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Reviews

  • PNB's "All Premiere" - Diverse, Entertaining, Superb

    (l-r) Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura and corps de ballet dancers Sarah Pasch and Leah O’Connor in Andrew Bartee’s arms that work, presented as part of ALL PREMIERE, November 2 – 11, 2012. Photo © Angela Sterling.

    (l-r)

    Pacific Northwest Ballet continues its milestone 40th anniversary season with the current quadruple rep, “All Premiere”. This power-packed display showcases the choreographic genius of PNB dancers Andrew Bartee, Margaret Mullin and Kiyon Gaines, as well as a world premiere by “Seattle native makes good”, Mark Morris.

    Andrew Bartee’s “arms that work” opened the show and featured a massive wavy fence constructed of long vertical elastic bands. These bands allowed the dancers to move through, behind, and sometimes artfully twisted and tangled within the structure itself. Local composer, Barret Anspach created the musical narration behind this piece. (Does that name ring a bell? It should! His sister, Jessika is one of PNB’s lovely corps members. ;) ) Anspach’s music suited Bartee’s modern mix of bouncy, halting and sometimes jerky choreography perfectly. The tone behind Bartee’s piece felt a bit reminiscent of the endless internal struggle between what we want versus what we can’t have. While I can’t say for sure that’s what Bartee was going for (I refuse to read anything about a new piece ahead of time so I don’t watch with pre-conceived ideas), but that’s the direction my thoughts traveled.

    Margaret Mullin’s “Lost in Light” followed Bartee’s piece, which exuded far more joy and loveliness. The piece featured four couples sweeping gracefully across the stage filled with minimal light streaming down as if from heaven itself. While Mullin’s neoclassical style distinctly showcased each of these couple’s stunning technical attributes to a “T”, the real standout this time was corps member, Brittany Reid. For the first time ever, I was able to catch a glimpse of this young woman’s passionate, lyrical quality and was left in near jaw-dropping awe. Seriously, folks - she was amazing and she’s definitely secured her place as one of this year’s dancers to watch.

    Mark Morris’ “Kammermusik No. 3” had no clear “story” or human element behind it, but instead focused largely on witty, angular movements sewn together with a silver thread of fun. The set featured gorgeous magenta backdrop made even more striking with a black curtain that was lowered – then raised – during the various interludes. At one point the music was silent and all you could hear was the sound of the dancer’s feet whisking across the stage. The piece ends on a particularly playful note with one male dancer tossing another off stage. Whoosh!

    The final piece of the night (and the one that literally brought everyone to their feet in standing ovation), was Kiyon Gaines’ “Sum Stravinsky”. Let me begin by saying, “Ho…leeee….COWWWW!” With one fell swoop (and maybe a few pirouettes), Gaines masterfully secured his place in the choreographic annals of fame!

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carrie Imler in Kiyon Gaines’s Sum Stravinsky, presented as part of ALL PREMIERE, November 2 – 11, 2012. Photo © Angela Sterling.

    Pacific

    Gaines’ artistic eye was masterfully brought to life through the use of gorgeous partnering and impressive costumes. The supremely talented partnerships featuring Carrie Imler and Jonathan Poretta, and Maria Chapman and Karel Cruz brought a mile-wide grin to everyone’s faces. These dancers literally stole the show and left me (and I believe I speak for everyone else at McCaw Hall that night) with a desire for more. Typical ballet costumes (read: tutus and pointe shoes) in shades of powder blue and teal sparkled with new life, thanks to the talented Pauline Smith. (Chapman’s one shoulder tank style bodice was nothing short of gorgeous!) In short, Sum Stravinsky made my heart sing. It was completely, and unequivocally, awesome.

    From modern to classical, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s All Premiere offers something for every Seattle dance fan. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “All Premiere” runs through November 10th. Tickets available at PNB.org.

  • Book Review: Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear

    jack6.000x9.000.inddOkay, ballet fans - be honest. How awesome would it be to spend an entire year exploring the inner-workings of one of the world's most celebrated ballet companies?

    Just think: You would observe countess rehearsals, exhilarating performances, daily classes, nerve-wracking auditions and necessary board meetings. You would get to know the dancers and their artistic director, the stage hands, lighting directors, costume designers, marketers, fundraisers - even catch a glimpse of a few dance moms and their children.

    Every question would be answered. Every rumor laid to rest. Absolutely no one (and nothing) would be off limits! It would be a dream come true, right?

