Helene

Swan Lake Casting and Reviews

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I'm sorry to be so wordy, but I wound up seeing all five O/Os (and, I think, most of the additional casting as well) and have things I'd like to say.

Peter Boal gives curtain speech 4/9 -- performance tonight is dedicated to Peter Donnelly, who was a big part of the Seattle arts community. Ran the Rep for a long time (especially important during the capital campaign for their current building), and then on to found Arts Fund, which helps channel corporate donations to the arts. When he first stepped out I thought perhaps he'd be talking about Gwenn Barker (former Ballet Russe dancer who taught and coached here for many years) who also died recently.

Act 1

Jordan Pacitti is Victorian elegant as the tutor, with little picky steps to match. I loved Paul Gibson in this part, it was made on him and he really made the whole “who, me? Drinking?” sequence with Siegfried and the Queen Mother very organic. But Pacitti is making this his own -- he's just this side of bibulous. At one point he dances with all six women (three on each arm) like a collector, and then towards the end he's got a series of increasingly tipsy turns resolving into a bobble-headed moment. With one hand on his hip and the other held in front of his waist he could appear on Project Runway -- he's a caricature of a fashion designer. But he's very carefully doing his job, looking out for the prince's interests, trying to find a young woman who would suit.

Lucien Postelwaite bounds on stage and that's his mode for the act -- he's young and bouncy and dazzled by life. “All these girls, and look, now we're dancing. Uh, oh, it's my mother -- I'd better put my coat back on. What -- get married? How would I do that?!” He loves his mother and wants her approval -- he turns to her over and over again, and as Carrie Imler plays her, she's an icy one. Kind when she gets her way and withholding affection when crossed. The way she takes her hand away from his as she leaves the stage after handing down her ultimatum is stunning. Quick, powerful and directed -- she snatches it back. In movement analysis terms that combination of energy is called a “punch” and though she doesn't actually strike him here, it has the same effect.

Stanko Milov and Karel Cruz are more grown-up as Siegfried, they tell people what to do, they break up fights. For this Siegfried, actual love comes as a revelation -- like Alberecht in Giselle, he is transformed and undone. Milov has done this part before you can sense his confidence in the role. Cruz is newer and so is more of a surprise. He's really filled out this last year -- when I first saw him he seemed all height and no breadth (though the boyshorts he wore in Tharp's Waterbaby Bagatelles didn't help much), but he's more in control of his length now -- his sissones are so arrowy I was smiling like a goof. I don't know if Seth Orza has done this role before elsewhere, but it feels like he hasn't -- the technique is more developed than the character. Good and clean (and easier in the upper body than he's been the last few programs) but I didn't see specific moments (“this is who I am right now”) so much as a clean general performance.

Pacitti and Jonathan Porretta as the Jester have a highly developed mime chat during the act -- I think it must have at least some actual meaning -- it certainly doesn't feel like unshaped hand jive.

Helene is right -- Barry Kerollis is meant for the Restoration. He's checking out the girls upstage and making comments behind their backs.

Everyone comments on Porretta's theatricality, and it is indeed a big part of his work no matter the part, but the thing that strikes me right now is just the physical facility. In past generations, the fast and gymnastic dancers were often not the ones with flexibility or really elegant line, but Porretta does have those attributes as well as the high-test stuff. The Jester is full of tricks, choreographically, and I've often seen them performed by dancers with more panache than clarity, but that's not happening here.

The trio, as Francia Russell has staged it, is very close to the original Petipa, and it feels like it. He loved setting little challenges for dancers (how many ways can you do this pas de bouree?) or showcasing someone's particular skill (hops on pointe -- hell on earth for some and a walk in the park for others) Benjamin Griffiths has been whipping off extra multiple turns everywhere this season and here is no different. He's so poised with them, though, that I begin to doubt my finger math at the end of the phrase -- did he really do three/four/what? and then pause in releve -- he doesn't look like butter would melt… Maria Chapman is lovely in all the pointey hopping and Leslie Rausch is just clean, clean, clean in the releves. In another cast, Jodie Thomas is excellent -- the busy precision really suits her. She should be just fine in Denmark.

