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New Beginnings at OBTYes, indeed!


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#1 Watermill

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Posted 11 October 2003 - 10:37 PM

A marvelous inaugural for Christopher Stowell and his new OBT. To see Colleen Neary, Helgi Tomasson, Kent Stowell, Patricia Barker and Rachel Berman on stage with the company kind of says it all: Stowell is reaching out and things are really going to change. Very much for the better, I think...but he'll need to continue to shape the company to his needs. Some highlights from tonight's performance gave off sparks of what could be...and filled the hall (and my heart) with excitement.

Rubies came off pretty well...seemed a little beyond the company in general, but soloists Yuka Iino and Johnathan Poretta (guesting from PNB) kept it a respectable attempt. But I got to see Balanchine!

Twilight by Tomasson was just beyond gorgeous, well danced by Paul De Strooper & Gavin Larsen. Ms. Larsen displayed a lyricism I haven't seen at OBT in seven years of almost constant attendance. Her performance reminded me of what had been missing and left me even thirstier for more. Her extension, line and especially elegant port de bras were exquisite. A highlight!

Duo Fantasy was fun but after two very strong pieces was noticeably of another level of dance-making. It certainly was not helped by a live violin accompaniment that was flat by 1/4 of a note. (Perhaps it was written by Bolcom that way? Whatever: awfully hard on the earbones)

Company B is such an odd piece....not my cup of T, I guess. (Not sure why, but Taylor rarely is for me) The attempts to bring war time imagery into all that smiley jive just doesn't work. The company certainly danced the heck out of it, though. Larke Hasstedt had the 500 watt sparkle the piece needed. Then, in the middle of things, Kester Cotton knocked the ball out of the park (Sorry: was watching Sox/Yankees earlier) with the title segment solo. His performance was the second highlight of the evening for me. What a catch he is for Stowell...and us.

So: A joyous beginning attended by the Royalty of West Coast Ballet....Chris Stowell definitely has the right idea. I think what I most appreciate was his in your face attempt at Rubies. He must have known the company wasn't right or ready yet for it...but went for it anyway. As if to say: "I'm going to reach for something...might not make it...but let's try!" I predict that in two years it will be well within his grasp.

I look forward to what others think...

#2 BW

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 04:08 AM

Thanks Watermill - so glad you attended and had good reactions!

Do you happen to know if any apprentices danced or was this too much of a gala for that?

#3 Watermill

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 09:26 AM

The one apprentice scheduled to appear in Rubies was sidelined with an injury. None of the others appeared last night, but perhaps will in other performances.

By the way, I was very moved at Stowell's inclusion of Portland's Christensen/ Schumacher/Reed legacy in his program interview. Anytime an artistic director gives half his column inches to a respectful bow to a city's ballet heritage one must applaud both his humility and his perspective.

Meant to include a humorous note from last night...a ceo from a major local corporate sponsor opened the evening with a badly mangled welcoming speech, even refering to OBT as "The Portland Ballet" and mispronouncing "Stowell" (Don't ask me to describe it...don't have the phonetics keys) Then at the final bow, same ceo mis-timed his presentation of a large bouquet...ending up having to place it downstage on floor, getting in the way of the advancing line of bowing dancers. It was all kind of silly. Listen, I know how important corporate support is, but can we keep it in its place: in the program or on banners in the lobby? At least send out the corp PR person who knows how to speak to an audience. Or at least have that person write and rehearse a speech for the ceo. Well, it was good for a couple of chuckles...

#4 Watermill

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 11:33 AM

Apologies...I don't have all the new faces matched with the new names yet...apprentices Ansa Deguchi & Candace Bouchard appeared in Rubies. Both held their own in the corps very nicely.

#5 liebs

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 12:55 PM

I've taken class a few times with Gavin Larsen and she was such a pleasure to watch. Not just beautiful technique but great expressiveness as well. Also a lovely person. You are lucky to get to see her often.

#6 BW

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 02:17 PM

Candace Bouchard is the name I was hoping to hear - very exciting! She is a lovely young woman who used to dance at Ballet Academy East in NYC, and I'm glad to hear she's doing well.

Thanks Watermill, I appreciate the extra added details! :clapping:

#7 Paul Parish

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 03:05 PM

THnaks for the report, Watermill --

Kester Cotton's fans in San Francisco will be thrilled to hear he's getting breaks likethis --

The bugle boy was Stowell's own role in "Company b..."