    Well, give yourself a good pinch because trust me - you're awake and your wish has been granted! In his newest book, Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear, best-selling author, Stephen Manes pulls back the gilded stage curtain and shares what it was like to spend a year with Seattle's own Pacific Northwest Ballet.

    Four years in the making, Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear isn’t just another textbook-ish tome; it instead reveals just how ballets are produced, marketed, and funded. In short, this beefy book – with all of its juicy gossip and first-hand dancer accounts – boldly goes where no balletomane has gone before!

    Through Manes’ watchful eye, you’ll discover many facets and secrets of the Land of Ballet such as: What it takes to keep the holiday cash-cow known as Nutcracker running year after (endless) year; how the company survived its most tumultuous, injury plagued and downright stressful staging of Roméo et Juliette; the harsh reality of “body is destiny”, and just how much a dancer will (can?) put up with - physically and emotionally - before calling it quits.

    You will be a fly on the wall during artistic director, Peter Boal’s most difficult decisions and discover why he and others in his position must be “willing to be hated”. You’re there as members of the “Who’s Who in Choreography” (Christopher Wheeldon, Twyla Tharp, Jaime Martinez, and Bernice Coppieters), give corrections and guidance for proper staging of their work. You’ll also witness the drama that surrounds a dancer's life - the fiery contentions, the painful jealousies and cherished friendships.

    Also revealed are the accounts from Pacific Northwest Ballet School students, as well as those from the oftentimes unsung "heroes of the pit" - orchestra pit, that is.

    Now although PNB is certainly at the book’s center, Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear is by no means exclusive to the Seattle crowd. In fact, this literary work of art (not exaggerating!) could have just as easily been written about any other top ballet company, from New York to London. Because no matter how you slice it, a dancer’s needs, desires, fears and frustrations are the same.

    Quite honestly, I cannot say enough great things about this book. Its exciting and insanely in-depth coverage of "life on the inside" is exactly what tired, musty-dusty dance library shelves have been craving for years! Stephen Manes has done an excellent job at conveying all the intricacies of a ballet company's success, without sacrificing a single note from the chorus of countless artistic voices behind it. (Bravo!)

    From union mandates to marketing strategies, to painful injuries to exhausting perfectionism, Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear leaves no stone left unturned and is an absolute must for the die-hard ballet fan!

    To read excerpts (Come on, you know you're dying to!) and to purchase a copy of the book in either hardcover or digital format, please visit Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear.com

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's Contemporary 4 Dazzles

    The stars were shining brightly during Pacific Northwest Ballet’s opening of Contemporary 4. The evening’s mixed program featured four outstanding displays of diversity, ingenuity and beautiful creativity.

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    Pacific

    Pacific featured both men and women dressed in swooshy, flowing skirts which looked just a wee bit prettier on the men than the women. Josh Spell and Benjamin Griffiths especially worked those skirts like it was nobody’s business, and I enjoyed the overall effect the costumes had on the performance. Another duo worth mentioning is Carla Korbes and Olivier Wevers. Their pas de deux was absolutely yummy! Lucien Postlewaite was as beautiful as always. (You know something, I often find it difficult to wrap my head around this man’s softness, his vulnerability. It’s just exquisite!) Then of course, there was the perfection known as Ariana Lallone. This lady continually brings a rich, new layer of magic to every performance, and I for one will miss her presence in the seasons to come.

    The world premiere of Marco Goecke’s Place a Chill made me think, “Voguing on steroids”. That may not be the best way to describe it, but that’s immediately what came to mind. Lightening fast upper body moves were mixed with equally fast finger-flicking shivers made you wonder whether the dancers were trying to embrace—or fight off—the impending chill. It was absolutely incredible to watch! In this act, the stand-out performer award must go to both Jonathan Poretta and James Moore. Guys—you’re my heroes! Enough said.

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    Pacific

    The Piano Dance, choreographed by ballet master, Paul Gibson was just…(insert Italian kiss of the finger tips here) “Bellissima!” The stunning blood red costumes were to die for; the dancing was soulful, flirty and infectiously fun. Lesley Rausch and Seth Orza made for a most mesmerizing pair (but seriously, what do you expect from these two?), while Chalnessa Eames and Josh Spell were enthusiastically coquettish and spry. (The playful booty smack was most appreciated by all in attendance.) Rounding out the splendid cast was Margaret Mullin and Jerome Tisserand, who looked like “two happy young lovers”, and the spunky Rachel Foster and Benjamin Griffiths whose performance I felt was the icing on the cake. Quite honestly, I could watch The Piano Dance over and over again, and never get bored.

