PNB Contemporary Classics program
Posted 23 October 2007 - 10:56 AM
George Balanchine’s Agon ~ 50th anniversary
On Thursday, November 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 3 at 7:30 p.m., principal dancers Louise Nadeau and Olivier Wevers will perform Agon’s central pas de deux. The first pas de trois will be performed by soloists Maria Chapman and Leslie Rausch with corps de ballet dancer Benjamin Griffiths. The ballet’s second pas de trois will be performed by principal dancers Mara Vinson and Batkhurel Bold with soloist Karel Cruz.
On Friday, November 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 3 at 2:00 p.m., principal dancers Carla Körbes and Stanko Milov perform the pas de deux. The first pas de trois will be performed by principal dancer Jonathan Porretta with soloist Chalnessa Eames and corps de ballet dancer Kylee Kitchens; and the second pas de trois by principal dancer Noelani Pantastico with soloist Lucien Postlewaite and corps de ballet dancer Seth Orza.
Susan Marshall’s Kiss
Marshall’s Kiss will be performed by principal dancer Mara Vinson and corps de ballet dancer James Moore on Thursday, November 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 3 at 7:30 p.m. Principal dancer Casey Herd and corps de ballet dancer Kari Brunson perform the work on Friday, November 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 3 at 2:00 p.m.
David Parsons’ Caught ~ PNB Premiere!
Principal dancer Jonathan Porretta performs Parsons’ 6-minute solo, Caught, Thursday, November 1 at 7:30 p.m., principal dancer Noelani Pantastico on Friday, November 2 at 7:30 p.m., principal dancer Batkhurel Bold on Saturday, November 3 at 2:00 p.m., and principal dancer Olivier Wevers on Saturday, November 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room ~ PNB Premiere!
In the Upper Room, the third work from Twyla Tharp to enter the company’s repertoire, will feature thirteen PNB dancers for each performance. Principal dancers Batkhurel Bold, Casey Herd, Carrie Imler, Jonathan Porretta, Mara Vinson and Miranda Weese will perform with soloists Maria Chapman, Chalnessa Eames and Lesley Rausch, and corps de ballet dancers Kiyon Gaines, Kylee Kitchens, Jordan Pacitti and Anton Pankevitch on Thursday, November 1 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, November 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 3 at 7:30 p.m. Principal Dancers Batkhurel Bold, Casey Herd, Carrie Imler, Kaori Nakamura, and Mara Vinson will perform with soloists Chalnessa Eames, Lucien Postlewaite and Jodie Thomas, and corps de ballet dancers Rachel Foster, Kiyon Gaines, Benjamin Griffiths, Kylee Kitchens, and James Moore on Saturday, November 3 at 2:00 p.m.
Posted 23 October 2007 - 01:03 PM
The "PNB Fridays" program for Contemporary Classics on Friday, 26 October, is sold out, but there are still the following events before the program opens next Thursday:
CONVERSATIONS WITH PNB — FREE
Sunday, October 28, 2007 ~ 2:00–3:00 p.m.
Elliott Bay Bookstore, 101 S. Main Street, Seattle.
Join PNB Principal Dancer Jonathan Porretta for an informal discussion of PNB’s Contemporary Classics program. Grab a cup of coffee and bring your questions. All Conversations with PNB are FREE of charge.
BALLET PREVIEW — FREE
Rep II: Contemporary Classics - Tuesday, October 30, 2007 ~ 12:00–1:00 p.m.
Microsoft Auditorium, Central Seattle Public Library, 1100 Fourth Ave, Seattle
Join PNB for a lunchtime preview lecture at the Central Seattle Public Library. Education Programs Manager Doug Fullington will offer insights about PNB’s Contemporary Classics program, complete with video excerpts. All lectures are FREE of charge.
PNB LECTURE SERIES
Stacy Caddell on Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room - Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Lecture 6:00–6:50 p.m., The Phelps Center
Dress Rehearsal 7:00–9:30 p.m., McCaw Hall
Join us for an engaging interview with Tharp repetiteur Stacy Caddell during the hour preceding the dress rehearsal. Attend the lecture only or stay for the dress rehearsal. Tickets are $10 for the lecture only, or $20 for the lecture and dress rehearsal. Tickets may be purchased by calling the PNB box office at (206) 441-2424, online at www.pnb.org or in person at the PNB Box Office at 301 Mercer Street.
Posted 02 November 2007 - 12:38 PM
First-timers in Agon are:
Sarah Orza-First Pas de Trois
Carla Korbes, Miranda Weese, and Kiyon Gaines-Second Pas de Trois
Ariana Lallone (with Olivier Wevers), and Lesley Rausch/Karel Cruz in the Pas de Deux
In In the Upper Room:
Noelani Pantastico in Ballet Couples
Please attend and tell us what you think
Posted 12 November 2007 - 01:22 PM
Lesley is from Ohio and joined PNB in 2001. She was promoted to soloist during last season. I first really noticed Lesley on April 15, 2005 when she danced in "The Piano Dance" -- a world premier by PNB ex-dancer Paul Gibson. I've been an enthusiastic fan ever since. (Unfortunately I missed her in Dove's "Red Angels" in 2006 -- others I've talked to seem to have been wow-ed by her in that role.)