Kyle Davis substitutes for Porretta as the Jester on 4/17, He's got the technicals skills, certainly, but he hasn't quite worked out the showmanship of the role. He's very pure (I would be interested in seeing him in the pas de trois), but I think he needs to be more selfish (Hey! Look at me!!) in his performance. He needs to come to his own terms about what he does and why he does it. (in act 3, after Odile reveals true bad self, the characters winds up at the feet of the QM, weeping into her train. Both Porretta and Griffiths make this a totally believeable moment, but with Davis he seems to dive at the QM's train before his emotions tell him to go there, just because the choreography says so.

Act 2

At the lake, Seth Orza manages to make Benno make sense -- he's the outrider -- the one who checks the field before the prince comes along. I know that the original character was inserting for purely pragmatic reasons, but over time we've inherited him without the reason he exists. There has to be some reason he gets a program credit of his own rather than the ubiquitous “friends” or “retainers.”

As O/O, Kaori Nakamura has real quickness on her entrance -- rather than just being fast she's got the true 'precipite,' which feels very birdy. She's not soft here, so much as she's still. Watching and worrying -- just like the last time around, when she performed this role with Olivier Wevers, she seems the more mature of the pair, which lets Postelwaite, in this case, be the hopeful, fragile one.

Carla Korbes first go at O/O, a couple years ago, was clean, but she's so much further along now. She really seems to have thought the character through, and found the movement components of her interpretation within the choreography rather than grafted on. She's got the “let me go” part of the first extended duet, just like in “Firebird.” When she looks at Siegfried, she's really hopeful -- maybe the curse can be broken.

Louise Nadeau's O/O was the most eccentric of the run, especially in the upper body where she really used her natural facility to support her characterization. I know that we see her performances right now thinking that she's leaving at the end of the season, but even without that awareness this would feel like a highly developed and personal interpretation. Mara Vinson, understandably, was much less adventurous -- this is her first time out in the full ballet and she acquitted herself well, but it felt a bit like a performance as much based on what she's seen of other dancers as what she thinks of herself. I'm hoping that the work comes around in the repertory again soon enough for her to get another go at it (or that she guests somewhere that she can keep working on the part).

Miranda Weese is having an interesting time of things here -- she's been in and out of performances often enough that many of the people I speak with feel they really don't know her very well, for all that she's been on the roster here for almost two years. Like most people, I saw her in the televised performance of the Martins' Swan Lake, but I don't have many specific memories of her distinct from the production. Here she is almost a photo-perfect O/O in the tableaus, with a side tilt of her head reading as modesty in the white acts and seductive in the black.

Liora Reshef is very clear in the 4 little swans, but she's decided the downbeat is a slice earilier than her colleages. I actually think she's right, but in a variation like this, unison is more important than right. She's been popping up all over the stage in the last few productions, and there's almost always something interesting to see.

Wever's Von Rothbart is great -- his timing is very innate, like Imler's, and almost violent -- he makes that oversized cape really snap. William Yin-Lee had some excellent moments as well, glaring at the audience as well as Siegfried.

Act 3

Okay, I can manage with the tilting walls/columns in the fist two acts, but when the curtain opens for the beginning of act 3, I look at that big wall of off-kilter windows upstage and all I can think is “Titanic!”

The national dances are looking really snappy this time around. I've loved the Spanish as much for its incredibly gaudy costumes as for the rose-in-the-teeth choreography since I first saw it, but this time out it's particularly nice. I do miss Kerollis and Kiyon Gaines here -- they were a great match for timing and amplitude, but Pacitti does a lot to make up for it.

Stacey Lowenberg and Jerome Tisserand have great tension in the Czardas, but I think I love Kari Brunson and William Yin-Lee best -- you can hear their heel clicks and stamps throughout the dance, which really links it to its ethnic dance roots. He's been popping up on the radar in all kinds of things this year -- he looked great in Benjamin Millepied's “Three Movements,” in a white shirt and a skinny black tie.