    The fourth and final piece was Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH. This highly anticipated piece did not fail to impress and delight the masses. The lighthearted romance was the perfect blend of strength and versatility due to the likes of Batkhurel Bold, Seth Orza, Karel Cruz, Carla Korbes and Carrie Imler. The male “power triangle” was counter-balanced by the softness and charm of the ladies, who could never be mistaken for shrinking violets! To the contrary, Imler's own breed of strength silently dared the boys to keep up with her, while Korbes' quiet air of authority demands utmost respect. Performance highlights include Bold’s freaking awesome lift and twirl of Mr. Orza (go ahead and read that twice, I’ll wait), and the fantastic chemistry between Cruz and Korbes.

    Contemporary 4 is one rep that is not to be missed. If you haven’t already done so, please visit pnb.org to purchase tickets. You will not be disappointed!

    ~Reviewed by Denise Opper, Vala Dancewear Media Liaison

  • PNB's Season Opener: Director's Choice

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Lucien Postlewaite with soloist Rachel Foster in Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort, presented as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, Sept. 24 – Oct. 3, 2010.  Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    Under the artistic direction of Peter Boal, the Pacific Northwest Ballet opened its 2010/11 season with an exhilarating ‘Director’s Choice’ program consisting of four remarkable compositions.  The evening began with two spectacular performances of modern/contemporary works from internationally recognized choreographer Jiri Kylian, Petite Mort and Sechs Tänze (Six Dances.) Following was Jardí Tancat, a spellbinding first work from Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato.  The incredible evening concluded with Glass Pieces, a masterpiece designed by world-renowned artist, Jerome Robbins.

    As the lights dimmed, the red curtain rose, the audience silenced and became still.  Six men flawlessly positioned across the stage began to move with fencing foils producing melodic sounds throughout the theatre. Six women stood in the backdrop awaiting their cue. Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort is transcendental as the dancers display powerful lines with a taste of sensuality. Its sleek and sexy combinations of movement suspend the audience in breath-taking partner lifts and angular shapes.  Six couples move with perfect synchronicity creating a surreal sensation while two melancholy movements of Mozart’s piano concertos penetrate the walls of McCaw Hall.  Jiri Kylian described his piece as, “a world where nothing is sacred, where brutality and arbitrariness are commonplace.”  Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers interpreted this effortlessly and with as much passion as the choreographer exemplifies.

    Jiri Kylian witty and extravagant piece Sechs Tänze (Six Dances) brings into play the music of Mozart.  This piece displays the humor in both choreographer and composer, alike.  The performance was mischievous and theatrical.  With a Shakespearian quality, the dancers became players, taking the audience back to 18th century where powdered faces, hair wigs and black exaggerated ball gowns commanded the stage.  Widely favored, PNB’s premiere of Sechs Tänze was entertainingly delicious.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Ariana Lallone in Nacho Duato’s Jardí Tancat, presented as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, Sept. 24 – Oct. 3, 2010.  Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    Passionate, powerful, and painfully poignant are just a few words to describe Jardí Tancat, a work of genius by Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato.  The soulful voice and composition of musical artist Maria Del Mar Bonet enthralls both audience and dancer to an unmitigated submission.  Three couples move with raw intensity exuding a sorrowful and deeply rooted exclamation of emotion, leaving nothing to secret.  Captivating and unrestricted, Nacho Duato’s choreography expresses the uniqueness and vulnerability of his heritage and personal identity, to which six extraordinary PNB dancers represent in an honest and incredibly commendable performance.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet’s debut of Jerome Robbins’s Glass Pieces made its impressive and unprecedented mark for the season. Set to three musical scores by Phillip Glass, one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century, PNB’s company of dancers take the audience on a journey of poetic intrusion.  The rhythmic and structural pattern of choreography metaphorically translates the disposition of modern times.  From the colorful display of costumes, along with a backdrop of grid lines, the production delivers an electric and innovative presentation.  Eccentric yet penetrating, Glass Pieces captures the true essence of New York appealing to the Seattle stage.

    Once again, Peter Boal demonstrates his brilliant direction embodied through the PNB dancers. From beginning to end, the execution of movement is impeccable, while the choreography is admirable and stunning to watch.  Pacific Northwest Ballet’s ‘Directors Choice’ program highlights some of the finest artistic creations to date.  Opening its season with such compelling performances, it is with great anticipation we embark on this classic yet modern expedition into the world of Ballet.

