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Serenade/Carmina Burana Program

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#1 Helene



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Posted 19 April 2004 - 02:32 PM

I saw the Serenade/Carmina Burana program on Saturday afternoon. My general experience of Serenade over several dozen performances has been that the opening tableau and slow intro are where the corps show unison, and if there is a problem, it appears later on. It may have been partly the (unusual for me) vantage point in the back of the Orchestra, but in this performance, not only were the body types contrasting -- one of the shortest and thinnest girls was in the downstage right point directly in front of one of the tallest and fullest girls -- but the angles of the arms, necks, heads, and shoulders didn't look uniform as the curtain rose and the corps began its initial movement. Even Patricia Barker's entrance as Waltz Girl seemed heavy, and I wondered if she was okay, or if the grand jete exit wasn't part of this version. Not the most auspicious beginning, but once the corps started to move, the differences between its members blended into unison.

Kaori Nakamura made a splendid entrance as Russian Girl, and her dancing showed a beautiful contrast between soft arms and shoulders and clear and quicksilver leg and footwork. During the quick circle of jetes in the first movement, she had a slight hestitation at the top of each jump, like a little grace note. This version emphasized the diagonals, including some hip thrusts in Nakamura's role, and she danced it as if she was inventing the role. It seemed to me that Russian Girl was the center of the ballet, or at least the protagonist, because of the way she seemed to ignite the swirling corps, and got them to follow.

Kylee Kitchens danced Dark Angel. In the opening movement, she was lush, yet vibrant, and a wonderful contrast to Nakamura. I think the roles she danced in the Balanchine Centennial programs must have given her confidence, because she is so much more vivid than earlier in the season. Once Barker re-entered at the end of the first movement, her performance was right on track, with a sunny sweep to the second movement waltz, and a driving sweep in the third movement. She was partnered by Stanko Milov. I think this version has a few changes for the man, because I was more aware of his role. I remember that when the Waltz Man enters at the end of the first movement, he moves at a diagonal towards the Waltz Girl. Milov seemed to take much the same angle, looking into the wings, that Fate Man takes in the last movement, and it was a chilling moment.

The way that the fourth movement was danced was the biggest change I've seen in the ballet, and I think it starts with something superficial: the women leave their hair up. (And I've always loved the hair.) Just before that, at the end of the third movement, Barker didn't have the "get the hair down" struggle, and her turns and arms were softer as she fell to the ground. When Kitchens emerged with Christophe Maraval, it was as if she was the younger version of Barker's Waltz Girl, resembling her physically more with her hair up, a more severe look. She started with a mission, more like Justice than Mercy. (Or like a dancer on an upward course before experience has a chance to knock her around a bit.) When the Waltz Girl and Dark Angel alternately embrace Fate Man and chaine to side, the turns weren't about the swirling hair -- or getting it down in the first place, as the SFB ballerinas I saw a couple of weeks ago had to do -- they were so much softer, as if there was a force pulling them back slightly as they moved away, not rushing towards and away. The entire movement was softer and by avoiding any semblance of melodrama, it was that much more tragic. For the first time, I understood why Serenade is a desert island ballet.

There were two corps members who were standouts: The first was the tiny blond dancer who opened the ballet in the stage right front point; I don't recognize her from the program, and she may be one of the professional division students who supplemented the corps. While her arms tended to be a bit angular, she had lovely epaulement throughout, and her opening pose was wonderful. The second was Tempe Ostergren, who was also wonderful in Carmina Burana, and who caught my eye partly because of her resemblance to figure skater Susanna Poykio, both literally and in the clear, free, complete quality of her movement.

There was a lot of superb dancing in Carmina Burana. The three couples in the opening movement -- Kitchens/Ade, Rausch/Gorboulev, and Lowenberg/Herd -- made the most out of the differences in the choreography, which doesn't seem that easy given the rather low lighting and identical unitards. Jordan Pacitti, Josh Spell, and Lucien Postlewaite are as interesting a set of three young men dancing together that I've seen since Martins cast the young Boal, Byars, and Edwards together. Somehow the differences in the way they look and move are unified in the tension they bring to their interactions with each other.

Nakamura and Yin were delightful in the "Primo Vere" movement, but I can't help cringing when she has to change from ballet slippers to pointe shoes in what seems like seconds. I think the choreography for the woman in slippers is stronger than the choreography on pointe, which doesn't look as differentiated from the rest.

"In Taberna" is a powerful piece of music, and while Carrie Imler was striking as the harlot -- I kept thinking that she'd make a great Gamzatti -- it was Olivier Wevers' Guy and Christophe Maraval's Monk who brought down the house. Wevers' performance was not as much of a surprise, because I've seen him dance with the same energy, drama, and vividness before, but Maraval, who is usually cast as Mr. Elegant (which he is), or at least The Grown Up, was a revelation, because this was the first time I've ever seen his Dark Side, and he's really, really, really good at being bad :)

My problem with "Cour d'Amours" is that right after the powerful music and debauchery of "In Taberna," the music becomes childlike on both sides of a soprano/baritone duet, and Stowell has choreographed a dance for a medieval princess, complete with tiara. I think the music and the choreography are tepid by comparison to what preceeded it, and even Louise Nadeau's and Jeffrey Stanton's lovely dancing couldn't make an impact. I think that either the music should be cut until the soprano solo, or that the stage should be left to the singers, (already in character and in costume) during the first half of the movement. Because the "Adam and Eve" pas de deux (as it's usually described here) to the soprano solo can stand up to "In Taberna," and Nadeau was ravishing in it.

Kudos too to the Seattle Choral Company, soprano Catherine Haight, tenor Paul Karaitis, and, especially baritone Erich Parce, who has a beautiful voice of great range, has terrific stage presence, and who looks at home on a stage full of dancers.

#2 sandik


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Posted 20 April 2004 - 11:20 AM

"In Taberna" is a powerful piece of music, and while Carrie Imler was striking as the harlot -- I kept thinking that she'd make a great Gamzatti

Kudos too to the Seattle Choral Company, soprano Catherine Haight, tenor Paul Karaitis, and, especially baritone Erich Parce, who has a beautiful voice of great range, has terrific stage presence, and who looks at home on a stage full of dancers.

Hadn't thought of Imler as Gamzatti, but you're right -- I think she could be quite good. She seems to have a very clear sense of the Petipa repertory, even in the excerpted version, she's excellent in Paquita.

And yes, Parce was fabulous on opening night too!

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