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Pacific Northwest Ballet

Mixed Rep -- 'The Best of PNB'

Seattle Opera House, Seattle, WA

September 22, 2001
By Azlan Ezaddin


Hardly had Julie Tobiason and Olivier Wevers strutted onto centre stage in a section from Kent Stowell's "Silver Lining" before an audience member in the orchestra section let out a wolf's cry at the top of his lungs. It's that kind of ballet: playfully sexy and sizzling hot -- the shoulder shrugs especially teased the audience -- but also virtuosic in technique and tempo. The section is titled "Whip-Poor-Will," after Jerome Kern's a la 'Cotton Club' score of the same name, but it's no surprise the dancers dub it "Dirty Dancing."

'Dirty dancing' wasn't the only type of dancing the audience was treated to from "Silver Lining," a ballet created by Stowell to celebrate PNB's silver anniversary and inspired by Kern's score for MGM musicals. In "Who," Stowell figuratively throws seven male dancers onto and about the stage while in "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," Kaori Nakamura and Vladislav Bourakov effectively expressed his heart-warming notion of quiet romanticism. These excerpts whetted the appetite for more of this full-length ballet. It is sad it is not seen on other companies.

Having the appetite whetted but unfulfilled became a familiar condition for the rest of the program. The problem with such smorgasbord programming is that even gorging on snatches of tasty morsels can still leave the appetite unsatisfied. On the other hand, it did achieve one of its goals of showcasing the entire company and its repertoire, including the impressive collection of Balanchine works.

The evening boasted excerpts from no less than five ballets from the wide-ranging Balanchine palette at hand: "Serenade," "Agon," "Ballet Imperial," "The Four Temperaments," and "Stars and Stripes," whose rousing finale brought the show to a stirring and patriotic close. The confident execution by the company of Mr. B's ballets and programming by Artistic Directors Stowell and Francia Russell in book ending the performances by two of those ballets -- "Serenade" being the other -- are a tribute to the focus and training of the Balanchine style at PNB and its highly reputable school. It almost obviates the need for West Coast fans to fly east (note to San Francisco Bay Area balletomanes: charming Seattle is also two hours away by flight. Plus, you can enjoy great theater, an amusement center, and an uplifting brunch in the Space Needle, all within blocks of the Opera House where PNB performs).

The modern dance-influenced works gripped the attention, none more so than William Forsythe's "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated," to very loud and jarring music by Thom Willems, in which Melanie Skinner and Casey Herd contorted their bodies in sharply angular and spasmodic yet sensuous movements. In Kevin O'Day's "Aract," ten dancers led by Louise Nadeau and Paul Gibson, competed for Olympian champion rights, perhaps suggested by the Agon-like music of Graham Fitkin. In contrast, in the pas de deux from "Lambarena" by Val Caniparoli, Tobiason and Wevers, in their first pairing of the evening, projected a primitive, caring relationship, a theme also prominent in the mesmerizing "Jardi Tancat." In this early work by Nacho Duato, the three couples, but most especially Louise Nadeau, weaved their bodies ever so lyrically to the haunting melody of Maria del Mar Bonet.

Stowell and Russell treated the audience with a work from the archives in each half of the program. In "Il Distratto," an imaginatively comical work by Lew Christensen, two body halves, split at the waist through clever lighting and costuming, danced in opposite spaces on the stage. In the "Corsaire Pas de Trois," the statuesque Patricia Barker was the subject of argument between a gallant Casey Herd and a valiant Stanko Milov. Some in the audience did have trouble getting used to the idea of a pas de trois though.

Besides "Silver Lining," excerpts from two of Stowell's story ballets were also on display, the sensuous pas de deux from "Carmina Burana" and the resplendent Waltz from Act II of "Cinderella." While both ballets were feasts for the eyes, the lasting image remains one of the blatant flirtatiousness of Tobiason and Wevers, staying in character and continuing to tease the audience during their bows. That alone was enough to entice this viewer to make plans for a return to Seattle in the not so distant future.

 

Please join a discussion of this performance in our forum.

Edited by Marie.


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