    Review By: Amanda Calderon

    Class Act Tutu Associate

    For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit Pacific Northwest Ballet.

    PNB's Director's Choice runs September 24-October 3, 2010.

  • Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet's Coppelia

    Pacific Northwest Ballet pulled out all the stops with their latest production of George Balanchine's, Coppelia.  This fantastic production features all new lavishly designed (read: gorgeous!) sets, to die for costumes, and of course the high-caliber artistry that PNB is world-famous for.

    Swanilda/Coppelia

    Saturday's matinee featured Lesley Rausch as Swanilda/Coppelia, Jerome Tisserand as Franz, and Olivier Wevers as Dr. Coppelius.  Right off the bat, I have to give serious applause to Rausch for her outstanding interpretation. She not only delighted everyone in the audience with her arrogance and saucy attitude, but she transported us into the heart of her character. Sure, Swanilda isn't the nicest of young ladies, but her love for Franz is evident, even when faced with the sting of rejection.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lesley Rausch with PNB School students and PNB company members in PNB’s premiere production of Coppélia: Choreography by Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust (after Marius Petipa). Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lesley Rausch with PNB School students and PNB company members in PNB’s premiere production of Coppélia: Choreography by Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust (after Marius Petipa). Photo © Angela Sterling

    Franz

    Jerome Tisserand's Franz was perfectly executed. Like Rausch, he had a way drawing me in, making me feel almost as fed up with Swanilda's antics as he was. His attitude was a perfect blend of inflated ego meets young playboy looking for love.  After discovering that his love interest is only a doll, one would expect Franz to act a bit more sheepish over his foolish behavior. (I mean, seriously!) However, Tisserand remains true to character and Franz casually glosses over that "minor faux pas" with a sudden profession of love for Swanilda, which of course, she accepts.

    Dr. Coppelius

    Olivier Wevers deserved the standing ovation he received for his performance as the highly eccentric, slightly creepy, Dr. Coppelius. How it is Wevers can pull such multi-faceted characters out of his back pocket is beyond me! His Dr. Coppelius was a thrilling "yin and yang"; an absent-minded and lonely old man, whose walking stick doubles as a handy weapon against "the wild hooligans" of the town. But underneath that "grumpy old man" veneer lurks a borderline-fiendish soul.

    Honorable Mentions

    Act three's splendid cast also deserves special mention. I was most impressed by Carrie Imler's "Dawn" and Sarah Ricard Orza's "Prayer". These dancers gave equally passionate and exquisite performances. Imler was a vision of dazzling sunlight--bright, confident and striking.  Ricard Orza danced "Like a fairy tale princess!" (to quote the little one sitting next to me) with her flowing port de bras and delicate phrasing. The action-packed "Discord and War" featured Batkhurel Bold and Lindsi Dec entering the stage like wild flashes of lightning dressed in silvery armor. As always, the power behind these two striking  dancers takes your breath away. Their amazing turns and leaps were all done whilst holding long spears--none of which whacked anyone else nor made kabobs out of their thighs. (An acrobatic feat of epic proportions, especially when you consider how clumsy the rest of is--read: yours truly!--would be in the same situation.)

    PNB's Coppelia is filled with good natured humor, an outstanding cast, and delicious imagery. If you haven't yet made your way to McCaw Hall to catch the "Happiest Ballet on Earth!", I would highly suggest that you do so. Like...today!

    Coppelia runs from June 3rd-13th. Tickets are available by visiting PNB.org.

    By Denise Opper

    Media Relations

  • Review: Spectrum Dance Theater's "FAREWELL"

    Oh, what a night! Spectrum Dance Theater’s “Farewell” at Seattle’s Moore Theatre was nothing short of spectacular. (Or to use the phrase I used immediately following the show: “That was so freaking good!”)

    "Farewell", Spectrum Dance Theater.  Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual

    "Farewell",

     

    Farewell is based on the novel, Beijing Coma, written by Ma Jian, an exiled Chinese author. The story’s male protagonist (played by Joel Meyer) is shot during the protests in Tiananmen Square, and then suffers a "waking coma"; alert yet paralyzed and unable to communicate. While lying in this state, his mind drifts back to the tragic events that put him there and the violent state of his country. The story juxtaposes with the relationship between China and America and their strong financial ties. It then shifts to our own cultural/social tragedy of Sept. 11th and the similarities between the two.