Stowell has choreographed several doll dances and commedia pieces, and the Neopolitan here is a good example. Tricky, with the big movement payoff not linked to the crescendo in the music. Jodie Thomas is charming and flirty here, and Griffiths is an excellent partner for that.

The relationship between the QM and Von R can shift in a couple different ways. Imler is condescending, so that at the end of the act Von R's victory is as much over her as it is over Siegfried. There's an interesting moment as Von R and Odile enter the ballroom -- they're coming down the diagonal towards the throne when Odile and Siegfried leave the stage (off to canoodle in another room?) Von R continues down the diagonal towards the QM, but she gestures across the stage “There's your seat.” Otto Neuberg plays it very broody -- he's been dissed by the QM, and he slouches in his chair and sulks during the national dances. Olivier Wevers is less surly as Von R, more devious.

Nakamura's Odile is very glittery -- very wiley. Postelwaite's Siegfried doesn't stand a chance. Körbes is more sinuous, more overtly seductive -- Milov's Siegfried is probably much more experienced than Postelwaite's -- it will take more to win him over.

Act 4

If I had my way I'd see acts 2 and 3 from fairly close on a level with the stage, and then see act 4 from above. The geometry of the corps work is quite lovely, and it's hard to see from the orchestra section. There are some great bits here, and the constant thrum of their bourrees is reinforced by the roll of the tympani.

The differences between O/O come mostly in act 2 -- by the time we get to act 4 they all seem to be on the same page. Not sure how much individual coaching they get on the details.

Compared with the plot points that they need to make in the preceding acts, this one is quite straightforward -- apology, forgiveness, death and apotheosis.

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One striking thing I forgot to note about Imler's performances was the moment in Act III after Siegfried refuses to choose one of the princesses to marry. She walks upstage to the princesses, who are in a diagonal line from upstage left to downstage right, to check out each, since if he won't choose, I guess she will, and the way Imler eyed each one up and down, she could have been the chief judge at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. (It wouldn't have been classical ballet if she checked out their teeth, so she didn't.)

I saw the final performance of "Swan Lake" tonight. The printed program was all over the place apart from the principals. Lindsi Dec and Stacy Lowenberg moved to Pas de Trois, and at least two of the other Guests (the female Act I sextet) were subs -- I noted Brunson, Chapman, Gilbreath, and Thomas among them -- and I could have sworn that I saw Brittany Reid and Stacy Lowenberg dance the first Valse Bluette demi-solos, which the Pas de Tros was danced by the scheduled trio, Chalnessa Eames, Kylee Kitchens, and Sarah Orza. Jerome Tisserand was Benno, who in this production is featured at the beginning of Act II, when he runs in ahead of Siegfried and his other friends. Kari Brunson substituted in Czardas, so I don't think she have been the Indian Princess at the same time, but I was too busy watching Leslie Rausch's elegant princess. I kind of wanted to slap Siegfried in the head, to say, "What's wrong with her?" but I thought of doing the same thing in Act I about Maria Chapman's Guest. But that's like picking which of the Dukes in Sleeping Beauty Aurora should have chosen if the court hadn't been put to sleep for 100 years -- my answer would be 1. Gary Avis 2. Lucien Postlewaite -- and they didn't have what Bruce Marks called Siegfried's mishegas.

Nakamura and Postlewaite reprised their roles, bookending the run. It was another breathtaking performance. Nakamura's arms were pure poetry in the White Swan solo; this was my all-time favorite performance of this solo. I wish this and the whole performance had been taped for DVD. Last night's audience was electric from start to finish. Tonight's audience was electrified by Nakamura's and Postlewaite's performance, especially in Act III, which carried through to the end of the evening, and the ovation was enormous.

Other repeat performances that were particularly noteworthy were Benjamin Griffith's Jester -- I didn't think he could surpass last night's, but he did, and he even did an aerial cartwheel to boot -- Ariana Lallone's Persian Dance, the Dec/Pacitti/Reid/Spell quartet in Spanish, and Pacitti's Wofgang.

