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sandik

Casting for February program/Reviews

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I think the pairings are particularly exciting. I'm looking forward to seeing Nakamura and Poretta, Korbes and Maraval, Nadeau and Wevers, Barker and Cruz, among the many others.

And Le Yin is back, but no Bold :) (He and Nadeau make a particularly striking pair.)

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And Le Yin is back, but no Bold :)  (He and Nadeau make a particularly striking pair.)

I'll be very interested in seeing Le Yin -- he's been in and out often enough that I've seen very little of him.

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Thanks to Mme. Hermine for the following item in today's links:

PNB's modern "Valentine": no tutus — but lots of Sinatra

Among the various casts of "Red Angels" will be guest artist Rasta Thomas, who danced a dazzling "Apollo" in Seattle with the Dance Theater of Harlem a few years ago. Miranda Weese, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, also will make a guest appearance with PNB for "Valentine." She will dance two performances of "Ancient Airs and Dances," a neoclassical ballet choreographed by Richard Tanner in 1992.

Both Thomas and Weese must be performing in the second week's casts, which haven't been posted as of today. (The Thomas listed in "Couple 6" of Sinatra Suite is Jodie Thomas.)

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Could anyone give some thought to why Peter would be bringing in guest artist to such a hugely talented company?(though I don't see them perform..)

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Could anyone give some thought to why Peter would be bringing in guest artist to such a hugely talented company?(though I don't see them perform..)

I don't know, but I'm trying very hard to fight feeling grumpy that one of the limited performances that will be danced by Thomas or Weese is an opportunity lost for a dancer in the company.

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Both Thomas and Weese must be performing in the second week's casts, which haven't been posted as of today.

At Friday's $5 Friday Studio Rehearsal, Peter Boal had mentioned these two performances would be during week 2.

I don't know, but I'm trying very hard to fight feeling grumpy that one of the limited performances that will be danced by Thomas or Weese is an opportunity lost for a dancer in the company.

I would agree that with such a limited run of the reps that this could be seen as pushing out the chance for a member of PNB to showcase their talents. However, I don't think that this is a lost opportunity. Both Thomas and Weese are incredible dancers that members of PNB's company wouldn't usually get to perform with. (I think Taurean Green danced with Thomas during his DTH days.) I also think it is a credit to PNB that they are able to invite guest artists of such callibre. So, I personally am looking forward to catching at least one if not both of the performances.

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Could anyone give some thought to why Peter would be bringing in guest artist to such a hugely talented company?(though I don't see them perform..)

This is an interesting development. Stowell and Russell had to grapple with the "guest or don't guest" situation very early in their tenure -- the board of directors pretty much insisted that they hire guest artists for the opening of their original Swan Lake (a couple years after they joined the company) when they felt that the company members were more than capable of the challenge. And they often told the story of how the guest artist took an obvious fall (right on the fanny) only to get up and perform with aplomb, as is often the case -- they felt that it was a lesson for their less-experienced board members. Although there was the occassional guest, for the most part they were determined to give company members as many chances to perform as possible.

Of course I'm very pleased at the chance to see Thomas and Weese without leaving my time zone, but like everyone I'm wondering if this is a one-off or the start of a trend.

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I have a feeling that ticket sales will determine whether it's a trend or not. I've only seen Thomas dance a few times but I think Seattle will enjoy getting a look at Miranda Weese.

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Curses! I looked up the schedule and I can't go see Weese.

I can understand not wanting company dancers to miss out on opportunities, but. If Weese got herself invited to San Francisco to dance Ballo Della Regina, for example, I sure wouldn't cry about it.

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As of today, Miranda Weese is scheduled to dance in Couple 2 in Ancient Airs and Dances on:

Friday, 10 February, 7:30pm

Saturday, 11 February, 7:30pm.

Rasta Thomas is scheduled to dance in Couple 1 of Red Angels on:

Friday, 10 February, 7:30pm

Sunday, 12 February, 1pm.