    The audio backdrop to this piece consists of part live music by local Chinese-American composer Byron Au Yong, part speaking (the dancers recited various speeches about democracy and economics through megaphones), and part recordings from emergency responders and news reports. This overlapping onslaught of sound which comes at you from all directions was at times very difficult to listen to. The people’s cries for change barely rose above the din of media coverage and political propaganda, which I felt symbolized how the media often confuses and drowns out the truth.

    During “Farewell”, audience members sit directly on and around the stage, either in chairs or on metal bleachers, which provides an intimate—or in the case of the bleachers—a deliberately uncomfortable feel. The scenery is comprised of a large photograph of China’s Chairman Mao which hangs above the stage’s large podium. On this podium sits Spectrum’s Artistic Director, Donald Byrd who signals the dancers with the word “Go” throughout the show. Oversized imagery featuring Tiananmen Square and September 11th are suspended from the ceiling, most of which are difficult to look at.

    But then, that’s the point.

    "Farewell", Spectrum Dance Theater.  Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual

    "Farewell",

    Yet for all the pain and heartbreak, there were several moments of sheer beauty provided by the Spectrum dancers. Their stretching, yearning, cowering and writhing—their hands and legs creating shape upon beautiful shape. Every one of them managed to add their own unique stroke of color to this intricate canvas, leaving many of us alternately gasping or wiping away a tear.

    Speaking of tears; as the performance moved into the September 11th attacks and the audio recordings made by New York emergency responders were played, there was hardly a dry eye around. I personally choked back tears as my mind was suddenly whisked back to the memories of that horrible morning. Toward the end on the audio, a witness describes the scene of people jumping from the windows of the Twin Towers to their deaths. Then shortly thereafter, the dancers (who've been using these wooden benches during the entire performance) stand the benches on-end and then slowly knock them over, one by one. SLAM!...SLAM!...SLAM!..SLAM! While Joel Meyer’s character lies center stage, cringing and crying on the floor. To me, this seemed to symbolize the sounds of those bodies falling from the burning sky above.

    In the final moments, what looks like a dead, soot and ash covered dove is placed on our comatose story teller’s chest. Perhaps this symbolizes the death of peace or how peace can rise from the ashes of tragedy? I can’t say for certain. But either way, the entire performance was very powerful, extremely moving and beautifully heartbreaking.

    Thank you, Spectrum and Donald Byrd for providing this serious, thought-provoking evening. It was a night I will remember and cherish for a very long time.

    by Denise Opper

    Media Relations:   Vala Dancewear / Class Act Tutu

    All photos by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual

    Costumes by  CJDL Design.

  • Review: Whim W’him—3 Seasons

    Whim W'Him's 3Seasons, Kaori Nakamura

    Whim

    Olivier Wevers and his newly formed company, Whim W’him have done what no other dancer, choreographer or company has done before. The Seattle-based tour de force has shattered the glass barricade that once stood as the dividing wall between the world of ballet and the realm of modern dance, ushering in a new era of collaboration and artistry.

    Whim W’him’s sold-out performances at On the Boards this past weekend packed an intoxicating punch of sound, light and movement. The triple bill featured Wevers previous works, X-Stasis (PNB’s Choreographer’s Showcase 2006) and Fragments (Spectrum Dance Theatre 2007), as well as the world premiere of 3 Seasons, Wevers first major collaborative effort.

    X-Stasis

    X-Stasis is comprised of 5 couples making a unique statement about their world and their relationship to one another. Standouts from this performance include Jonathan Poretta and Lucien Postlewaite’s pas de deux which sizzled with poetic tension. Their execution was both complimentary and contradictory; a raw, edgy rendition of the proverbial yin and yang.

    Whim W'Him's X-Stasis, Jonathan Poretta & Lucien Postlewaite

    Whim

    Chalnessa Eames dazzled in a delightful piece that felt a bit like an avant-garde rendition of Coppelia. Let’s just say her partner, the helpless mannequin, was no match for her seductive charms!

    Kaori Nakamura and guest artist, Karel Cruz (PNB Principal Dancer) were utterly spectacular. Their pairing was exuberant, crisp and well-balanced; the perfect blend of power, delicacy and joy.