Because of some of the substitutions, I was able to see Dec and Lowenberg in the Act I Pas de Trois for the first time, and Kari Brunson and William Lee-Yin's Czardas. Dec and Lowenberg are taller dancer, and Orza looked much more comfortable partnering them -- his hands seemed to know where to go. He looked even more confident in his solo, and he did a beautiful traveling double turn upstage at the end of a big jump phrase. They made a very handsome trio. Both Dec and Lowenberg's long legs look different in the choreography -- a little slower, less sharp, a little more lush. In the first half of her solo, Dec was literal with the music -- one of Rachel Foster's strengths in the same role was how she connected the smaller sections into a longer phrase -- but she owned the coda with expansive movement. Brunson and Lee-Yin were an impressive pair in the Czardas. Lee-Yin was majestically space eating.

The swan corps outdid themselves tonight: after a run of six performances in four days, including matinees yesterday and today -- the normal PNB schedule is one matinee per weekend -- they were as disciplined and committed as ever. Bravi to them.

I'd like to note the superb, sensitive playing of the violin/cello duet in the White Swan Pas de Deux. The individual musicians are not credited; John Pilskog is the Acting Concertmaster and Page Smith is the Principal Cello in the PNB Orchestra.

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One striking thing I forgot to note about Imler's performances was the moment in Act III after Siegfried refuses to choose one of the princesses to marry. ... the way Imler eyed each one up and down, she could have been the chief judge at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. (It wouldn't have been classical ballet if she checked out their teeth, so she didn't.)

Oh, I don't know -- maybe she has x-ray vision?

I saw the final performance of "Swan Lake" tonight. The printed program was all over the place apart from the principals. ...

I'm glad people are getting the chance to move around -- it's a bit like Nutcracker that way.

I was too busy watching Leslie Rausch's elegant princess. I kind of wanted to slap Siegfried in the head, to say, "What's wrong with her?"

She is indeed a very American beauty.

Because of some of the substitutions, I was able to see Dec and Lowenberg in the Act I Pas de Trois for the first time, and Kari Brunson and William Lee-Yin's Czardas. Dec and Lowenberg are taller dancer, and Orza looked much more comfortable partnering them -- his hands seemed to know where to go. He looked even more confident in his solo, and he did a beautiful traveling double turn upstage at the end of a big jump phrase. They made a very handsome trio. Both Dec and Lowenberg's long legs look different in the choreography -- a little slower, less sharp, a little more lush. In the first half of her solo, Dec was literal with the music -- one of Rachel Foster's strengths in the same role was how she connected the smaller sections into a longer phrase -- but she owned the coda with expansive movement.

The more I see this trio, the more I notice in it, and the more I realize how tricky Petipa was. It's not designed to be hard just for the sake of hard, but it takes its subjects very seriously, and tries to display every facet of them it can.

Brunson and Lee-Yin were an impressive pair in the Czardas. Lee-Yin was majestically space eating.

I thought both the lead couples I saw (Lowenberg and Tisserand, and Brunson and Lee-Yin) did an excellent job, but the last ones were particularly juicy with that deep, grounded quality. I'm so glad you got to see them.

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One striking thing I forgot to note about Imler's performances was the moment in Act III after Siegfried refuses to choose one of the princesses to marry. ... the way Imler eyed each one up and down, she could have been the chief judge at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. (It wouldn't have been classical ballet if she checked out their teeth, so she didn't.)

Oh, I don't know -- maybe she has x-ray vision?

I wouldn't put it past her :dry:

The more I see this trio, the more I notice in it, and the more I realize how tricky Petipa was. It's not designed to be hard just for the sake of hard, but it takes its subjects very seriously, and tries to display every facet of them it can.

I've often wondered if these are the hardest roles in the ballet. Not the most strenuous or challenging dramatically, but it's as if each of the women soloists has to be able to do everything except an extended lyrical pas de deux. Although at one time it would have done that too: it's pretty amazing to think that the music Stowell used for the Act IV Pas de Deux was written originally for the Act I Pas de Trois. It is a different in character for the Pas de Trois as it stands now as the original Black Swan Pas de Deux music that Balanchine used for "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" is from what has been used ever since, which I believe originally was in Act I(?)

