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All Balanchine ProgramNews, Castings, Reviews


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#16 Helene

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Posted 18 April 2010 - 04:10 PM

Saturday afternoon was a day filled with debuts, including all of the leads in "Serenade", the program opener. It was a cast of talls, with Laura Gilbreath and Karel Cruz as the Waltz Couple, Ariana Lallone and William Lin-Yee as Dark Angel and Elegy Man, with Lesley Rausch looking short by comparison as Russian Girl.

I'm not quite sure what it is, but I often find Laura Gilbreath's dancing moving, and yesterday afternoon was no exception. Her long arms were fluid especially in slow passages, and because she's so tall and dances with such sweep, it's a pleasure to see her in roles that can verge into cute or come across as delicate flower: when she falls and mourns, it has gravitas. Watching Karel Cruz's entrance, with his elegant upper body and long arms, I was sad that Dark Angel has to be a female role, because I could envision him immediately in the Elegy Man's entrance and exit, too.

It's almost shocking to think that this was Ariana Lallone's debut as Dark Angel, a role that was a natural fit, both technically and dramatically. I don't know if she's getting technically stronger, or if she's just been given more meaty roles in the last few years, but the combination of technique and presence is an intoxicating mixture. There might have been a neon sign over the stage reading "This Is Your Myrtha!"

Lesley Rausch could use some of that presence -- moreso as Sanguinic -- but what she had that just about no other dancer in the ballet had was Romantic sensibility and style, and it was striking. Often Russian Girl looks a bit out of place in the swooning fall in the second half of the first movement, but she was dead on, and her performance was just lovely. She was beautifully framed by Leah O'Connor, Sarah Ricard Orza, Brittany Reid, and Abby Relic in the opening of "Scherzo a la Russe". Not surprisingly, the other dancer with a sense of the style was Liora Reshef, who caught my eye towards the end of the same movement when the corps is in a square dancing a bouncy step in place before crossing lines, by the soft way she moved her head on her shoulders, and her soft, rounded arms.

In his lecture before the show, Doug Fullington said that the four men in the Elegy movement are called "Blueberries", and I couldn't get that out of my head watching them :)

Rachel Foster made her debut in "Square Dance", partnered by Benjamin Griffiths, with a corps of primarily younger dancers, including two Professional Division students. In pointe roles, Foster's a lyric, without the clear differentiation and technique that this fach requires. Sometimes casting against type enriches; in this case, it didn't, at least for me. When she danced with Griffiths, my eyes were on him and his crystal clear beats and petite allegro and his plush jumps, if a bit earthbound, and she didn't hold my attention against the corps.

I went to the World Synchronized Skating Championships last weekend, and one thing that struck me was how the top teams could make themselves look as if they were all the same height and body type, while, in fact, there's a very big range, even among the teams that are more uniform in height. The corps didn't manage this on Saturday. There was nothing wrong with the dancing itself, which was great -- Margaret Mullin was especially splendid -- but it wasn't a group yet.

Like casting against type, I often like to see atypical interpretations that illuminate roles, even if not the whole doesn't quite come off. I also know that in a focused program like "All Balanchine", one role can influence another; I think, for example, the energy from Choleric informed Lallone's Dark Angel. There was a lot of Melancholic in Griffiths' interpretation of the "Square Dance" solo, and I don't think the two roles are related, at least temperamentally. That the role was created on Bart Cook, one of the great interpreters of Melancholic, is almost an anti-point, and over the last three decades, I've seen a darkness and drama imposed on the solo that I don't find convincing; Griffths' interpretation was no exception.

Usually, no matter what state I go into seeing "Square Dance", I'm in a great mood when it's over, and I want it to start again immediately. Yesterday's put me in a bad mood.

That didn't last long, because in "Four Temperaments", Barry Kerollis came bounding on the stage with Chalnessa Eames in Second Theme, and Jonathan Porretta danced his way in and out of pretzels as Melancholic, with Mullin again a standout as one of the demis. Rausch got all of the geometry of Sanguinic; she just needs some more projection. Seth Orza was very strong as her partner, with great energy. Phlegmatic was an absolute joy, with Olivier Wevers dancing every phrase as a surprise, and he was flanked by the delightful quartet of Jessika Anspach, Laura Gilbreath, Emma Love, and Brittany Reid. Phlegmatic was all of a piece.