    Fragments

    Fragments begins with a sweeping aria playfully mimicked by an amusing pair of friends. Kelly Ann Barton’s (Spectrum Dance Theater) and Vincent Lopez’s movements were light, fluttering, and beautifully in sync. Together they encompassed all that is childlike and well--whimsical, from their “twittering” hip rolls, to their playful dashing about the stage.

    Whim W'Him's Fragments

    Whim

    Following the playful antics, Vincent Lopez gave a commanding solo performance as a tortured soul, longing and yearning to be free. Moving effortlessly through a series of well-crafted poses, Lopez is transformed into a living sculpture, relishing in its temporary freedom. Costumes by Christine Joly de Lotbiniere provided a delicious hint of Baroque flair, while Michael Mazzola’s thoughtful lighting cast the entire piece in a distinct, Renaissance glow.

    Last but not least, was 3 Seasons.

    Never have I seen such a decisive take on our modern world that fused together the elements of style, wit, humor and hope so beautifully.  In fact, I have a feeling that this piece will serve as the springboard by which all other collaborative efforts will be judged, and provide Whim W’him with a prominent position in the annals of dance history.

    The musical score consists of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons paired with a live corresponding movement by Byron Au Yong, which was nothing short of perfection. The tinkling of a toy piano, the hum of the violin and gentle percussion created a fun, exciting, youthful energy.

    Designer Michael Cepress’ vision of pairing vibrant splashes of red on ruddy, human earth tone canvasses provided the perfect backdrop for this piece. The use of his re-designed sculptural collars, wire hanger skirts, and sullied leotards made for a stunning artistic display.

    3Seasons

    3Seasons

    Jim Kent’s portrayal of the covetousness of human nature was thrilling. The object of his desire changes with whatever is put before him; a pillow, a lamp, a keyboard to finally a bird cage, which has to be placed on his head because there’s no more room in his hands. Kent—like society itself—is never content with what he already has, and is continuously seeking, grasping, and vying for more. The act was played for humor which the audience responded with more than a few “been there, done that” laughs.

    Kaori Nakamura is used, abused and finally discarded and yet—she still manages to come out looking like the victor. Her stage presence leaves its own indelible mark of beauty behind.

    Chalnessa Eames was effervescent and sensual. Vincent Lopez was completely brilliant and charming. Jonathan Poretta and Lucien Postlewaite were riveting, powerful, dominating, and fierce.

    Ty Alexander Cheng and Kylie Lewallen were saucy, flirty and breathtaking. Their endless kiss reminded me of a pair of butterflies; lips locked with wings (arms) continually unfurling yet never intertwining.

    Hannah Lagerway and Lucien Postlewaite writhed about in geometric splendor. I was impressed with Postlewaite’s skillful control and Lagerway’s incredible range. Indeed, her presence within this company is the icing on the cake.

    With everything this company has going for it—excellent dancers, respected Artistic Director, dedicated fan base, and a growing list of collaborators—Whim W’him stands poised on the edge of a divine precipice, ready to be launched into the stratosphere.

    Congratulations to you, Mr. Wevers and to your talented team of artists.

    Viva Whim W’him!

    by Denise Opper

    Media Relations:  Vala Dancewear / Class Act Tutu

    All photos © LaVie Photography.  For more amazing photos, visit the LaVie photo blog.

  • Book Review: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

    At first glance, the title may evoke images of yet another glorified self-help book. But The Creative Habit goes beyond the relative scope of creative applications. Author and world famous choreographer, Twyla Tharp walks readers through the creative process step-by-step, revealing once and for all, that creative spark that lies deep within us all...

    book_creative_thumb

    Tharp believes that creativity isn’t just for the special or gifted artist but rather “It’s for businesspeople looking to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way.” (Quote: The Creative Habit Chapter 1.) Tharp also repeatedly states that creativity is “augmented by routine and habit.”

    To this end, The Creative Habit provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the world’s most influential people, both in and out of the dance world. Readers are encouraged to delve deeper into the topic by answering several questions at the end of each chapter. These questions aren’t simply random or arbitrary, but are rather carefully constructed—just as one of Twyla’s own works – to teach readers how  to apply the creative habit to their daily lives.

    Personal Thoughts & Opinions

    While reading this book, I became delightfully aware at just how brilliant Ms. Tharp truly is. She’s not only a supremely talented dancer/choreographer, but is also a highly educated, deeply feeling, inherently complex, yet surprisingly simple woman. Her insights, mannerisms, and powerful work ethic are inspirational and challenging at the same time.

