. Parsons is technically on a par with Iino and it was nice to see their characters -- which naturally have a push/pull relationship -- push each other to achieve more. Already impressing me as a "puckish" kind of good-natured person, Steven Houser was in his rightful element as the impish Puck. This young dancer has what it takes -- pride, good technique, and an ability to easily immerse himself into his parts.

I’ve enjoyed Julia Adam’s work ever since I first saw one of her pieces for San Francisco Ballet. Her “Il Nodo” for OBT shows the kind of imagination and in this case, whimsy, that I associate with her canon. I believe we were treated to the last section of the work – I’d have to see the whole ballet again to be sure – which concludes with the image of a marionette being freed from his cords and floating off with two others, each holding balloons. Delightful was Brennan Boyer in the part made for Kester Cotton, along with the irrepressible Anne Mueller and Adrian Fry. Boyer has a similar build to Cotton – compact with super strong technique and in particular, a nice elevation and sense of “ballon.”

Very much in the modern dance vein is the selection from Bebe Miller’s “A Certain Depth of Heart, Also Love,” a work from the early ‘90s. I thought it was daring and a bit audacious to use two of OBT’s primo stars as the couple – Alison Roper and Artur Sultanov. Each handled their assignment quite well, again showing the range of which OBT’s dancers are capable.

Concluding the evening was the last section of what I consider to be Stowell’s “breakthrough” large-scale work, the Cole Porter song driven “Eyes On You.” Set to a medley based on the classic, “Anything Goes,” it’s an energetic romp where each featured couple – Mueller, Houser, Martuza, Underwood, Larsen, and Fry are backed up by eight more. When the single row of movie theatre seats is quickly rolled in and the cast flops in them as the backdrop projects “The End,” it’s truly a sigh that lets out from us as the evening finished all too quickly.

I must note that Linda Besant's lively, well-researched and thought-out pre-performance talks, combined with two video montages that were shown at the top of each half were especially informative, heart-felt and welcome. About 50 former OBT dancers were on hand and hearing them react -- cheering, clapping, and laughing during these was truly enjoyable for the rest of us.

Portland is a city that's going places. New streetcar lines downtown, restoration and use of historic trolleys, a new tram that connects the Willamette waterfront to the Oregon Health & Science University and a ballet company that is celebrating a well-deserved milestone anniversary. Continuing to hold and rise to new artistic heights and standards each season, OBT, like so many, is challenged by these hard economic times, and one of the best ways for all to support it is to go to the shows. Buy tickets, perhaps a subscription [and maybe donate a little cash] and lend our hearts, eyes and ears to these important organizations that, in the long-run, contribute so much.

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Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 2:51 pm 
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Oregon Ballet Theatre soloist Candace Bouchard has created a new project, "Uprising" in response to OBT's economic need to trim weeks from dancers' contracts and, hopefully, to spread some work around to company dancers. In The Oregonian, Marty Hughley writes about the first performances of "Uprising," performed November 3-5, 2009 at Mississippi Studios, a nightclub space in Portland.

The Oregonian


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 10, 2009 2:12 pm 
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This is a great idea. I feel like I'm seeing more young ballet dancers exploring other artistic avenues, and it's exciting. Candace Bouchard was always a smart girl. I'm glad she's taking initiative.


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 Post subject: Alison Roper
PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 3:11 pm 
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OBT Principal Alison Roper will be rehearsing and performing with Christopher Wheeldon's company, Morphoses, during January and February 2010, according to a column by Barry Johnson in The Oregonian:

The Oregonian


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 Post subject: Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre: 2009-10 Season
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 6:05 pm 
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The 2009-10 season continues with performances of Balanchine's "The Four Temperaments" and Christopher Stowell's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," February 27 through March 6, 2010 at Keller Auditorium in Portland. Bib Hicks previews the program in The Oregonian.

The Oregonian


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 Post subject: Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre: 2009-10 Season
PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2010 7:34 pm 
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Bob Hicks reviews the Saturday, February 27, 2010 performance of "The Four Temperaments" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in The Oregonian.