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At one point he dances with all six women (three on each arm) like a collector, and then towards the end he's got a series of increasingly tipsy turns resolving into a bobble-headed moment.

One thing that's wonderful about that part is how it starts with him doing a perfect turn from deep second position plie which gets increasingly wobblier the more he does. Pacitti has a big, wide, beautifully turned out, juicy, juicy, juicy plie.

He loves his mother and wants her approval -- he turns to her over and over again, and as Carrie Imler plays her, she's an icy one. Kind when she gets her way and withholding affection when crossed.

So it's not surprising when he's enamored with and discombobulated by Odile -- in fact, it's inevitable It's the emotional pull-tug that he knows.

Miranda Weese is having an interesting time of things here -- she's been in and out of performances often enough that many of the people I speak with feel they really don't know her very well, for all that she's been on the roster here for almost two years.

I don't think it's only that she's in and out: when she's in, her performances have been quite inconsistent, and not in the wild "What will Suzanne Farrell do today?" way. She hasn't made me care what she will do next.

The relationship between the QM and Von R can shift in a couple different ways. Imler is condescending, so that at the end of the act Von R's victory is as much over her as it is over Siegfried.

I LOVE this dynamic. It makes the grown-ups more than just stage dressing. And it's completely integrated into the ballet, like a barely audible rumble of low strings.

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I saw Miranda Weese on Friday night and have other things to say, but no time right now, except that Kyle Davis replaced Porretta as the Jester, which makes me hope that Porretta isn't injured.

And apparently he was not injured, just incapacitated from an allergy test, and is on his way to being well, according to the press office at the company.

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I've been putting off taking the time to write something about this program, but given what I saw at the last performance of this program's 2 week run (last Sunday evening), I have to say something.

I had bought a ticket to that last performance (my fourth) to see Carrie Imler who has been an inspiration to me for many years now. I number several other dancers among "my favorites", but when all is said and done, and considering how long Carrie has held me in awe, and the range of dance styles she seems to be so at home in, and the absolute perfection of her dancing, I guess she is the one dancer I will always walk over hot coals to see. Well, she couldn't dance due to Bold's injury. I was so disappointed that Nakamura was going to do the O/O role since I had just seen her the night before (Saturday). Sometimes you get lucky! I still wish I had had a chance to see Carrie, but I wouldn't trade the performance I saw Sunday night for anything. I don't really know if it was me, or if it was the dancers, but I saw an extraordinary performance Sunday night. (I see from her comments that Helene was also impressed by the performance.) This "last-performance-let's-pull-out-all-the-stops" quality was particularly striking to me since I had just seen essentially the same cast 24 hours before.

There is so much I could give the credit to, but it all centered on the extraordinary chemistry between Kaori Nakamura as O/O and Lucien Postlewaite as Siegfried. They were magical together. They are both such great dancers with total confidence, technique, and dedication to quality.....and this night they just give their all. It was one of the most exciting performances I have ever seen. Somehow or other the competence and energy of this pair infected nearly everyone else in the cast. Practically everyone was at the top of their game.....I will only mention a few: I've been noticing William Yin-Yee out of the corner of my eye, but I've not truly seen his potential until struck that night by his performance in the Czardas in Act III (with the remarkable Kari Brunson); he has such flare and is unafraid to "own the stage". Benjamin Griffiths absolutely nailed the Jester. I never thought anyone could surpass Poretta in that role, but Griffiths brought not only spectacle to the dancing but an elegance and fluidity that just sang. And I can't say enough about Jordan Pacitti. He is an under-appreciated dancer (at least during the last 2 years). He has always been a superb character dancer, but the feeling and insight he brings to such "secondary" roles is stunning. He contributes so much to this company in a quiet and unassuming way. I wonder if our audience knows how lucky we are to have someone of Jordan's dramatic abilities doing these roles. His approach to Wolfgang's "drunken tutor with the girls" dance took what might otherwise be forgettable to a level of high artistry (IMHO, it's a far more difficult role to dance than it appears). And finally, as always, my eyes go to Leslie Rausch whenever she is on the stage. She was poetry as the British Princiess in Act III. She turns into an angel whenever she dances.

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