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Director's Choice Casting, Previews, and Reviews

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#16 olddude



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Posted 13 November 2009 - 11:51 PM

Well, I may be the outlier here but I loved The Seasons. Saw it tonight (Friday) for the second time. For me at least, it's the historical context and perspective that lends richness and depth. Of course, musically I love the Romantics best, and Glazunov fit in there just fine. But it's the Petipa connection (which to my eye permeates and inspires the dancing, the choreography, and the structure), along with many sneaky references to bits of dance history, that made it really come together. For me it was the high point of the evening.

Petite Mort was certainly inventive, and flowed well - I enjoyed watching it and would be glad to see it again, but it didn't thrill me as much. Mopey is ... well, you either like it or not. I like it, but wouldn't know where to begin or what scale to use to judge it by. West Side Story Suite is cool but just doesn't resonate with me. The dancing was great, so was the acting, so was the choreography, and the music. It just doesn't ring my bells.

Well, my two cents. Not a critic, just a longtime fan (and more recent student).

#17 Helene



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Posted 14 November 2009 - 12:56 AM

Couldn't tell if Lucien sang Riff's part, or if he lip synched,

Postlewaite definitely sang, as he did tonight. In the other performances I've seen, Barry Kerollis has stolen "Cool", but this time, he had to co-star with Postlewaite, who sang beautifully.

I'd seen "Petite Mort" on DVD, and it bored me. In the house, I liked the first part with the swords a lot, and the pas de deux had a lot more zing, especially the Kaori Nakamura/Jonathan Porretta pas. The part with the dresses is just as silly as it was on video.

To me Kylian's phrasing in the pas de deux is predictable, and I thought it had little to do with the Mozart. To my eyes, the great thing about the performance was the casting: it was so right in so many ways. Laura Gilbreath looked fantastic with Batkhurel Bold: he was more than tall to her tall; they shared a similar plush quality, as did Carrie Imler and Jordan Pacitti. I couldn't keep my eyes off Nakamura and Porretta; they sizzled. Rachel Foster and James Moore once more shared an approach that blended beautifully. It was great to see Kylee Kitchens so engaged and vivid, and she shared a sunny quality with partner Josh Spell. Carla Korbes was superbly partnered by Jeffrey Stanton; in his hands, she looks like she could do anything.

This is the first time I'd seen Benjamin Griffiths in "Mopey", and the word I'd use to describe his performance as an angsty teenager is beautiful. His arms were so, so lovely, and his arm movements rippled through his back. During the CPE Bach section, his timing and phrasing reminded me of Baryshnikov in "Push Comes to Shove".

I was gobsmacked by "The Seasons": a neoclassical ballet with a hierarchical structure, with extensive work for a small corps, two male and two female soloists with differentiated characters, much like the two women in the "Emeralds" pas de deux or the two female variations in "Coppelia", and two distinctly different lead couples. While from the Orchestra it looked liked it needed some editing -- and the poor four Roses/Fauns looked like they could have used the roles to be split -- I need to see it from up above to see if there were patterns I was missing in some of the corps parts. I love the Glazunov score, although I think the big theme music from Autumn, which I know as the Theme from The Listening Room (WQXR), was the hardest to convey.

I loved all of the costumes and especially the headpieces, except for the red patent pleather used for the men's peplumed vests in Roses. Red would have been fine. Pleather, not in any color. Lucien Postlewaite looked wonderful in Zephyr's long, sleveless open vest jacket, though I'm not sure how practical it was for all of his turning jumps.

As Ice/Bluebird Kylee Kitchens had her second wonderful role of the evening, as a soloist paired with Sarah Ricard Orza, each of whom had solos of different styles, and danced brilliantly. Andrew Bartee and Josh Spell were their partners, and it was great to see each featured.

In The Swallow, Kaori Nakamura was given a role that combined her lyricism and technique, and again, she looked superb partnered by Postlewaite, who as Zephyr commanded the stage. The center of the ballet came at the end, with the pas de deux for Bacchante and Bacchus, danced by Carrie Imler and Batkhurel Bold. They've been paired for many years in the classics, and they brought out the best in one another again. I realized that I've been privileged to watch Imler dance for 15 years, and during that time, she has set a standard that few can reach, season after season in role after role. It was a delight to see her dance this new one.