The Oregonian


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 Post subject: Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre: 2009-10 Season
PostPosted: Mon Mar 29, 2010 9:43 am 
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Five Elements – Four Temperaments
Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Saturday, 7 March 2010 Evening Program, Keller Auditorium, Portland

by Dean Speer

Okay, let me get my fuss off my chest right away and then we’ll get on with the glowing commentary. There was no live music for the first piece, Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments.”

This seemed especially strange given that the mighty OBT Orchestra played for the second half of the bill, accompanying Christopher Stowell’s scenic and creative wonder, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Perhaps it was a matter of not having the time to adequately learn and rehearse the Hindemith score.

I would, nevertheless, strongly advocate for at least someone to have played the rehearsal piano score.

The dancing is done live, as are the lighting and scenic elements [sidebar – if we’re looking at saving money why not just basic work lights or a wash as long as we can see the dancers?], the costumes are live, and the audience is live. So why not the music in a high art form where practically everyone credits the music as the inspiration for all else? Ask just about any serious choreographer about their creative process and they’ll tell you first off they look to music as their departure point for making movement.

As you can tell, this issue is important to me and I hope it is one that boards of directors, donors, fundraisers, audiences, and the community at large will take seriously. I know that artistic directors do. As has been noted in recent press articles, “normal” business models for belt-tightening do not work for live theatre presentations. There are ways of being prudent but as soon as you cut back on the level of production audiences are used to, they will begin to stay away.

Pacific Northwest Ballet experienced this difficulty while the Seattle Opera House was being remodeled and they had to perform in an ice arena for two years. They had to work hard to re-build subscribership and woo back loyalty. Theater groups whose boards put them on hiatus while fundraising generally find themselves giving the kiss of death...and the theatres are very unlikely to return. Why should people support what appears to have gone away and is not producing? Live theatre organizations need to produce art and get it onstage; otherwise why are they there in the first place?

Donors and audiences have only so much patience and attention span before they shift their focus elsewhere. When artistic cuts are made, for whatever reason, it sends up red flags to me and makes me extremely nervous – concerned.

I adore Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments,” but I have to admit that even given the authoritative and top-drawer original staging by Francia Russell and the very high standard of dancing and interpretation by the cast, overall it felt a bit hollow to me. No matter how much the electronic speakers are cranked up, nothing replaces acoustic music for filling a hall with warmth, sound, and yes, even love. The biggest reason though, from both sides of the curtain, is that live music allows the dancers and music to breathe with each other. With a tape, there is no ebb and flow – the je ne sais quoi that makes theatre live.

Any on-stage performer or crew member will tell you how when using recordings, speakers have to be placed backstage in the wings so the performers can hear the music both in the wings and on stage – even when music is blasting out to the audience. This is generally not the case with even a piano. It’s a phenomenon of acoustic versus other.

Even the glitzy and popular television show “Dancing with the Stars” has routines that are done to live music – and they are – shouldn’t artistic shows?

I also note that the top balcony of Keller Auditorium was not used, when in fact audiences should have been clamoring to file in and lined up along the sidewalk to the box office for this very fine show. Perhaps it’s the difficult financial times we find ourselves extracting ourselves from, but I can’t help but think that cutting the orchestra as first announced at season’s start and then working to incrementally bring it back has had something to do with it.

Enough.

Balanchine’s 1946 “The Four Temperaments” is a work that I’ve long adored and Francia Russell’s staging of it probably my favorite. This performance was bittersweet as we had to say adieu to the serenely elegant Gavin Larsen who gave her last rendering of the Third Theme and whose retirement from the stage was earlier announced by OBT – too soon for my money. Larsen is one of those magical dancers who has the ability to shape the air around her as she performs and will be sorely missed. As I said a bit ago about clamoring, audiences should be tackling the box office between now and May to catch everything that she does.

