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Casting for February program/Reviews


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#16 sandik

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Posted 01 February 2006 - 10:49 PM

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.

#17 Nyala

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 06:22 AM

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

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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.

#18 Helene

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 07:34 AM

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. 

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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.

#19 tx2182

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 05:17 PM

Does anyone know if Lucien got promoted??

#20 Helene

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Posted 02 February 2006 - 07:03 PM

Does anyone know if Lucien got promoted??

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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.

#21 Joshua

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 07:50 AM

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.

#22 Helene

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 08:23 AM

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.

#23 SandyMcKean

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 12:38 PM

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.

#24 Helene

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 01:32 PM

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.

#25 Helene

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Posted 05 February 2006 - 07:18 PM

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.

#26 Joshua

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Posted 06 February 2006 - 07:40 AM

I too attended Saturday's matinee after seeing Thursday's opening night. The casting was the same for both Ancient Airs and Dances and Red Angels.

I couldn't agree with you more about Karel Kruz. I was truly taken with his performance and thought the pairing with Patricia Barker was brilliant. I don't think I'll be able to make any of the Lallone/Herd performances for comparison. :(

I am glad to have seen both couples perform Kiss. James Moore and Mara Vinson performed with an urgency that kept me at a distance from the piece. It is interesting about the length of the ropes and weight of the dancers. After seeing Casey Herd and Kari Brunson perform on Saturday I was much more engaged in the piece. The tone was very different and the theme of longing more poignant. I suppose, after reading your comments, this had to do with the timing, mostly the amount of time (although only seconds different) the couples spent apart reaching for one-another. I would like to see Moore & Vinson again to see if my perception has changed.

I love Red angels and hope to see more Dove in the future. Saturday was the third time I had seen this casting of the piece. So, I am excited to see what Friday night's casting will bring.

The is a lot I can say about Nine Sinatra Songs, however I do need to get back to work. I will say that I too was disconcerted by Nadeau's character in the piece. There was a ragdoll quality to the way she was thrown around. I would say that Kaori Nakamura in that part exhibited a different character - one that dished out as much as she received. This certainly made the part a little more palatable.

I am curious, Helene, if you are still concerned about the lack of opportunities for PNB's company after seeing the breadth of what has been offered in this program?

#27 Helene

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Posted 06 February 2006 - 09:22 AM

I am curious, Helene, if you are still concerned about the lack of opportunities for PNB's company after seeing the breadth of what has been offered in this program?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

What I am is greedy. After spending several decades watching NYCB two-five times a week, I didn't like guest stars there -- with two exceptions -- any more than I like them here, for the very same reason: no matter how many younger dancers were given opportunities, there was a guest taking a slot. The exceptions were first for major celebrations, when the casting showed a tribute to Balanchine from his alma mater and from the "children" who formed their own companies, whose training showed a fidelity to him. The second was when injury and exhaustion had decimated the male contingent, so that partnering became risky, and outside partners were hired. Otherwise, I'd rather have seen an underused soloist (a NYCB issue) or a corps member dance.

Just like here, there are a number of dancers that aren't getting a chance for a major role whom I would have been thrilled to see instead of guest stars. It has nothing to do with who they are: I loved Thomas in Apollo, and I saw Weese give a luminous performance of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 with NYCB during one of my return trips.

I would rather see NYCB come to Seattle, and be a performance in the subscription season, like Russell described in a season before I moved here. (Australian Ballet took the first subscription slot the year I moved; that was the last time this was done.) I would love to see Miranda Weese dancing with her company. Ideally, it would be an exchange, however much a pipe dream this is, with a union compromise so that the orchestras could play for each other.

This is a personal preference.

#28 doug

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Posted 06 February 2006 - 09:37 AM

I like that idea, too. NYCB came to Seattle in 1986 and presented a number of performances in rotating rep as part of PNB's season.

#29 sandik

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Posted 06 February 2006 - 09:51 AM

I like that idea, too. NYCB came to Seattle in 1986 and presented a number of performances in rotating rep as part of PNB's season.

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Thanks for bringing this up -- I remember that season very clearly, particularly the rush to get tickets when they went on sale. It was back before online ticketing, and several of us were dialing and re-dialing the box office phone number that morning, just like we'd do for rock concert tickets!

#30 Helene

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 09:15 AM

Did anyone attend the conversation with Shelley Washington at Elliot Bay Bookstore on Sunday 29 January? Kelly Boal (nee Cass), Stacy Caddell, and Shawn Stevens were also listed on the website. A friend who had seen the Tharp company perform the work when it first premiered, told me it was great. Could anyone report on the arc of the discussion?


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