In "West Side Story Suite", outside the principals, the casting fairy short-circuited. I understand why Rachel Foster was cast as a Jet, because at Riff's girlfriend, she had a bigger dancing role, but apart from Korbes, who IS Anita, there is no other PNB woman who is more Shark. Lin-Yee, Sar, and Hipolito were great Sharks, and Ezra Thompson would have been terrific, too, but Jordan Pacitti, who danced superbly in "Petite Mort" and "The Seasons" -- talk about setting a standard season after season -- is just not a Shark, nor were a couple of Professional Division students who rounded out the corps. It was like in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" when Puck points to the lovers and realizes they're all crossed.

I have to agree with Jayne: it's hard to imagine any of the Jets confronting the way-taller-than-they Stanko Milov, unless they were suicidal. Although Milov wasn't very Latin, he was credible in the Dance at the Gym.

#18 sandik


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Posted 14 November 2009 - 05:05 PM

I saw the Thursday and Saturday matinee performances last weekend.

Petit Mort - It feels like we've been stalking Jiri Kylian for years - Stowell and Russell brought work by some of his apprentices into the rep, and Boal has continued their efforts, but this is the first piece from Kylian himself. I've always been told that his work was really expensive, but honestly, I don't know how much this cost. In a Q/A last week, Boal mentioned that some “European” choreographers cost as much as $50,000 for a work, but I don't know if he was referring to this particular piece.

Kylian's certainly not the first choreographer to combine modern dance and ballet -- people like Glen Tetley and John Butler got there long before (PNB has performed Tetley's “Voluntaries” and his “Rite of Spring,” but I don't know many companies that do anything of Butler's any more). Yes, Kylian has been working for many years, and has influenced most of the choreographers working in Europe today, but there must be more than that.

There's a great thread of magic tricks running through “Petit Mort” - the swooping fabric that swishes back to reveal the women lined up, the dresses that stand up for themselves, the stage tricks that the men perform with the rapiers - “look - no hands!” Combine that with the pretzelly partnering and it's a very distinctive work. The Mozart is a nice contrast to the rather scary swordplay at the beginning of the ballet. It's spare and contemplative, and calmed down the more aggressive vibe.

Postelwaite really moves Nakamura around in their duet - it makes her look even smaller than she is. Lallone was a great contrast right after that - Bold swings her overhead and her legs wheel through the sky. It isn't always the case that married couples dance well together, but Dec and Cruz slide through their duet with aplomb. Everyone is very clear about the shapes they're making - the work is very freshly set and rehearsed, but Dec seems to have an extra layer of understanding about that aspect.

(it occurs to me that, after a “Romeo and Juliet” with no swordplay, maybe “Petit Mort” fills that spot?)

I think it was Rosie Gaynor in her blog that said this ballet was over before she was ready for it to end, and there was a “huh?” feeling at the finish. The last couple fades away upstage and we're done.

Mopey - At the top it's hard to tell who's performing. They've got the hood of their jacket pulled so tight all you can see is the tip of their nose peeking out. The phrasing is really twitchy at the beginning of the work (before the Bach kicks in). This time around I see a lot of animal imagery (scratching under the arm results in the leg twitching like a dog, bouncing off stage on his butt like a lemur) alongside the anger and alienation we get on a first view. Without the music several of the key phrases seem quite nasty - the Bach sweetens everything up.

I didn't get to see Porretta last week, and I'm missing Sar this week, but Moore and Griffiths are both making good work out of this solo. Griffiths in particular is quite intense -- much more so than his character in “West Side Story Suite.” I'm still not convinced it's a ballet, but it is a great vehicle for a solo guy, so I'm content. (still, if they're going to do modern works, I'd give a lot to see them do Daniel Nagrin's Strange Hero - it's not as physically challenging, but the musicality and the acting would be an excellent stretch for this group)

The Seasons -- I know that the big acquisition for this rep is the Kylian, but this is the piece that fascinates me the most. Caniparoli has been an itinerant choreographer for many years now, and has made a wide variety of works, but this is perhaps the most traditional thing I've seen from him, which in many ways makes it the most radical. He really has taken on the straight-ahead classical structure and vocabulary, and has made a ballet. Not a variation on a ballet, or a commentary on a ballet, or a satire of a ballet, or a reduction of a ballet, but an actual ballet, with hierarchical casting and all the structures that implies. There are big ensemble sections, individual dances with specific qualities for soloists, a lovely juicy pas de deux at the end for a principal couple with separate variations - it's the whole thing, a set of matched suitcases, along with a garment bag and a train case. It's a big challenge, all the more so for being one that many contemporary ballet choreographers choose not to take on.