I don't know if it will help you get a handle on "Company B," but it's a ballet I love, in part because it explains to me how my parents met and got married -- when I saw all those sweet young people from all over thrown amongst strangers by what my father used to call "orders from headquarters," the special etiquette and atmosphere of the canteen situation, the way they ll know that they've got tonight and they may not have tomorrow, that some of them and they don't know who will not come out of this alive, but they'e got to stay cheerful and get the job done.....

#8 Watermill

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 04:21 PM

As the firstborn of a couple who dated during WWII, my dad-to-be in the Navy, I definitely appreciate that angle on Company B, Paul. Grew up with that music on the "Hi-Fi"!
Had Taylor left it as that I think I might have enjoyed it more. But riddling the happy dancers with bullets and strewing the stage with corpses while the Andrews Sisters blissfully harmonize makes for a bold Brechtian dichotomy that either works brilliantly or falls flat. For me it was flat. The energy from the company was explosively joyous...the darkness had no place to go.
The only successful attempt of a similar contrast I can think of is Kubrick's nuclear slo-mos to "We'll Meet Again" to end Dr. Strangelove. But that's perhaps comparing apples & oranges, huh?

Very much looking forward to more Kester Cotton. Hoping to attend next weekend when Kathy Martuzza is featured.

#9 Paul Parish

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 08:13 PM

Who danced "there will never be another you?" The way Grace Madduell did it here made that transition work -- for it's bittersweet, indeeed...... Sara sessions was also wonderful in hte role, and a dancer who left years ago, Deirdre somebody, was maybe best of all in the role, heart-stopping -- they took the ballet around tha emotional bend and delivered the payoff, where one boyfriend after another wheels away back into that parade of grey youth marching across the back

#10 Watermill

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 08:28 PM

Gavin Larsen danced that role and did a beautiful job. The concept almost worked for me at that dramatic point. Just not in the audience for that piece I'm afraid. I certainly appreciate what Taylor is trying to do, however.

#11 Paul Parish

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 09:49 PM

It sounds like a winning program --

who wrote Duo Fantasy? what kind of movement did it have? Bolcom's music? Piano? Kind of harh and noisy/ or what?

ANd another goes up next week?
how was attendance?

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 03:51 AM

I don't know what music Duo Fantasy is set to, but William Bolcom was a student of Darius Milhaud's, so his music is rather neo-impressionist, after the fashion of "Les Six" in the 20s. He is rarely so dissonant and not much given to gimmicks like a flat violin to make his music work.

#13 Watermill

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Posted 13 October 2003 - 04:54 AM

You're right Mel...I fear the violinist may have been at fault. The dynamics of her playing were unfortunate as well. It was the only live music of the evening.

Paul, it was a nice program with something for and by everyone.

The Bolcom was for piano & violin, and it careened all over the place from Stravinsky-like clashing chord work to sudden romantic violin solos. Originally choreographed for television by Kent Stowell, it is set in a 20X20 square whose four walls are raised to reveal the 2 women & man dancing in ever-changing molecular valence. A clever and playful pas de trois in a cube meant for the Tube.

Opening night was 95% sold. I have heard the rest of the run is selling well.

The evening was bracketed with a soprano's operatic singing of the National Anthem and the dropping of hundreds of rw&b balloons following Company B. Sounds simplistic or manipulative but what can I say: it worked. Stowell has really impressed me with his thinking about the community he is to serve and how to bring it together.

The same program with some cast changes is repeated through Oct 18.

#14 Watermill

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Posted 20 October 2003 - 07:16 PM

Gosh, not one report from anyone else? Ok, I'll "fill" while someone else hopefully de-lurks.

I attended Thursday...maybe 60% sold...Kathy Martuzza out with an injury...applause for Yuka Iino's entrance in Rubies: one week and she's already a star! She proceeded to dance like she was and then took the Twilight pas and made it her own. This in spite of some very unfortunate partnering. An outstanding dancer showing an impressive range.
More on Kester Cotton in Company B: such beautiful phrasing...found the beats within the beat...very playful, but technique as sharp as a...hmm...let's see...Company B...oh yeah: a bayonet!
Is it just me? If you have to listen to recorded music, shouldn't it be on hiss free state of the art equipment? Geez, I understand saving money on the orchestra, but let's apply some of those funds to better sound. Maybe it was the recordings, but that sort of thing can now be cleaned up relatively easily.

Violin in tune!

Watermill

#15 K8smom

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Posted 20 October 2003 - 09:03 PM

I WISH that I'd been there to report, Watermill! Thanks for yours...one of these days I'll make it up to Portland.


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