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I have a feeling that ticket sales will determine whether it's a trend or not.  I've only seen Thomas dance a few times but I think Seattle will enjoy getting a look at Miranda Weese.

Since the company only announced the casting for the second week (the week with the guest artists) today, I don't know that they're really thinking of the effect on ticket sales.

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Why get so worked up about it in the first place?

Peter Boal is hardly using some out of shape or aging, has-been "names" to beef up the box office. Frankly, I think the Seattle audience will be thrilled to see these two accomplished artists, both of whom are very much in their prime and have so much to offer (especially for pieces that really could use the services of a star performer).

Moreover, it seems hypocritical (not to mention parochial, but there I did) to regard the guest appearances of PNB dancers with NYCB or other companies as conferring honor to PNB and then see something invidious in bringing in distinguished, outside dancers occasionally to Seattle as guests.

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Suppose that the guests are coming to check out the company and Seattle. And that the company and audience are similarly checking out the guests? Isn't that step 1 in a potentially interesting process?

America clearly has two major companies, but there is no reason not to change this number to three. What other American company is better than PNB in terms of audience, talent pool in place, and quality of leadership to effect such an upgrade? What other company, including the 'majors', has an AD who even begins to compare with Peter Boal in terms of prestige and ability to attract talent? It would not be an overnight process, and it would be presumptuous to begin with a fanfare of trumpets. It would be a shame to abort such a possibility with parochialism.

What is wrong with trying to get better?

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Why get so worked up about it in the first place? 

Peter Boal is hardly using some out of shape or aging, has-been "names" to beef up the box office.  Frankly, I think the Seattle audience will be thrilled to see these two accomplished artists, both of whom are very much in their prime and have so much to offer (especially for pieces that really could use the services of a star performer).

Moreover, it seems hypocritical (not to mention parochial, but there I did) to regard the guest appearances of PNB dancers with NYCB or other companies as conferring honor to PNB and then see something invidious in bringing in distinguished, outside dancers occasionally to Seattle as guests.

My comment was that there are a limited number of performances given by PNB, and that it was an opportunity lost to PNB dancers. If PNB had over 100 performances a season (not including Nutcracker), like NYCB, I wouldn't consider this an issue, because the many dancers in the company who can give a "star" performance would have been given their own opportunities.

I think parochialism is insisting that what comes from the "big city" must be better than what one has.

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I don't know if I'd characterize it as "worked up," but we are all very interested in seeing what kind of changes take place in company over the next couple of years. No one is complaining about the chance to watch some very skilled artists, but after 27 years of one set of parameters, we're curious to see where this might go next.

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I think parochialism is insisting that what comes from the "big city" must be better than what one has.

Well now I'd probably have to retort that such defensiveness can be construed as a sign of provincialism as well. I don't think that I or anyone else who has posted to this thread has suggested that PNB dancers are not as talented as "big city" dancers or capable of giving star performances.

Why not try out the "big picture" view, as suggested by drb? Perhaps the selective use of guest artists is but one manifestation of a long range plan for audience development that eventually will lead to longer Seattle seasons with more opportunities for PNB dancers.

In the meantime, I feel sure that those who choose to attend those performances will enjoy Weese in 'Ancient Airs & Dances.' She has performed frequently in this ballet, which benefits immensely from her high energy, gracious and generous performing style. And Thomas is likely to do well in 'Red Angels,' another piece that needs to be carefully cast.

I apologize if this commentary is tiresome. I certainly did not intend to go on for this length and I did not really feel that the comment I quoted deserved a reply. However, I am tired of free discussion being stifled by the "definitive" pronouncements of a few. Perhaps that is part of the reason why the PNB forum generates comparatively less discussion than some of the other company forums.

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I certainly did not intend to go on for this length and I did not really feel that the comment I quoted deserved a reply. 

That's what a discussion board is for.