The Glauzunov score dictates a lot of the structure - I don't know if Petipa wrote a minutia for this one, but he did for several others, and they were very exact, down to the number of measures he wanted for a particular solo, and detailed information about the tone and quality of the music. (if you haven't seen one, there's a reprint of his directions to Tchaikovsky for “Sleeping Beauty” in Selma Jeanne Cohen's anthology “Dance as a Theater Art.”) The score treads water in a couple of places, in that way that some of the Petipa-commissioned scores do, but it's certainly danceable. The scenario feels a bit dated too, in spots - it's a mildly silly thing with demi-gods, and other mythical creatures -- but Caniparoli takes it on with zest, and goes with the differences in style and personality that it draws.

The ballet has some weak spots, from glitches in the score and from some movement choices. Caniparoli's choreography for the lower body is quite fine - some fascinating developments of classical echangement, but there is some awkwardness getting down to the floor and back up again. His upper body work is more free, with arms tracing some really baroque curves and a very supple back. There are some complicated accents as well, which make for some rich phrases.

Postelwaite and Orza really cover space as Zephyr, despite an ankle length surcoat with slits up the side and the back. This makes it a vest with four long panels attached at the waist, and although it swoops effectively in a couple places, I was more worried that their legs would get all tied up in the fabric. The women's costumes are more successful than the men's, especially the tutus for the corps and soloists. The corps seem to have a gauzy skirt with a wire run through the hem, so that they stand out firm without much bulk at all. The soloists get tutus that look like the bustle off a dress from the 1890's, with the front cut away the back dipping down a bit - a very flattering line.

Eames looked good as Zephyr's partner (she's identified as Canary, and the part does have a real birdy feel). She's got that sharpness (quick, not just fast) - I'm wondering if she'll take on Bluebird and/or Canary when they do “Sleeping Beauty” later this season. Imler and Lallone were both excellent Bacchantes in the big pas de deux. There's a place where the woman stands in a big wide stance, facing her partner upstage, and does this huge curving arm gesture, carving the space like it was a tactile thing. Both of them were full of gusto right then, Imler maybe a little stronger, and Lallone getting a bigger shape with her long arms. As Bacchus, Cruz and Bold matched their strength.

If all Caniparoli did was make a traditional ballet it would be interesting enough, but about 2/3 of the way through he starts adding references to historic works. Zephyr is dancing with a canary, who seems to be channeling the “Firebird,” a group of satyrs show up looking like Fokine's “Faune,” complete with little horns on their heads, and scarves across their arms, the women in the corps show up in tunics waving those scarves over their heads like those old photos of Pavlova in “Pearl Fishers.” Despite the fact that it is the Ballet Russe centennial year, PNB hasn't programmed anything that refers to that period or repertory - this may be the only acknowledgement of it that we get.

West Side Story Suite - I know this is a 'send them home happy' ballet, and I do like the Robbins choreography for the dance in the gym, but I miss the dramatic development in the full musical, and I'm still not comfortable with the work ending before the big denouement. Everyone was all up in arms about Mark Morris' “Romeo and Juliet” with a happy ending last year, but this feels just as awkward as that idea. Having said that, though, the company is doing well with the challenges of the work. Seth Orza was dancing better than he was singing as Riff last year, but with these performances his voice is catching up to his feet. Postelwaite seemed to have just continued his Romeo performance as Tony. I'm sorry not to be seeing him this second week as Riff, just to know how that casting turns out. Tisserand put a more classical spin on Tony's steps where they might otherwise have a vernacular feel, but that could just be familiarity. And Lindsi Dec made as very strong debut as Anita. She said, in a Q/A session, that she was there just to give Carla Korbes a break from the role, but that's too modest. She stood up tall, shook her hips and convinced me.

