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Celebrate Seattle Spring Dance Festival


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#16 Helene

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Posted 20 April 2007 - 11:35 PM

I've been thinking about bodies lately. In Ballet Arizona's performances of "Golden Section" from Twyla Tharp's The Catherine Wheel, the dance impetus was almost entirely horizontal. In contrast, there were four, very tall men: Ross Clarke, Michael Cook, Ian Poulis, and Wesley Tippetts. (Scooting around them, Paola Hartley looked like a jazzed up Little Red Riding Hood running in the woods.) But the true paragon of verticality was Kenna Draxton, who loomed over the stage. Her performance of the Tall Girl role in Rubies, less than an hour before, did not prepare me for that long, lean body in a simple leotard and shorts, with those amazing, lean-muscled legs, in the center of the stage and the action like the mast of a ship.

In tonights performance of Program C, Oregon Ballet Theatre danced Christopher Stowell's Adin, the first ballet he choreographed for his company. The ballet opened with a pas de deux for Kathi Martuza and Paul De Strooper, with a rush onstage by De Strooper through a portal created by curtains upstage left. (I'm assuming that the alphabetical listing of the dancers is coincidental.) He was joined by Martuza in plain beige leotard and tights, Perhaps it was because I was sitting unusually close in the Orchestra, but I could see every well-defined muscle of her legs, which sculpted the movement Stowell gave her. Alison Roper and Ronnie Underwood began their pas de deux as shadows against the cyclotron, which defined their movement in ink. When they emerged from the shadows, in matching beige tights/unitards, again, every muscle and gesture was clear.

In the middle section, Mary Sheldon Scott's Locate, a world premiere, was performed by members of her own company. There was maybe one women who would not have been put on the cigarette and coffee diet if she were to try to join a ballet company: too many hints of hip, small but visible breasts, lots of muscle, but each body envy-worthy, and, boy, could they move.

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In Program C, each of the three sections of the program began with a short piece by Trisha Brown, followed by a pause, and the work of a different choreographer. The first Brown piece was Carmen Overture, set for five women, who walked a stylized, determined, earthbound walk, and six men, who did a stylized torero strut in profile, both across the stage. Miranda Weese and Christophe Maraval were prominent; from among the waves of bodies moving slowly across the stage, Maraval dominated the eye as the toreador in a short and sweet role.

Adin followed after the pause. Set to four Rachmaninoff songs orchestrated by conductor Neil DePonte, which, except for the famous "Vocalise," would not have been out of place in one of the great mid-century American musicals, Stowell created three complementary, but contrasting pas de deux and emotional landscapes, each rich with detail and structure. Martuza and De Strooper were the ardent first couple that was tension-filled without being melodrammatic, even when it ended badly. Anne Mueller and Steven Houser brilliantly danced a charming, delightful dance suggesting semi-mortal creatures. Alison Roper and Ronnie Underwood danced the "Vocalise" with a pure, legato quality. It's a difficult piece of music to keep up the flow on the static group, which makes it a wonderful piece for figure skating, and in the pas de deux, there were a number of skimming, low lifts. The finale blended traits of all three, but they remained differentiated. The lighting by Micahel Mazzola was evocative. My only reservation was the use of the shadow to begin both the "Vocalise" and finale.

OBT is a wonderful company, and the inclusion of Adin showed what strong dancers and artists can do with choreography that is worthy of them.

Opening the second part was Carmen Entre'acte, also set to Bizet's music. In it, Christophe Maraval stood upstage left, while Miranda Weese walked that stylized walk from Carmen Overture, until she reached Maraval, when she did a slow melt to the floor. She was a delight.

Scott's Locate followed. After a long solo for a woman, a number of couples in succession danced a series of sections turning in and around each other, with interlocking and interweaving arms. I suddenly realized that this modern dance company was dancing more of what looked like a social dance than anything I had seen all week. I panicked when one of the women broke in with a red costume (top/shorts) among the white-clad, but, luckily, the piece did not turn into The Dance House, Part II. Gradually, there was a red/white split among the costumes, and the partnering became more intense. I'm not sure what the underlying theme was, but I loved, loved the electronic score by Jarrad Powell.

The last part began with Spanish Dance, set to "Early Mornin' Rain" sung by Bob Dylan. In front of the curtain, which created a shallow, horizontal stage, were five women in white pants and tops, equally spaced, and in profile. When the song began, Miranda Weese, downstage left, began a horizontal walk, like a conga walk, with rhythmic, undulating hips, and she added a slow, sensual port de bras to high fifth. eventually, she spooned right into Kylee Kitchens, whose reaction was to arc backwards a bit in place, and to raise her hand, and eventually lead the conga line. This was repeated with Brittany Reid, Laura Gilbreath, and finally Kari Brunson. This dance was a scream, and Weese captured the hip movement perfectly. (Unless she and/or Brunson were wearing wigs, they cut their long tresses to shoulder-length.)