Yesterday afternoon she was cast in one of those breakthrough roles ballerinas aspire to: the PdD in Agon (thanks Peter Boal for giving her this chance). Lesley was magnificent (in spite of a fall when her partner Karel Cruz mis-stepped and Leslie envitably tripped on him). It wasn't just her exquisite classical technique, or her musicality with the difficult Stravinsky score, but the presence she created. When Lesley dances I indulge myself and watch her with my binoculars. I pretty much have to miss everything else on the stage to feed my obsession. As I watched Lesley from this perspective of being 5 feet away, I was blown away by the emotion and character she gave this otherwise storyless, totally abstract ballet. I don't know quite how she did this. She was a character moving to the "feeling" of the music, not a dancer doing steps. There were times when she was bending to the floor with her head (sorry I don't know technical terms) when somehow her body and facial expression made the music, her body, her character, and the floor melt together into the whole surely Mr B had in mind. Other times it was a furtive glance at her partner Karel Cruz that spoke volumes. This is a dancer to watch. I predict a bright future. It was great to see her get this chance in a matinee performance that was clearly geared to giving promising soloists and corps members at chance at some bigger roles.
Speaking of younger members. A "dream team" of 3 male dancers, Lucien Postlewaite, Benjamin Griffiths, and James Moore were featured as boomers in Tharp's "In the Upper Room" at this matinee performance. Only Lucien is a soloist and he was promoted to that position only this year. All 3 of these dancers impress me time and time again, but I don't ever remember seeing the 3 of them together like this (as the only dancers on stage). Mon Dieu, we have terrific dancers up and down the ranks!
Now more to the ballet itself. This was a fantastic program for me. Perhaps the most exciting I've seen in years. The title "Contemporary Classics" was delivered in spades. What could be more appropriate than to start with Balanchine's timeless classic "Agon" (which celebrated its 50 birthday during this run). Neo-classical is the bread and butter of this company given the strong Balanchine influence instilled by Stowell and Russell, and now carried on by Boal. I felt blessed to witness 2 debuts in the PdD role: Korbes and Rausch. Rausch I've spoken about. Where Rausch is a possible future, Carla Korbes is a confirmed now. Carla grabbed this role with total confidence (is she ever not confident??). I can't think of a more exciting dancer to watch. Like Jonathan Poretta, no one breaks the 4th wall like Carla. Sometimes I feel it is just her and I in the room. The 3rd cast I saw was also a delight given the perfect ease of Louise Nadeau and a performance by Olivier Wevers that he said himself during the Q&A was the best of his career in that role.
After an intermission, next came "Kiss" and "Caught" -- both novelty items. Not much ballet, but immensely powerful works, and huge crowd pleasers. I've seen "Kiss" maybe 5 or 6 times now, and it brings tears to my eyes every time. I can't think of when I've seen a dance communicate the passion, ecstasy, and heartbreak of sexual attraction and love more powerfully than this short piece. The dancers are suspended by 40' ropes so they can just touch the floor. It changes the primary movement emphasis from vertical to horizontal. There is something about a male and a female swooping together at rather high speed as they swing half way across the stage that makes the charged atmosphere of sexual passion become visceral for the audience. I heard one older woman from the audience (just as I am a older man) express an awakening of memory of our youth when such passion dominated our lives. She and I were both grateful to be re-awakened I think.
"Caught" made everyone in the audience a kid again. You have never felt, as one does in this piece, what the reality of human unassisted flight might be. The strobe light catches the dancer at the top of some 70 jumps in the last 4 minutes of this 6 or 7 minute piece. The illusion is near perfect. When the dancer first starts to "fly" the audience loudly gasps in disbelief. Only young children normally get to be this amazed by something unexperienced in their current world. Everyone in the audience got that feeling watching this simple, but athletic, novel, exciting creation. It may not be ballet per se, but I bet it does a great job of selling tickets by word of mouth.
Last came Twyla Tharp's "In the Upper Room". I know many don't care for this work, but I loved, loved, loved it. The combination of the hyped but very recognizable classical ballet of the boomers, vs the loose streetwise/Broadway/jazzy/Latin movement of the stompers was magical to me. I think one has to start with the Phillip Glass music (commissioned for this ballet). If you like his sort of minimalist music, and I do, you may love this piece as I do. But if you don't care for the almost hypnotic, emotional space that this music can create, I can understand someone being bothered, maybe even bored, with this piece. My wife and I simply couldn't get enough of it (especially those times we sat close). I've always loved Tharp ever since I first saw "Push Comes to Shove" when ABT would visit San Francisco in the 70's. The excitement she creates for me has not waned in the slightest. I will give special thanks to Carrie Imler, Chalnessa Eames, and Kiyon Gaines for "getting" the essence of "stomper-hood". For me they were the engine that drove the rhythm of this piece. Carrie Imler especially -- she has a musicality in her dance, whatever the music, that is second to none. I've admired her for a long time. For me if anyone deserves to inherit Patricia Baker's role at PNB based on dance alone, it is Carrie Imler. She thrills me every time whether she be a Tharp stomper, or Aurora in "The Sleeping Beauty".