If you prefer not to get replies to your posts, you may consider blogging instead. Ballet Talk has a blog module; please see the link at the top of each page.

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Does anyone know if Lucien got promoted??

Postlewaite is still listed on the website as a member of the Corps, and there's nothing in the Press section on the PNB site that shows a press release with an announcement. If we hear anything official about promotions, we'll be sure to post it in the PNB forum.

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After last night's performance, I think its clear that there will be no lack of opportunities for all of PNB's company to showcase its talents. With 13 principal couples in this rep, there was plenty opportunity to see dancers who I had not seen much of in the past. Here are just a few that come to mind:

Karel Kruz - His pairing with Patricia Barker in Ancient Airs and Dances was impressive. He matched her poise and grace step-for-step.

Lesley Rausch & Jordan Pacitti - They performed Red Angels at the Season Opening Gala this year, and after a few months hiatus returned to the part with the confidence and athleticism that hit the mark.

James Moore - I was taken with his performance in Mopey earlier this season, and the subtleties he teased out in Kiss were beatiful.

Chalnessa Eames & Anton Pankevitch - Theses two turned in a fantastic performance for "One for My Baby" with a great mix of humor and sexuality.

Josh Spell - Paired with Jodie Thomas, Josh was a pleasure to watch. I can't remeber the last time I've seen two people so happy just to be dancing.

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Excellent news, Joshua. I won't be able to see the program until tomorrow's matinee and then next weekend, and I look forward to it.

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I saw Friday's performance (2/3).

What a wonderful mixed program. I didn't get "transported" by all of it, but "Nine Sinatra Songs" was brilliant IMHO. I've always loved Tharp. She was certainly there last nite, but I've never seen her choreography so subtly subdued under a style so prosaic as ballroom dancing. I thought "here is a genius at work".

I'm no expert, but I can't imagine too many ballet companies that could field the talent it must take to pull a ballet like Nine Songs off so well. They did humor, elegance, athleticism, sensuality, technique, energy, SPEED all at once nearly all the time. I rose to my feet (something I don't often do).

For me seeing Nakamura and Wevers was breath-taking. Lesley Rausch is someone who I watch and she always blows me away as a corp dancer. The combo of Imler and Porretta was brilliant casting IMO -- so different on the surface, but so alike underneath (just like the work itself).

In addition, I can't say enough about the high calibre of skill shown in Red Angels: Kobres & Maraval, and Nakamura & Porretta.

P.S. I'm brand new here.....just stumbled on this forum. Glad to know it's here.

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Welcome to Ballet Talk, Sandy, and thank you for posting about Friday's performance! We're glad you found us.

I'm just about to go to this afternoon's performance. Sadly, I'll miss the Nakamura/Poretta pairing in Red Angels; I think they are a wonderful and dynamic pair. But I'm really looking forward to it, and hopefully there won't be any trees down on my way to Seattle Center after the wind storm we've been having.

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It's been noted in other threads which discuss contemporary ballet that Kylian, Duato, and a number of other contemporary choreographers, and from the few Wheeldon ballets I've seen, I'd include him, that there was a change from hierarchical to a "democratic" structure, where most roles in a give ballet are more or less equal. This makes sense for a company with a relatively small number of dancers (12-30), but the mid-sized companies -- 35-50 or so -- have a hard choice to make: to produce ballets that provide the full gamut of "growth" roles, i.e., everything from the small, breakout solos for corps members, to demi-soloist roles, to soloist roles, to character parts, to principal roles -- or to produce and cast works in which there are a large number of principal "sink or swim" roles, with little corps work or growth roles. For Valentine, Boal chose the latter, but chose a remarkable mix of dances that accomplished one of the critical things normally associated with hierarchical ballets: the three contemporary works brought out not only the potential but also showed a significant number of dancers from all ranks in a new light.