As Choleric Lindsi Dec burst on stage as if she had just escaped from her captors, and boy was she in a Bad Mood. She stormed the stage as if she we were one of the crabby, rude Greek heroes from the Iliad, and she wasn't about to take any prisoners. Her performance left me grinning and in a very Good Mood.

#17 Jayne

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Posted 18 April 2010 - 09:16 PM

more video....not really related to this rep, but a PodCast with Karla Korbes and a clearly awestruck Arik Korman
http://www.youtube.c...feature=related

#18 jsmu

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Posted 23 April 2010 - 06:08 PM

And what a night opening night was last night! Carrie Imler and Lucien Postlewaite in Square Dance were beyond beyond. PNB is a Balanchine company, and it showed last night. As Lucien said at the post-performance Q&A: "It feels like coming home" (this comment is in the context of how very different the programming has been this year, e.g., Dove, Sleeping Beauty, et al).


I am prostrate at not being able to see Imler in Square Dance, in which role she burned up the stage the last time I saw it. I KNOW she was dazzling in the steps; was she as astoundingly witty, funny, and diverting as she was the last time? I laughed out loud several times watching her, in delight, which only the kinescope of Patricia Wilde ever did to me before. There was a moment in the dance with the girls which was just classical comedy worthy of Moliere.

#19 Chocomel

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Posted 23 April 2010 - 09:22 PM

I went to the World Synchronized Skating Championships last weekend, and one thing that struck me was how the top teams could make themselves look as if they were all the same height and body type, while, in fact, there's a very big range, even among the teams that are more uniform in height. The corps didn't manage this on Saturday. There was nothing wrong with the dancing itself, which was great -- Margaret Mullin was especially splendid -- but it wasn't a group yet.


Could you expound upon this for me please? I enjoy that the dancers look different and are various heights and body types. They are all in sync, but I find different qualities in the different dancers in the corps and I relish exploring and identifying those qualities. Of course, maybe it's because I'm the mother of a lovely, young, talented, aspiring Asian dancer, and I loathe the thought that her dreams might be dashed because she doesn't fit the right type.

#20 Helene

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Posted 24 April 2010 - 12:38 AM

I went to the World Synchronized Skating Championships last weekend, and one thing that struck me was how the top teams could make themselves look as if they were all the same height and body type, while, in fact, there's a very big range, even among the teams that are more uniform in height. The corps didn't manage this on Saturday. There was nothing wrong with the dancing itself, which was great -- Margaret Mullin was especially splendid -- but it wasn't a group yet.


Could you expound upon this for me please? I enjoy that the dancers look different and are various heights and body types. They are all in sync, but I find different qualities in the different dancers in the corps and I relish exploring and identifying those qualities. Of course, maybe it's because I'm the mother of a lovely, young, talented, aspiring Asian dancer, and I loathe the thought that her dreams might be dashed because she doesn't fit the right type.

Synchro teams are made of a wide range of body types; many of the skaters don't look like any skaters you'd expect to see at the Olympics: they can very tall -- they rarely jump or perform spins, for that matter -- very big (although in incredible shape), very muscular, and very busty. (Short is rarely a problem in figure skating.) Some teams have wider ranges than others, but there's always a fairly broad range: the Russian team, for example, is much more uniform in height than the French or Italian team, but when I looked closely at the skaters, there were some big girls in the group.

The Bolshoi, Mariinsky, and POB corps seems to be chosen and bred to look identical, but the only great thing about one of my seats at Kennedy Center when the Bolshoi brought "Le Corsaire" was to see by sitting up close how diverse they really were within a type. However, they all learn to dance like one, which is different than being precise, and I didn't notice the differences unless I looked for them. It's a wonderful illusion of a bunch of dancers who blend into a beautiful whole.