#19 misserin64


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Posted 14 November 2009 - 10:56 PM

I saw the show Friday night. I have been an avid PNB
fan/follower/audience member from 19 years and it is always interesting
to see these Rep Shows. I have to say that I loved Petit Mort. But was
shocked when it was over! I wanted more! I loved the casting and I
really think that some of the shapes were interesting. I especially
loved Kaori Nakamura who looked more amazing than I ever could remember.
I loved the costumes (or lack there of)-really seeing the movement
articulating through the dancer's bodies was a new experience. Sitting
up close, it was also interesting to see the facial expressions of the
dancers and feel intimately involved. It might have been nice to sit
further away though to get the whole effect of the sweeping sheet and
the dresses.

Mopey was good for me as well. I have not seen a lot of Benjamin
Griffiths and he was impressive. Again, I liked the fact that he was
bare chested and did many of the solo facing away from the audience. His
back was amazing to watch!

I could not stand the Seasons. The corps girls seemed under-rehearsed
and Lucien seemed very half hearted to me. I am a big fan of Lucien and
after seeing him in Romeo and Juliet four times, I felt that he seemed
like his heart wasn't in it. I thought that there was some structural
problems in some of the pas de deux with the girls in blue tutus like
the corps. And, I didn't understand why the corps had like three costume
changes. As for the sparkly cargo pants and brown belt worn by
Bold.....well he and Carrie Imler were the highlight for me. The
costumes here, especially for the men were a joke to me. Also, it was
very odd to me how towards the end the corps girls went from a corps
that was dancing/supplementing to something similiar to peasents in a
story ballet! Talking with each other and pointing to the boys. What? It
was so contrived to me. The whole thing, expect for Bold, Carrie and
flashes of the Swallow dance.

West Side Story is cute....I still have a slight problem with dancers
singing....I do wish that maybe there was singing coming from the pit
and the dancers could just dance. But, how cute is Carla Korbes as
Anita? It is fun. Did anyone else notice the boys (both Sharks and Jets)
trying to point their feet in their converse sneakers? The sneakers were
getting all scrunched up.

So, overall not my fav program but ok.

#20 SandyMcKean


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Posted 15 November 2009 - 03:07 PM

Interesting how many different reactions we here on BT have had to "The Seasons". Personally I like that. I think it's healthy that there are lots of differing reactions to new works.

I found myself with a little extra time today (finally) and decided to make the rounds with Google to see what the critics had to say about "The Seasons". They too seem to be all over the map -- except I must say that I found few that were truly positive. Most reviews seemed to be between: not very good, and so-so. The one I agreed with the most was by long time Seattle music/dance critic Richard (RM) Campbell in The Gathering Note:

"Caniparoli's The Seasons was the premiere of the night. It was a vast disappointment. There was a of movement in every direction seemingly to no end. The score, by Alexander Glazunov, is equally dreary. I can't image whey anyone would want to do a piece set to this music because it offers so little of interest to the choreographer. Caniparoli, who has contributed much to PNB's repertory, fell into routine in ways I had not seen. He had good dancers at his disposal, although they did not always seems at full attention. Dancers in leading role included such luminaries as Lucien Postlewaite, Kaori Nakamura, Ariana Lallone and Karel Cruz, who rose above the material and gave splendid performances."

Here's the entire review: http://www.gatheringnote.org/?p=5937

#21 olddude



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Posted 15 November 2009 - 07:06 PM

Yes, I saw that review in the Times - I was quite startled and disappointed. Oh well, no disputing taste I guess. I though it was a disservice to not even mention the historical context though. Hey - Swan Lake was a flop at it's premier, too!

I'll certainly agree that there are things that could be improved. The naiads' fabric waves of water didn't work nearly as well when turning, for example. I liked the rose's costume design, pleather or not, referencing the knee breeches and skirted coats of the Sun King era. The cargo pants were, I assume, a way to connect with traditional representations of satyrs with hairy goat legs - the fauns didn't get the cargo pants treatment.

#22 Helene



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Posted 28 November 2009 - 03:21 PM

I saw the first 2/3 of the program twice more, on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Jonathan Porretta and James Moore danced "Mopey" brilliantly, but I don't think the piece itself holds up, except as a way to see what each dancer can do with it. It's a wonderful experience the first time, but as a repeat, the dancers look much greater than the work. If I have to see this multiple times again, I'd wish to see new men the role, particular the new men, and then have them move on.