    The Creative Habit should be considered the required textbook for anyone who is willing to pursue excellence in all of their personal, business, educational, and artistic pursuits.

  • Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker

    A Little Bit of Magic

    The magic of the holiday season has descended upon McCaw Hall, ushered in on the wings of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s annual treat, The Nutcracker.  The air inside the theater was alive with anticipation, and the excitement emanating from all the hundreds of children present was palpable.

    Clara's Christmas Tree - A signature moment of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker occurs when Clara’s Christmas tree grows from 14 to 28 feet. The majestic tree was constructed by Boeing engineers and weighs 1,000 pounds.

    Clara's

    The Story and the Set

    The ballet is based on the original story written by E.T.A. Hoffman and brought to life by the choreography of former PNB Artistic Director, Kent Stowell.  The sumptuous sets designed by Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) play a crucial role in the success of this stellar production.  They not only envelop the stage like a lush, Victorian picture book, but also provide a sense of pure magic.  Everything from the massive growing Christmas tree and the enormous Mouse King that wickedly encircles the stage–to the realistic boat ride along the sea, leaves audiences captivated and riveted to the edge of their seats.

    Clara

    The role of young Clara was marvelously played by PNB student, Eileen Kelly.  Kelly’s mannerisms and characterization were both impressive and believable.

    Carrie Imler , Principal Dancer, PNB, as adult Clara was nothing short of outstanding.  Imler’s Clara provides a stunning portrayal of a maiden whose heart is laced with the charms and emotions of girlhood.  She is her Prince’s devoted equal in terms of bravery, and wants nothing more than to remain locked within the confines of this beautiful dream with him forever.

    The Prince

    Batkhurel Bold, Principal Dancer, PNB, gave a powerful performance as the dashing Prince.  His movements were breathtaking, his character regal and confident.  Bold not only captivates audiences with his impressive strength, but sweeps them off their feet as Clara’s faithful protector, companion, and hero.  Their gorgeous, sweeping pas de deux conveys all the beauty and promise of young love.

    A Cast of Characters

    Herr Drosselmeier/Pasha

    Jordan Pacitti shines in the dual role of Herr Drosselmeier/Pasha.  As Drosselmeier, Pacitti is teasing yet harmless, a classic example of a man who is “a little boy on the inside.”  He not only revels in his ability to shock and amaze the party guests, but takes the most delight in getting a rise out of young Clara.  Later, however,  as the Pasha, Pacitti transforms from a fiendish eccentric, into a protective father-figure, possessive of both Clara and her affections.

    Ballerina Doll

    Sarah Ricard Orza gave a lovely performance as the wind-up Ballerina Doll.  Her masterful display breathed new life into this well-loved character, one who is sure to star in many little girls’ dreams.

    An Enchanted Land

    The Moors, A Chinese Tiger, The Commedia

    Act Two whisks Clara and the Prince along to an enchanted land where they are greeted by a lavish display of hospitality, courtesy of the Pasha.  Moors dance about with bright, energetic flair.  A dancing Chinese tiger, charmingly played by Ryan Cardea, received more than a few giggles and squeals of delight.  The Commedia (Liora Reshef, Benjamin Griffiths and Rachel Foster) were reminiscent of a precious music box or toy shoppe window.  Griffiths’ acrobatics and technical prowess were evident both here and during his role as Sword-Dancer Doll in Act One.

    The Chinese Tiger

    The

    The Peacock

    Lesley Rausch, soloist, PNB mesmerized in her role as the fluttering, sensuous Peacock; a winged beauty transported via gilded cage.  Rausch’s expert characterization was daring, captivating, and hypnotic.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lesley Rausch as the Peacock in PNB's Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker. Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    The Whirling Dervishes

    The three whirling Dervishes (Barry Kerollis, James Moore, and Josh Spell) were absolutely thrilling. These fantastic dancers created a spectacular “tour de force” that left every little boy in the audience inspired and awe-struck.

    Flora

    Lindsi Dec, soloist, PNB,  soared to new heights as the beautiful blossom maiden, Flora.  Dec gave herself completely over to her role, and that coupled with her long, gorgeous lines and jubilant expression, made her performance exhilarating to behold.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lindsi Dec as Flora in the Waltz of the Flowers from PNB's Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker. Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    Snow, Waltz of the Flowers

    PNB’s corps de ballet performed beautifully as a chorus of swirling, icy snowflakes glittering in the moonlight. Their dazzling display literally made a chill run down my spine.  Later during the Waltz of the Flowers, I could almost smell a hint of jasmine and rose being carried along on a soft, spring breeze.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet’s, Nutcracker

    I was once again impressed with the caliber of dancing and characterization offered by this amazing company, as well as the talent that exuded from its students.  Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker is a must-see and should be a part of every family’s holiday tradition.