The entire cast was outstanding. I liked Artur Sultanov’s “Phlegmatic” solo and he nailed the difficult ending – holding onto one heel in attitude front while in plié (fondu) and sticking it. Bennan Boyer’s earlier PNB training and experience show with his easy technique and range. His “Melancholic” solo had the right looks to the sky and quick twisted falls to the floor. I might have wanted a little more Graham-like attack on the contractions (it’s really a modern dance solo in ballet-sheep’s clothing) but his backward walk off while fully bent back into a cambré with arms reading over his head and parallel to floor brought a very moving conclusion to this unusual solo.

Who could forget Yuka Iino and her partner Chauncey Parsons in “Sanguinic?” Iino is a sprightly, light dancer whose fearless turns are a joy. Parsons is a real catch for OBT. I wonder if he and OBT realize just how good he is? Probably. But I do have to point out his glorious line and a strong and elegant technique that’s easily on par with Larsen’s and OBT principal Alison Roper.

What I call the “whomp!”part of “Choleric” went to principal Kathi Martuza whose strength and sheer verve are put to good use in just about every ballet she’s cast in – and this one certainly taps into these qualities...and more. This is one of those fiendishly difficult parts where you have to turn at the speed of lightening, drop to a kneel while covering your face in a quick contraction and then to it all over again – while remaining cool, calm, and collected. I never fear when Martuza is up on the boards. She gives me complete confidence in what she’s doing – and this then allows me to focus on the choreography and performance, which is the job of every stage performer; to relax the audience so they can enjoy the show.

The entire cast is then on for the concluding cascade of overhead lifts and pulsating and sweeping lunges as the curtain drops on this masterwork.

Stowell and his production team really took courage in hand – I do think it takes bravery to tackle a story ballet that has already famous and well-known versions – to create OBT’s very own (and Northwest inspired) “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He collaborated with his music director Niel DePonte to put together pieces by Mendelssohn, which included DePonte’s own arrangements and with Sandra Woodall whose costume and scenic designs were straight from sketches made deep in an Oregon forest.

He also give us a fresh premise of a play-within-a-play. In this case a contemporary wedding where the participants and guests are given masks and costume elements who then become the characters of the Shakespeare play.

My only choreographic fuss is that when he brings in Titania’s entourage or the same with Oberon’s lackeys, there is too much unison movement. (I don’t mean dancing together as an ensemble – in sync and on time.) My eye expected and wanted these corps to have been broken up a bit with maybe opposition, or canon, or breaking up the larger group into smaller chunks and having one in the middle do something with two on the outside something different but complementary, all the while “framing” the principal figure.

Stowell has cast his ballet well with each dancer having the right mix of beautiful technique and the ability to act and get into character. Topping this list are Roper and Ronnie Underwood each in dual roles – Hippolyta/Titania and Theseus/Oberon neatly followed by Anne Mueller as Hermia, Adrian Fry as Lysander, Sultanov as Demetrius, and Larsen showing her comedic talent as Helena.

Wowing the audience with his aerial feats of jumps and turns – and sometimes jumping turns and turning jumps – was Master of Ceremonies/Puck, also known as the mortal dancer Javier Ubell. His sidekick and apparent main squeeze, Peaseblossom, was delightfully portrayed by Ansa Deguchi. The audience enjoyed the visual mirthful joke of having her dressed as a bloom and he as a bee; we got it!

Yucking it up as the clattering and bumbling commoners were Kevin Poe as Bottom/a Bartender and the trio of Waiters Steven Houser, Matthew Pippin, and Brent Slack-Wolfe.

OBT’s “Dream” is a visual fantasy come to life and one that is breezy, light, and gives us a collective much-needed uplift. The entire main floor was on their feet, clapping and cheering expressing their gratitude. Gratitude for OBT’s shows, its artistic vision and leadership and for surviving and carrying on when it’s most welcome.

_________________
Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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 Post subject: Re: Oregon Ballet Theatre: 2009-10 Season
PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2010 1:29 pm 
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Oregon Ballet Theatre's "Duets" program opens on Thursday, April 22 and continues through Sunday, May 2 at the Newmark Theatre in Portland. Principal Dancer Gavin Larsen gives her farewell performance on Sunday, May 2. Bob Hicks previews the program in The Oregonian.

The Oregonian


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