The "Square Dance" corps last Saturday afternoon didn't do this. That there were great height differences can make it more difficult, but by last night, mostly the same group of dancers with the same height range had that unity of movement that was lacking last week, and the difference was striking.

I am prostrate at not being able to see Imler in Square Dance, in which role she burned up the stage the last time I saw it. I KNOW she was dazzling in the steps; was she as astoundingly witty, funny, and diverting as she was the last time? I laughed out loud several times watching her, in delight, which only the kinescope of Patricia Wilde ever did to me before. There was a moment in the dance with the girls which was just classical comedy worthy of Moliere.

Last night in "Square Dance" Imler gave one of the best performances of anything I've every seen. Ever. From the infinite unfolding in adagio to the clarity and logic of each movement to the incredible articulation of her torso and the impossible weight shifts in the girl's solo, she revealed the role. Well before she even took the turned-in pose in that solo, which usually gets smiles and some giggles, some women in the rows behind me were laughing in surprise and delight, and one of them even let out a squeal.

Your reference to Moliere is dead on, and one of my favorite moments was when Imler stood at the side in profile, with such stage command, it was a real Mark Morris moment. Lucien Postlewaite was a bright presence, but mostly he was gracious and kept out of the way, because it was impossible not to watch her. His solo was quite beautiful in its contemplative quality and clarity.

Lesley Rausch was a stronger presence as the Russian Girl in "Serenade" without losing any of the Romantic quality of movement, and also in Sanguinic without losing the fineness of articulation. Last night Jeffrey Stanton danced Phlegmatic, and what struck me most was the similarity in articulation through the torso that he showed, a string of "Four Temperaments" DNA that I had never noticed before. It was a beautiful performance.

Benjamin Griffiths' Melancholic was more sad than angsty, a bit more finely wrought than most and maybe more introverted in character, but its relative quietness really drew me in. I particularly loved the repeated movement in which Griffiths' Melancholic drops his arms to the from and side first after the extreme back bends, a cross between resignation and an offering that had a touch of compelling sweetness.

#21 sandik

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Posted 24 April 2010 - 10:04 AM

Last night in "Square Dance" Imler gave one of the best performances of anything I've every seen. Ever. From the infinite unfolding in adagio to the clarity and logic of each movement to the incredible articulation of her torso and the impossible weight shifts in the girl's solo, she revealed the role. Well before she even took the turned-in pose in that solo, which usually gets smiles and some giggles, some women in the rows behind me were laughing in surprise and delight, and one of them even let out a squeal.


Well, damn. I am even more sorry than I was before that I can't see this program again.

Lucien Postlewaite was a bright presence, but mostly he was gracious and kept out of the way, because it was impossible not to watch her.


During one of the Q/A sessions last week, Postlewaite said that when you dance with Carrie Imler, you're "there to put the cherry on the top"

Lesley Rausch was a stronger presence as the Russian Girl in "Serenade" without losing any of the Romantic quality of movement, and also in Sanguinic without losing the fineness of articulation.


Oh this is good news. When I saw her last week I thought she could get there, but just hadn't yet.

Last night Jeffrey Stanton danced Phlegmatic, and what struck me most was the similarity in articulation through the torso that he showed, a string of "Four Temperaments" DNA that I had never noticed before. It was a beautiful performance.


This is purely speculation on my part, since I've heard nothing about it, but he's been away from the stage so much lately I can't help but think that everyone, including himself, is putting a lot of emphasis on what he does while he's there. I'm very glad to see him back again with these performances.

#22 sandik

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Posted 24 April 2010 - 11:50 AM

This is very long, but I really loved this program, and have been thinking about it all week:

Lots of comments in the lobby and during the post-show chats about how nice it is to have a whole program of Balanchine's work. I know for me it was a real pleasure to see all these dances together, and to see the company measure themselves against them.

Jordan Pacitti gave the curtain speech for Second Stage this year -- very clear delivery and nice to have it pointed out that, while college coursework is a valuable part of the program, they also exist for business/vocational training as well.