I was disappointed that Chalnessa Eames was out for "Petite Mort" (with Benjamin Griffiths) and "The Seasons" and Seth Orza as her partner Zephyr. I loved Nakamura twice more as Canary -- Postlewaite seemed stronger on Sunday afternoon as Zephyr than Saturday night, where he was comparatively flatter, and it was nice to see his repeat too -- but I wished I had been able to have seen both casts. Postlewaite also replaced Porretta as Nakamura's partner in "Petite Mort". While they didn't share the great frisson that the Nakamura/Porretta partnership had in this work, there was something wonderfully Adam and Lilith about it. Sara Ricard Orza and Seth Orza were wonderful in the pas de deux that has my favorite 15 seconds of the work, where the man drops the handle of the sword into the woman's hands, and then later swings the sword around her from above, again stopping in her palms, for me a magic set of phrases. Lesley Rausch and Jerome Tisserand, paired here, have a complementary coolness to their dancing. In Eames' place, Rachel Foster danced again with James Moore on Saturday, and with Benjamin Griffiths on Sunday, and was equally strong with both partners. Lindsi Dec was spectacular in the final pas de deux with Karel Cruz, her whole body sculpting shapes.

The strength of Ariana Lallone's Bacchante was her energy and sweep. Karel Cruz brought Nureyev theatricality to his short solo as Bacchus. He's usually a more self-effacing presence, and it was nice to see the up-front theatricality that so many of Alonso's students bring with their training to both the virtuoso dancing and sheer presence. He looked born to wear a laurel wreath.

While it was hard to pass up Lindsi Dec's Anita, I just couldn't watch "West Side Story Suite" again. I couldn't explain why definitively, apart from feeling that it is anemic, until I read Don Daniel's essay on Robbins on Broadway and on Arthur Laurents' direction of the revival of "West Side Story" in the latest (Fall 2009) Ballet Review. Daniels wrote,

West Side Story combines themes basic to the Robbins canon: the splenetic urban loner, the lure of forbidden love, and the social incubation of the dangerous and the forbidden, whether in love or hate. In Story, the depicted group activities -- the singing and the dancing -- incubate racism. The youthful forms of vivid social solidarity make racial hatred not only possible, but also increasingly dynamic and virulent.

Both the underlying ugliness and the irresistible pull toward it were completely missing from "West Side Story Suite". The company that was so convincing in depicting the feuding Montagues and Capulets in "Romeo et Juliette" was mostly tepid in WSSS. The costumes didn't help any: among the Sharks William Lin-Yee's shirt could have come from Eddie Bauer, and Jordan Pacitti looked like he was heading to aerobics class. I was looking for the little alligator over Jerome Tisserand's (Tony) heart. When Lin-Yee did a sweeping side kick with his long leg and monster extension, it was like a sword swipe from "Petite Mort" out of stillness, but it was in isolation.

Daniels also wrote,

In the original Robbins production you could predict the adult fate of each of the young Jets: racetrack tout, drug dealer, pimp, etc. They were individuals. Not here.

Same again in WSSS. Apart from Barry Kerollis's role -- and he runs with it -- there isn't much differentiation between the rest of the boys in either gang.

Edited to Add: There's a part in "The Seasons" where Zephyr turns with the long vest/coat and the snow falling behind him, and all I could think of was Anne Bancroft playing Anna Karenina in "The Turning Point".

#23 sandik


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Posted 29 November 2009 - 02:02 AM

Postlewaite also replaced Porretta as Nakamura's partner in "Petite Mort". While they didn't share the great frisson that the Nakamura/Porretta partnership had in this work, there was something wonderfully Adam and Lilith about it.

What an interesting view of their partnership. I often think of them more in the Rosenkavalier mode -- older woman in a final relationship and younger man just embarking on life.

#24 Helene



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Posted 29 November 2009 - 01:53 PM

I forgot to note that I saw "The Seasons" a level up on Sunday afternoon, and the patterns of the corps were more coherent from above than they were at Orchestra level.

Also, to be clear, I don't think it's the company that fails WSSS, but the piece itself.

#25 sandik


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Posted 30 November 2009 - 10:44 AM

Same again in WSSS. Apart from Barry Kerollis's role -- and he runs with it -- ...

Doesn't he just! I enjoyed his performances last spring, and was so glad to see he hadn't lost any of the zesty details this time around.

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