The program opened with Richard Tanner's Ancient Airs and Dances. In the post-performance Q&A for yesterday's matinee, Boal said he chose this opener because it would be familiar to audiences used to Russell/Stowell programming. Originally choreographed for the 1992 Diamond Project (NYCB), it is a gentle, neo-classical work for three principal couples, two demi-soloist couples, and four corps couples, to a familiar score by Respighi, one of those pieces you've heard, but may not know you have. The corps roles are not the super-corps roles like Barocco or Rubies, but there was enough to want to see a lot more of each of the dancers: Eames/Johnston/Kitchens/Zimmerman/Ade/Green/Griffiths/Spell. (I got my wish with Spell.) The demi-roles are more substantial, but what a tease to see Lowenberg, Reid, and Pankevitch only in them. (Pacitti, who partnered Lowenberg, danced in Red Angels and Nine Sinatra Songs as well.)

Patricia Barker and Karel Cruz danced Couple 1. Barker at the end of her career is dancing with a a joy and expanse that's been missing from the last few seasons. I saw her partnered for many years with Jeffrey Stanton and lately with Stanko Milov, but matching her with the tall, elegant Cruz was an inspiration. Normally self-effacing, Cruz danced with a spark and extroversion that I've never seen from him before, and it carried to his role in Sinatra. They have terrific chemistry together. I don't mean to make a temperamental analogy, but I think there might be a parallel to Fonteyn's renewal when Nureyev joined Royal Ballet.

Nadeau and Wevers danced Couple 2. While their dancing looks like a contrast in temperament -- Wevers is very pliant, with a burst of energy or movement or the flick of an eye that can be seen at the back of the house, while Nadeau starts with a serene center -- they both sustain the tension necessary for the long, legato phrases of their pas de deux. The most striking part for me was watching Nadeau's sustained turnout and lift from the thigh and pristine placement with which her legs sang long phrases; I found this mesmerizing. I know PNB isn't an Ashton company, but I wish I could see her in the great neoclassical Ashton roles, and I think she would make a wonderful Sylvia.

Imler and Porretta, who danced Couple 3, seem to see the same finish line in whatever ballets they dance; the way they get there may be different, but it's perfectly complimentary. Porretta will do a virtuoso phrase with crispness and attack, and Imler will counter, but with little visible preparation, which seems to slow time down. (I've watched this over and over in her toughest virtuoso roles, and I'm always astonished at how she does this.)

Kiss is duet, part aerial, that is performed with ropes and harnesses; the dancers wear jeans and tank tops. It was choreographed by modern dance choreographer Susan Marshall in 1987; Guillermo Resto, who danced with Mark Morris for many years, was one of the two men who performed the role. In the Q&A Boal noted that the theater in which it was first performed was very small; the ropes were 27 feet long, as opposed to the 40 foot long ropes used at McCaw Hall. He said that PNB was the first ballet company to perform the work, and the first company to perform the Arvo Part's score to a live orchestra. This was partly necessary because the work takes longer, partly due to the length of the ropes, and the additional time varied by cast. Brunson, who with Herd spoke at the Q&A, noted that she and Herd are taller, and their performance is a minute longer than Vinson and Moore's. Boal said that he cast the piece with the two couples, not knowing which pairing would work; neither has been cast together with any regularity, if ever. He sounded proud of his dancers when the stagers from the Susan Marshall Company, Kristin Hollinworth and Luke Miller, liked both couples.

Kiss is a sensual work with explicitly sexual passages that are never graphic (if that makes any sense), with exquisite airborne sections. For me, it created an emotional wave, and I was engaged for every second. I'll know after seeing it a couple of more times next week whether this was because it was so new, or if it has the same gripping power after repeated viewings, but I'm very much looking forward to finding out. I wish I had seen Kiss after Red Angels. The few minutes between ballets was not enough to regroup. Perhaps a full intermission might not have been, because it felt like a movie I'd think about over and over again for weeks afterwards, but Red Angels was almost like an intrusion. That said, the stellar performances by Wevers, Rausch, and Pacitti forced back my attention; these dancers are such treasures. (For some reason, I kept imagining Rausch in The Cage.) Lallone's performance seemed pale by contrast, in a role I thought she'd eat up, but she took a perplexingly soft approach. I have no question that what I saw was ballet, fully rooted in the classical vocabularity.