Serenade
It's been several years since the company performed the ballet, which seems odd. It's one of those works that everyone wants to do, that audiences want to see, and that dancers look good in. I don't know that I believe in “dancer-proof” works, but this certainly comes close. Because it's been so long, there are lots of debuts with these performances. Laura Gilbreath was very effective as the Waltz Girl (vulnerable without pathos), Chalnessa Eames reminded me of Shakespeare's description of Helena in Midsummer (though she be but little, she is fierce) doing those scissoring jumps as the Russian Girl and Ariana Lallone knocked me flat as the Dark Angel (as Helene points out, she is indeed very ready to dance Myrtha next season). For a ballet that isn't supposed to have much of a plot, dancers certainly take full advantage of the characterisation that's there. Leslie Rausch danced her first Russian Girl as well -- she wasn't quite as pointed as Kaori Nakamura or Eames, but she's really close to getting there. And those were just the dancers I saw - Carla Korbes danced the Waltz Girl and Lindsi Dec the Dark Angel Saturday night, and this coming week Carrie Imler dances the Dark Angel, which I am very sorry not to be seeing. There have been a couple of complaints in the local press about the corps not being quite perfect, but I didn't really see that.

Serenade has been analyzed up one side and down the other by critics and scholars and dancers for ages, but this time around I thought I caught a little hint of Rite of Spring in the end -- she's been chosen, and she's going to sacrifice herself. Another idea to put in the file.

Square Dance
The original production is often assigned to the “Balanchine trying to use popular elements to make ballet accessible” category, like Western Symphony and Stars and Stripes, and that's certainly a part of what's going on. But I love to look at ballet performed to baroque music and think about their common roots, since much of what was codified as “ballet technique” by Beauchamp at the behest of Louis XIV is directly connected to baroque music. The caller, the bales of hay and the bolo ties were a clever addition, but I think the heart of the connection is in the structure of the dancing bodies. Square Dance starts out briskly, and hardly lets up at all, and yet there isn't that much of the big, thumpy run-and-leap that often comes to mind when we think of “hard dancing.” Instead, the trick is in keeping the motor running, corps and principals ticking away with extended passages of picky, precise stuff. Square Dance may look chipper to the audience, but it's also an endurance test for the performers.

Despite the title, the inward-turned square of American square dancing doesn't really show up that much here, but there is a much more direct connection to a close ancestor -- contra dancing, sometimes called English country dancing. In manuals by teachers like Playford, they lay out the long line dances with multiple couples facing each other, and simple geometric patterns worked out over and over as the lead couple makes its way down the line and back to the top again. The direction “longways for as many as will” could be describing a corps de ballet as easily as a contra dance set.

There really is only one break from the busy pattern-making, and that's the interpolated male solo. This time around I was really struck by how simple most of the steps were -- I think that, coming after Serenade, where most of the vocabulary is within the grasp of an advanced student dancer, I was ready to see that clarity. But instead of making the solo feel possible for a young dancer, as Serenade does. it seemed incredibly challenging. It's so exposed, and there are so many places that could fall apart -- my heart was in my throat over and over again during this section. Helene, who is much more familiar with the original casting and interpretation, seems to be looking for a very cool interpretation, which Lucien Postlewaite certainly delivers. He's at that happy place where his interpretive skills are coming up to match his impressive technique -- he can make choices about what he'll do and how he'll do it, and it's such a pleasure to consider those decisions. I like Benjamin Griffiths very much in the role -- he makes a slightly more dramatic impact (sharper accent on initiating movements, and a bit more emphasis on breath patterns) and I can see how that might be considered out of line with the original reading. But as we get further and further away from the first generation of these works, I think we'll be seeing more variety in interpretation, just as we get a plethora of readings of classic texts in other fields like music and drama. (Jonathan Porretta seemed to be sitting between these two performance styles -- he is by nature a more dramatic mover, even when I think he's really trying to turn that part of his style down.)