One last thought.......as much as I loved "Upper Room", I will say that I feel I could watch "Agon" every week for a year and never tire of it. A piece like "Upper Room" although brillant does not raise to that level. Who but Mr B could?
Posted 12 November 2007 - 04:34 PM
Honestly, judging from the reaction of the crowd, there is a very, very small minority of curmudgeons who didn't like "In the Upper Room."
Posted 12 November 2007 - 06:36 PM
Posted 12 November 2007 - 07:02 PM
... Eddie Villella did this first with Miami (last January).
[ ... ] I thought Boal's choice of Agon and Upper Room were so complimentary to be the bookends of this program. Tharp and Mr B are much alike in that way.
The same 2 ballets were on the program at Berkeley and Detroit earlier this fall, though I can't remember the order of presentation.
Nice to see PNB "borrowing" a great idea.
Posted 13 November 2007 - 08:17 AM
Just to be clear, I did not mean to imply that Boal made some sort of brilliant choice which others hadn't thought of, but only that it was a good choice (he certainly did choose to do this program even if others had done the same thing.......he could have chosen something else).
I wonder if Agon's 50th b-day had something to do with so many companies doing a similar program?
P.S. BTW, I attended 3 post-performance Q&A sessions. In 2 of these Boal was asked why he chose the ballets he did for this program. He talked briefly about his thought process but did not mention any other company having influenced him. He strikes me as a pretty straight-forward guy so maybe that wasn't a factor. (I wonder how much in advance such decisions are made......perhaps a topic for a whole other thread.....)
P.P.S. Now, if I could only find a way to see the other "hot" company......Miami! I'll talk to Boal about PNB going to Miami if you talk to Villella about coming to Seattle .
Posted 13 November 2007 - 03:05 PM
But as this is Agon's half century mark (hard to believe, isn't it?), and since Upper Room is such a proven hit, I am not in the least surprised by what is probably mere -- and fortuitous -- coincidence.
And when the two companies cross the continent to visit each other's cities, I hope they'll stop -- one at a time -- in (not just near) New York.
Posted 13 November 2007 - 10:52 PM
Posted 14 November 2007 - 06:28 AM
Thanks for doing that research, sandik. You raises an interesting question.
I don't know if this is a function of several artistic directors asking for the same thing, or if they approached Tharp and were guided to these particular works.
Does anyone have an answer?
Looking at programs from the prospective of a single company, it does sometimes seem as though it's the company coming up with all the good (or bad) ideas on their own. Agon, for instance, was marketed by Miami as the company's 50th anniversary tribute, a fairly obvious reason for doing it. But Tharp? -- and a single Tharp work done at more or less the same time by several companies? It would be interesting to find out who is making those decisions, and why.
Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:20 AM
Peter Boal has mentioned in several Q&As that stagers have influence on the casting, and he's also said, as late as this past Sunday, that he's been told by stagers in the modern/contemporary rep that they don't expect everyone who's been chosen initially to perform. In the case of "Caught," he happily told us that all five casts cleared the bar and performed.
Posted 14 November 2007 - 09:40 AM
My guess is that Sandik has hit close to the mark. And to piggyback on Helene's comment, there are probably lots of reasons why Tharp or the Robbins people prefer to license one piece over others: perhaps having the "right" stager figures into it for example.
I can easily imagine that various companies are always hinting, let's say to the Robbins trust (or whatever its called), to do one of his works. Maybe eventually that trust decides for the type of reasons Sandik and Helene suggest to finally allow a particular work to get more exposure.......after that it's all downhill to get to the circumstance of these waves of programs.
Very interesting indeed.
Posted 14 November 2007 - 09:51 AM
In one of the Q&As that Helene did not attend, Peter Boal said that Stacy Caddell (who staged Upper Room) selected the entire cast from the company's dancers. She then presented her choices to him and he simply tweaked the selections.
This has been said before I think, but Boal also said that when Tharp herself came out to Seattle in the initial stages, she became very enthusiastic about the dancers at PNB. They struck a deal such that Tharp will come to Seattle in 18 months or so to choreograph a new work(s) on PNB. He said her only disappointment was that she had to wait 18 months to do it -- she wanted to start ASAP!
So as Helene implies, clearly the choreographer or trust is initimately involved in the roll out of giving ballets wider exposure.
Posted 14 November 2007 - 10:02 AM
Apparently Tharp is heading in another new direction. After the Broadway years, she may want, once more, to work with classically trained dancers. So how do you maximize your exposure? In the old days you could do something for ABT and it would probably end up on public television. No longer. Given the current decentralization of ballet in the US -- with a number of high-quality regional companies, but no real "national" showcase -- it makes sense to work with simpatico regional companies and then license the work to companies of similar size and composition from other regions.
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