Nine Sinatra Songs would have been worth it to see all of those gorgeous women in those beautiful Oscar de la Renta dresses, and all of those beautiful men in black tie, even James Moore, when his character and his clothes (deliberately) looked three sheets to the wind. I really loved the traditional ballroom parts of this suite, but the work itself less so when Tharp got clever and, in my opinion, busy.

This time it was Kari Brunson paired with Karel Cruz, in the opening "Softly As I Leave You," both the picture of elegance. Rachel Foster and Le Yin followed in "Strangers in the Night," another elegant dance. I felt a twinge to see Le Yin, both because he is back, looking great after an injury, but also because with his dark hair combed back, his striking cheekbones, and his ability to wear black tie as if he were born in it, for a moment, I thought Jock Soto was back, too. "My Way" was a striking contrast to the first two dances, and the first of four in which comedic skills were crucial. James Moore played the lush brilliantly and Maria Chapman was equally brilliant as his elegant straight-woman, who was tossed and turned and dropped and turned into a pretzel (from which she elegantly untwisted). After "My Way" for the first three couples, Noelani Pantastico and Jordan Pacitti performed a comedy-driven dance to "Somethin' Stupid." This dance was the first inkling I had of Tharp's theatrical genius; each of the four comedic pieces was entirely different both dynamically and temperamentally.

What followed was for me the first highlight of the dance: Carla Korbes and Jeffrey Stanton in "All the Way." Stanton too looked like he was born to wear black tie, but he conveyed an aura of a different, more elegant era. Stanton has a tendency to be self-effacing as a partner and fade into the background, but not this time: Korbes wouldn't let him. She emitted such a radiance towards him, and held him in an eyelock from which he couldn't retreat, and he met her there. For me, they were as convincing a relationship as Brunson's and Herd's in Kiss. An amazing pairing.

"Forget Domani" was a complete contrast, invigorated by the zany energy of Jodie Thomas, in a ruffled fuscia dress, and Josh Spell, who looked like they were having a ball. It was disconcerting seeing Nadeau pushed around by Herd in "That's Life;" the partnering was incredibly intricate, and the performance was edgy.

The second highlight was the finale, a reprise of "My Way," in which all of the couples danced. Gone were the comedic elements, and it was primarily the comedic couples that were such an eye-opener. I had expected the women to be elegant, and Chapman, Pantastico, Thomas, and Nadeau were elegant and romantic, but the men were a relevation: I had never seen Josh Spell dance with such character-driven verve. (Who knew he could tango or turn into a completely convincing toreador?) James Moore morphed into Fred Astaire. What an afternoon.

We've had a lot of discussion on Ballet Talk about whether ballet companies should be performing modern dance or works by modern dance choreographers. Would PNB have been better off performing Wheeldon, for example? (While Nine Sinatra Songs did not use ballet vocabulary or technique, it was unusual in that it didn't employ much modern dance technique, and Kiss was primarily an aerial work.) I would argue that the way in which the dancers extended themselves dramatically in creating character will reap dividends in the classic story ballets in particular and will make future casting feel inevitable. I think the audience learned a great deal about these dancers from these two works.

I went with a friend with whom I've been attending since a couple of years before the move in to Mercer Arena. She had to take last year off. She commented after the performance that she was very happy with all of the new dancers Boal had hired. I told her that there were only one new apprentice and three new dancers: Korbes, Griffiths, and Pankevitch, and that all of the rest of the dancers were hired by Russell and Stowell, and many had received pre-professional training at the PNB school. She was astonished. Boal has grasped the opening he has at the beginning of his tenure to give the opportunity to the dancers to capture the audience's attention. What a gift to us.

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