Of the dancers I saw in the first weekend, Imler really owns this role. Rachel Foster and Nakamura are fast, but Imler was able to make each step individual and discrete -- she made gut-bustingly fast work seem almost leisurely by performing it completely. She's really internalized the difference between fast and quick, between the thrilling rush of one thing right after another, and a more punctuated flow. The term in ballet is “precipite,” and it's related to words like precise and precarious. It's a quickness followed by a pause -- a chance to see the result of what you've done.

Which isn't to say that Nakamura wasn't astonishing. She's really amped up her performances this year -- she seems much more intense. She attacks the movement from the start of the phrase and finds all kinds of internal accents. Right now Foster is working hard and making big progress, but she needs to find a more balletic solution to the challenges she's working on -- currently she strikes me as a powerhouse modern dancer in a different environment. But this was her first go at the part, so who knows how far along she'll get by the end of the run.

Four Temperaments
4 Ts is one of my favorite ballets ever, and it's always hard to watch it critically -- I just sit slackjawed and let it roll over me like a wave. PNB has been doing it for many years, but like Serenade, not that recently, so there were debuts here as well.

Lots of good work in the themes -- Sarah Ricard Orza was very smooth in the first with Josh Spell, all kinds of swiveling and sliding so that the accents really showed up. As Helene said, Barry Kerollis bursts out of the wings in number two and keeps zooming along - he reminded me a bit of Porretta's entrance in Symphony in Three Movements. He had a great back and forth with Eames, but I had the bad luck to be sitting in just the wrong row, so that in the side to side shifting the man does, his eyes were the same level as her arms -- one or two rows back and I would have seen them clearly. Jordan Pacitti and Kylee Kitchens had a lovely and serious rapport in the third theme with great flow.

I've always loved the part of Melancholic where the solo man pitches himself into an arabesque only to flip it around so that he's practically falling backwards, catching himself at the last minute before he's splat on the floor. It's actually a fairly simple sequence, but there is real excitement in the off-centeredness -- you have to be willing to take a risk, and trust that you'll catch yourself before the end. Modern dance is full of that kind of daring, but ballet not so much, which is one of the reasons it's thrilling to see it here. Postlewaite really throws himself into that moment, waiting until the last moment to shift and stop his fall. On opening night Porretta is a little more careful, so that you see his hands reach down first, which is unusual for him. Later in the run he's more bold, and the result is worth the effort.

We haven't seen so much of Jeff Stanton lately, so it was especially sweet when he came bounding out with Nakamura for the Sanguinic variation. They were both very plush and round - if he's been injured you couldn't see it here. Seth Orza and Rausch both made debuts in these roles, Orza's was particularly good, as he covered space with clarity. Imler and B Bold frequently dance together, and you could see the ease that familiarity brings to this duet. Sanguine is related to blood flow, and Imler's performance here reminds me of that old phrase about blood singing in the veins -- she just shone.

I think Olivier Wevers has been dancing Phlegmatic since he got to the company and he seem to have spent a lot of time considering all the possibilities of the shape and timing, He's made an incredible number of choices with this performance, and it's fascinating to see them all linked together as the variation spools out. He makes excellent use of his attenuated length, so that gestures like the arm extended with hand flexed really reads clearly, even far back in the theater. We don't see much passive weight in ballet work -- even when something is sustained or delicate there's a sense of control involved -- but toward the end of the variation Wevers just lets his arm drop down from overhead . We hear the hand slap against his thigh and feel the defeat that Phlegmatic implies. Karel Cruz is working on the role, but he's nowhere near as far along in his interpretation. Right now he's being very careful and very faithful about the shapes, so that the broken lines and in-turned limbs all register with us, but he hasn't found his way to connect them into a sequence yet. He's performing again tonight and hopefully he'll make a breakthrough with it.