    PNB’s acclaimed production of Nutcracker

    runs November 27 – December 30, 2009

    at Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall.

    Tickets are available online at www.pnb.org or by calling 206.441.2424

  • Director's Choice, Pacific Northwest Ballet

    The Seasons, Pacific Northwest Ballet's Director's Choice
    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lesley Rausch in the world premiere of Val Caniparoli’s The Seasons, presented as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, running November 5 – 15, 2009.

    From the theater staff to the attendees to the performers, the excitement of opening night was unmistakable. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s introduction of two brand new pieces and a replay of two favorites translated into an evening to remember...

    Pacific Northwest Ballet, DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, running November 5 – 15, 2009.
    All Photographs © Angela Sterling.

    Petite Mort

    The night began with Petite Mort, (French for “The Little Death” and a metaphor for sexual climax), the first work by European choreographer Jiri Kylian to be acquired by Pacific Northwest Ballet. With six men, six women, and six foils the piece has been described as exuding energy, silence, and sexuality. It does just that.

    Petite Mort starts with six men facing upstage backing slowly toward the orchestra pit in silence. The stillness is broken at first only by the sound of the swords cutting through the air. The men partnering with their swords create a dangerous tension and excitement. The choreography plays between the men, the swords, the women and dark, baroque style dresses. These dresses, at times, appear to dance completely on their own. There are some light hearted moments with the foils and the dresses that allowed the audience a laugh and provided a needed respite.

    A special treat in this performance included partnering between two of the company’s married couples: Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza and Lindsi Dec and Karel Kruz. In the sensual pas de deux, these real-life married couples, along with principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Kaori Nakamura, showcased both precision in movement as well as emotion.

    I look forward to more pieces from this brilliant choreographer.

    The music (Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major - Adagio and Piano Concerto in C Major – Andante) also warrants special mention. With the resignation of Maestro Stewart Kershaw, Allan Dameron is acting Music Director and Conductor. Dameron performed masterfully as both pianist and conductor for this piece.

    Mopey

    This 14-minute male solo of “adolescent meltdown” was first performed by PNB in 2005. The cult classic, performed by soloist, James Moore was pure perfection.

    Moore’s fluidity of movement demonstrated both his raw strength and masculine grace. The agony of the journey from boy to man with all of the temptations and mistakes made along the way was nothing short of mesmerizing.

    For three perspectives on Mopey, see seattledances blog interview with James Moore and two other dancers cast for this run, Soloist Benjamin Griffiths and Principal, Jonathan Poretta.

    The Seasons

    This was the world premiere of The Seasons, choreographed by Val Caniparoli. The Seasons is a balletic allegory of the four seasons danced to the music of Alexander Glazunov (Op.67, 1899). The Seasons is served up against a simple and very striking set and presented with innovative costume design. Both set and costumes were designed by Sandra Woodall. I cannot even begin to describe the brilliance in executing these costume design concepts. Check out this video posted by PNB as a special thanks to the costume shop for a taste:  PNB's The Seasons Costume Preview.

    The Seasons opened in winter and it appeared that it was snowing stars. Thus the magical blend of contemporary and classical ballet began. There were delightful gnomes lighting fires to melt the snow and change the scene to spring. Kaori Nakamura as the Swallow truly took flight—both on her own and with the aid of the Zephyr, Lucien Postlewaite. You could see the fun and frolic in Barry Kerolis as a faun. With its cast of birds, satyrs, fauns, flowers and gnomes, this piece has something for everyone.

    West Side Story Suite

    West Side Story is an abbreviated version of the musical of the same name. Choreographer Jerome Robbins (along with Peter Genarro) extracted this sequence of dances originally for the New York City Ballet in 1995.

    This piece is just plain fun and allows the dancers to try their hand at singing and showing off a completely different style. Principal, Carla Körbes was a delight as the spunky, Anita seeming to be transformed both in looks (her blonde hair covered in a dark wig) and technique.

    PNB’s Director’s Choice runs from November 5–15, 2009.
    Don’t miss it!

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