The program ended with the world premiere of Paul Gibson's Sense of Doubt, partly set for the opening gala last fall, with a pas de trois, double pas de deux, and solo. Gibson added the bookends: an opening, expansive pas de deux that closed softly, for Carla Korbes and Casey Herd, and a finale for all nine dancers. Mara Vinson replaced Chalnessa Eames from the gala, dancing the pas de trois with Benjamin Griffiths and James Moore, who reprised their roles brilliantly, and Jodie Thomas joined Rachel Foster, Lucien Postlewaite, and Josh Spell in the pas de deux, a rich, dynamic set of dances. Noelani Pantastico was like a laser beam in her extended solo, filling the stage.

In the finale, Paul Gibson showed how to give dancers meaty, fruitful choreography, but also how to make them move, which is not a given with a Philip Glass score. The piece received a well-deserved ovation from the crowd. In the midst of this extremely generous festival that reached out to the leaders in dance in and from the Pacific Northwest region, PNB started and ended with winning choreography from two of its own, Gaines and Gibson.

#17 sandik

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Posted 21 April 2007 - 11:21 PM

we just saw Inlets II in the B program


sandik, perhaps I'm in a time wrap, but isn't Inlets in Program A?


You're right -- I'm wrong. Inlets and Remembrances in the same program.

#18 Helene

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 10:57 PM

I went to see round 2 (well, almost) of the Celebrate Seattle Festival, having expected to be able to see only one repeat. I was going to go to the Seattle Chamber Players concert at Cornish, but I couldn't not see Program C again. I'm really glad I did, because I looked at the schedule for next season, and, alas, I'll be out of the country during the "Director's Choice" program, when Paul Gibson's Sense of Doubt will be playing. (And since next season's "Laugh Out Loud Festival" Week 3 begins on Thursday, 17, not Tuesday, I'll miss that, too. But The Kirov dancing Forsythe and Balanchine vs. Susan Stroman isn't that hard a call.) I am so glad I got to see this ballet again.

I deliberately chose different seating sections for each program, so that I could see each work from a new perspective, and in addition to the differences between performance, seeing the works from the ground level vs. from above made a big difference to many of the pieces. In tonight's post-performance Q&A, Carla Korbes talked about how in the first performance, everyone's excited and nervous, but that in the second performance, there's a tendency to relax. She said that tonight, one factor may have been that everyone knew it was the final performance -- the company goes on a well-deserved three-week break before preparing for the "All Stravinsky" program in June -- and they could give it everything. Gibson agreed that tonight's performance was the strongest of the three-in-a-row. Seeing it from a different vantage point really helped to clarify the fantastic use of stage space in the ballet.

Schubert looked stronger to me from the Main Floor (orchestra) last Wednesday. From the First Tier (the back section of the first level), the limited way in which Alleyne used floor space was more obvious. While there were lovely images, there weren't 25 minutes of ideas in this work. I kept thinking of ice dancing though, and I think that a lot of this piece could be distilled into a beautiful free dance. (For Weaver and Poje, the young Canadians, perhaps?)

Seeing Patricia Barker again in Two's Company was bittersweet, as she dances her last performances in one work after another. (According to Boal, she will dance the main role in Symphony in Three Movements in the "All Stravinsky" program, which is the last program of the season, and then for her farewell performance on 10 June, in Le Corsaire Pas de Trois, Ballet Imperial (1st movement), -- edited to add: I got this wrong: it's actually excerpts from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Agon Pas de Deux [both pas de trois will be on the program as well], Swan Lake Act IV, and possibly something else, TBD.)

Schwa was a lot of fun to see from the Main Floor, to focus on individual performances and the choreographic detail, but it was equally strong from above. One of the finer moments in the ballet is in the finale, in the way that the lines of dancers responded to each other, and the way that the men and women did. It showed such a high level of craft, pulling back a little and building to the ending, and eschewing the temptation to get bigger and LOUDER.

Mara Vinson again was phenomenal in her solo, and she danced three of four works on Program A, as well as taking over the role in the Pas de Trois in Sense of Doubt the day before the premiere. According to Paul Gibson in the post-performance Q&A, Chalnessa Eames, who originated the role when it was previewed at the gala, had a family emergency, and couldn't perform. (She was also "She, who remembers" in the gala performance of Remembrances.) His second cast trio woman sprained her ankle, and Vinson, who is second cast for the Pas de Deux in Sense of Doubt stepped in. Kudos to Vinson for dancing such a difficult rep so brilliantly. And for Korbes for the wide variety of styles and roles she danced on all three programs: Cunningham, Dawkins, Gibson, and Caniparoli.

Inlets 2 was a lot richer from close up. Although these performances are the first I've seen of this work, I'm much more used to seeing Cunningham's company in smaller, more intimate venues like Jacob's Pillow. The entire piece felt more dynamic, and the dancers more connected to each other. It seemed flatter to me from First Tier last Wednesday.

