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  • In a relationship!

    Prinicipal Dancers James Moore & Kaori Nakamua in Roméo et Juliette

    Pacific

    Huffington Post has an in-depth interview with Pacific Northwest Ballet's Artistic Director, Peter Boal and Principal Dancers, James Moore & Kaori Nakamura about Jean-Christophe Maillot's version of Roméo et Juliette.


  • 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!

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Roméo et Juliette"

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura and soloist James Moore in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette.  Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    I recently had the privilege of viewing the matinee performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Roméo et Juliette.   I was prepared to be delighted and entertained, being a tremendous fan of PNB already.   However, I must admit I was not prepared for the high caliber of dancing coupled with such flawless character interpretation as this.

    The PNB dancers breathed new life into Jean-Christophe Maillot’s intricate adaptation.   From the moment I saw actual credits rolling across the screen, I knew this would be no ordinary ballet with a modern twist.   This was history in the making.

    The scrawling black and white credits soon gave way to sets that were clean, pure and abstract.   The lighting played a greater role than I’d seen in the past, able to change the entire feel of a scene from a misty dream-like state one minute, to a cold starry night the next.

    The dancers were so in tune with their characters, you easily became lost in the performance.

    Kaori Nakamura’s Juliette was young, fresh and a bit of a “spoiled, wild child”.   From “flashing” her nurse (bad girl!), to her refusal to obey her Mother’s wishes and marry Paris, Nakamura successfully channels all the feisty rebelliousness of the teen years.  This is Nakamura's first time performing as Juliette, and she beautifully exceeds all expectations.

    James Moore’s Romeo is everything you’d expect from a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks.  He’s playful, rambunctious, headstrong, and a bit of a show-off, especially with the ladies.  Yet for all his flaws, Moore’s Romeo was a character you couldn’t help but fall in love with.

    Olivier Wevers did a superb job as Friar Laurence. As both a silent narrator and active participant to this tragedy, his performance is raw and heartbreaking; his anguish palpable. He is forever trapped in a nightmare of his own making, desperate for forgiveness that will never come.

    Principal dancer, Olivier Weavers as "Friar Lawrence" with the two Acolytes (Jordan Pacitti and Jerome Tisserand

    Principal

    Equally magnificent was the athleticism of the Friar’s two Acolytes, played by Jordan Pacitti and Sean Rollofson.  So much of their movement was done in slow, exaggerated motion: the turns, lifts, and carefully executed rolls off the stage were riveting and poetic.

    Her Nurse, expertly played by Chalnessa Eames, was clearly outwitted--and at times overwhelmed--by her young charge’s antics. Although the Nurse’s movements were silly and comedic, they carried an undertone of seriousness to her tasks at hand. There was no question regarding her devotion to Juliette.

    Mara Vinson’s Lady Capulet was simply magnificent. From the moment she came into view she exuded superior control and confidence. Every inch the powerful matriarch, Vinson gave a performance so compelling I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

    Seth Orza was a very convincing Tybalt. He successfully conveyed his character’s anger, sense of family pride, and deep loathing of the Montague’s. His movements were commanding, intimidating, and breath-taking.

    Mercutio and Benvolio played by Barry Kerollis and Josh Spell, round out the obnoxious Montague bunch. They live to aggravate and annoy the Capulets, most especially Tybalt. They played their roles as troublesome, arrogant pests with a hint of boyish foolishness, to the fullest.

    Jeffrey Stanton’s portrayal of Paris was perfect. He was quiet, unassuming, gentlemanly; a stark contrast from Tybalt and Romeo.

    Lesley Rausch played a sexy, sassy Rosaline. Her character is well-aware of her beauty and uses it to full advantage.

    Story Highlights

    The attraction between Romeo and Juliette was undeniably beautiful. The Balcony scene served as an exquisite moment of foreplay, aching with longing. Their wedding was simple and elegant; their wedding night resonating with passion and joy. It was in that moment that Juliette became the pursuer, with her Romeo succumbing to her charms. Watching these two, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was witnessing pure magic.

    With the dramatic fight scene at the end of Act II, the audience is suddenly catapulted into the midst of Friar Laurence’s nightmare. Like one possessed, he digs his fingers into the set as it moves eerily across the floor, trying in vain to stop the next chain of events.The terror unfolds in slow motion as the distraught Friar Laurence watches on in agony. This is the moment he was dreading. This is the moment when everything falls apart.

    Principal Dancers Bakturel Bold (Tybalt) and Jonathan Poretta (Mercutio)

    Principal

    As the action resumes normal speed, the brutality and its aftermath hit you full-force. Lady Capulet flails about in a wild rage, her grief unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Paris must half-carry, half-drag her away from Tybalt’s lifeless form. Her heart takes another devastating blow with the loss of her daughter. She bitterly clings to the walls as if to say, “Take me now! I can’t bear this any longer!” As a mother, you feel her cries echo through your heart as she doubles over repeatedly in anguish. Yet her reaction is nothing compared to Romeo’s. As we know, Friar Laurence’s letter has not reached him in time. Romeo cannot—will not—bear this excruciating loss.

    As Juliette awakens from her slumber and discovers that her cherished Romeo is no more, you feel her gut-wrenching loss. Her body is wracked with sobs, her horrified expression crying out, “This was not how it was supposed to be!”

    Unable to bear the scene before him, Friar Laurence turns his back toward the grief-stricken Juliette and clings to the wall in shame and helplessness. Juliette then strangles herself and gently falls across her beloved’s body.

    Conclusion

    I was absolutely enthralled by this performance. It was magical, poignant, thrilling, devastating and beautifully complex. The dancer’s dramatic expressions, the careful subtleties of movement, and the striking character development work together to provide a rich, new layer to this Shakespearean tragedy. I'm so thankful to Peter Boal for adding this production to the company's repertoire.

    What may have initially felt like a bold move to my "classically inclined" mind, the performance left me with an even deeper respect for PNB as a whole. This is a company that is clearly up to any challenge a choreographer or director may throw their way.

    My co-worker and companion on this trip, Lisa-Marie, also found the performance captivating. In fact, this was her first time ever seeing a ballet so I'll let her reaction speak for itself: "I am spoiled for life! I can never see another ballet again without comparing it to Romeo et Juliette."

    Run—do not walk—to McCaw Hall and get your tickets to see Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Romeo et Juliette. You will not be disappointed.

    By Denise Opper

    Media Relations: Vala Dancewear/Class Act Tutu All Photos © Angela Sterling

    James Moore and Kaori Nakamura Romeo et Juliette

    Pacific

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