When I saw Trisha Brown's Carmen Overture from the right side Main Floor, Miranda Weese was obscured for part of the work. It was only from First Tier that I could see that she and Christophe Maraval had the same choreography. From the floor side, the full impact of the wall -- Maraval -- she hits before she slowly sinks, walking into the ground. (He was upstage right, not left, as I wrote above.) While I really liked that the Brown piece was broken into multiple segments, each starting the "act," the sections were wonderfully serial and repetitive, in the way that soap operas and cartoons are.

Adin was lovely from above. I hadn't noticed the first time how the couple in "Vocalise" dances together, then seems to have a conversation, then separates into distinct thoughts, until finally coming together again. When they do, there is a tiny moment of Balanchine magic: just as Balanchine could to big sweeping music with a counter-intuitive quietness -- using corps couples in the main Raymonda adagio and in the repeat of the lush melody in the last movement of Serenade, the lifted beats in the Theme and Variations Pas de Deux on the big music -- when the music to "Vocalise" climaxes at the end, Christopher Stowell has the dancers quietly melt forward.

While it was clear how Paul Gibson make his dancers eat up floor space in Sense of Doubt from the floor, it was visceral from the First Tier. Eight dancers looked like twenty. Artistic Directors from across the country should be clammoring for this piece with eight brilliant roles.

While some of the music was taped -- the Piazzola for Gaines' Schwa, the soundscape, Fuentes, and Simone for Ripple Mechanics, all of the music fo Bhangra Fever, and the music for Locate -- the demand on the live musicians was unprecendented. Allan Dameron's playing in the Schubert Piano Trio No. 2 was crystalline. The balance between violinist Marjorie Kransberg-Talvi and cellist Page Smith was better with the intermediate strings -- Ingrid Frederickson's violin and Scott Ligocki's viola -- in the Dvorak, which was wonderfully rich. Jane Eaglen's rendition of "Traeume" set the mood of "She, who remembers" while the orchestra evoked "The Lovers." The John Cage score for Inlets 2, for four conch shell players, was performed by four percussionists, Paul Hansen, Matthew Kocmieroski, Karen Sunmark, and Mark Williams. The PNB orchestra played Neil DePonte's lovely orchestrations of Rachmaninoff songs with subtlety and grace. The crowning achievement of the orchestra was in the Philip Glass, especially in the deep strings.

In tonight's Q&A, Boal quoted Joan Acocella, who said that the 60's and 70's were the best time to be in NYC, because at 8pm, the curtain went up on NYCB. He said the people would show up, not necessarily knowing what ballets they would see, and that he hoped to gain the Seattle audience's trust so that they will come, no matter what's on the program. Of course, in the 60's and 70's, chances are, that the unknown ballet was by Balanchine or Robbins, program after program; Boal's job in creating a rep to engender that trust is more daunting, although he has three extremely talented choreographers in the company, each with his own voice: Gibson, Gaines, and Wevers.

It's hard to sum up the breath of this festival, but it really feels like it was the right thing to do. Peter Boal and the Company should be very proud of what they accomplished this week.

#19 drb

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 09:21 PM

Helene (or anyone else!), could you please identify the dancers in the two large PNB photos from the NY Times review (Ripple Mechanics and Two's Company)?
http://www.nytimes.c....html?ref=dance

#20 Helene

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 10:15 PM

Ripple Mechanics: The man standing with his arms in a modified high fifth is Batkhurel Bold. Carla Körbes is the woman on the box, and Kiyon Gaines, who choreographed Schwa. is the man on the box.

Two's Company: The man on the left is Batkhurel Bold. (He danced Peter Boal's role.) The couple is Patricia Barker (Stephanie Saland's role), partnered by Karel Cruz (Jeffrey Edwards' role).

Those photos are by Stuart Isett, so The New York Times sent or hired its own photographer.

Peter Boal mentioned in the post-performance Q&A on Wednesday night that Stephanie Saland was in the audience for the performance.

#21 drb

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Posted 24 April 2007 - 05:14 AM

Ripple Mechanics: The man standing with his arms in a modified high fifth is Batkhurel Bold. Carla Körbes is the woman on the box, and Kiyon Gaines, who choreographed Schwa. is the man on the box.

Two's Company: The man on the left is Batkhurel Bold. (He danced Peter Boal's role.) The couple is Patricia Barker (Stephanie Saland's role), partnered by Karel Cruz (Jeffrey Edwards' role).
...

Thank you Helene! Carla Körbes looks more toned than in her last years at NYCB; Patricia Barker always looks like Patricia Barker. Good to see what people I read about look like. What do you think of our vaunted Alastair Macaulay? Certainly here writing in his more reportorial style. Hopefully this publicity will alert those chickens who keep the NYC State Theater empty most of the summer to PNB (we will get Morris's magnjficent Mozart Dances, and a French "ballet" danced to architecture rather than music). What company could look better there? And PNB deserves a first class venue here.


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