Ariana Lallone owns Choleric in much the same way that Wevers is attached to Phlegmatic, and with this set of performances she gets even deeper into the violence of the part. She's like watching an electrical storm as it rages in the sky -- you just sit a little further down in your seat and hope it passes over you. The thrill here is seeing a tall woman move quickly and sharply, with the same kind of quickness that Imler has so abundantly in Square Dance. But physics is not on her side -- it takes more force to move a longer lever quickly and precisely than it does with a shorter one, It would be one thing to see a small woman zoom through the choreography, but it's much more impressive when someone can perform against physical type. All three women I saw (Lallone, Dec and Gilbreath) nailed the timing of it, which in itself is fantastic. That they used that energy to create a specific impression makes it just that much more thrilling. Gilbreath is still finding her own way to the anger implicit in the role, but Dec really made a big step forward here. In the past, she's been the best and brightest cheerleader, but here she's found an implacable side to her dancing. Lallone is dancing on the other side of control with this part right now -- Dec is coming up to the edge, looking over, and then looking out at us. They are both great approaches to the part, and it's a thrill to see them side by side here.

#23 Helene

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 09:16 PM

This is very long, but I really loved this program, and have been thinking about it all week:

I loved reading every word.

Carrie Imler dances the Dark Angel, which I am very sorry not to be seeing.

She did the Russian Girl twice this weekend. I saw her with the Vinson (Waltz Girl)/Kitchens (Dark Angel) pairing last night, and she was on the cast list for the Friday night performance, with Korbes (Waltz Girl) and Dec (Dark Angel); Nakamura completed this cast this afternoon. I'm still not sure why the women are listed in the order of Waltz Girl/Dark Angel/Russian Girl, because the Russian Girl is the second principal to enter in the first movement, which was there before the "Scherzo a la Russe" movement was added, but it can be confusing.

Both Vinson and Korbes were dramatic presences as Waltz Girl, Vinson with a dusky, mature quality in throughout the ballet. Korbes was sunny when partnered by Wevers in the "Waltz" and "Scherzo" movements -- they had wonderful chemistry together, from the moment he touched her arm at the end of the first movement -- but was more like a lost princess in the final movement. While her face is expressive, she created most of her dramatic impact through timing.

In the Elegy (final) movement the dynamics between the Waltz Girl and Dark Angel and the way Russian Girl reacts to them were different and marked among the casts. Kitchens might not have debuted as Dark Angel in this run, but she danced as if she were a young soloist making her debut: it was a fresh and direct performance, and she was a messenger of the Elegy Man's fate rather than a catalyst. Despite joining the company just a year after Vinson, she was a more youthful presence. Not so with Lindsay Dec, who was more like Brunhilde, a full participant and eager to announce Siegmund's death to him. Sadly for Korbes' Waltz Girl, Bold doesn't respond with an argument to make her change her mind and her own fate; it was a struggle of two equals. Ariana Lallone didn't need a Wotan to send her: she was more Athenian and very powerful, against which Laura Gilbreath's gallant Waltz Girl had no chance, which made the latter's fate that much more poignant.

When Carrie Imler or Kaori Nakamura swooned and fell in the first movement, it was an episode separate from the Elegy movement; when Lesley Rausch did, it was foreshadowing. Imler and Nakamura were temperamentally different through the third movement and in the Elegy: the stakes in the latter were higher, and they were more dramatic. I particularly loved the bit of swoon in Nakamura's pointes. There was something of a detached spirit to Rausch's presence in the Elegy, Romantic in the period sense.

There's a section in which Waltz Girl dances and there are three corps members in the background. I'd always watched Waltz Girl, and may have been dimly aware of other women in the background, until today, when I noticed Leah O'Connor, and I was reminded of Jacques d'Amboise's description of the young Suzanne Farrell in the last row of the corps "dancing up a storm". It was great to see Sarah Ricard Orza, another of the three, in semi-featured corps parts of the ballet.

But instead of making the solo feel possible for a young dancer, as Serenade does. it seemed incredibly challenging. It's so exposed, and there are so many places that could fall apart -- my heart was in my throat over and over again during this section.

The male "Square Dance" solo is daunting within the first phrase. It was created for a dancer who never stopped moving: he was still moving forward as he stepped back, and even in stillness, his breath was part of the movement, and he was always in opposition to the floor. That's what I hear in the music, too, in the extended legato phrasing of the adagio.

Right now Foster is working hard and making big progress, but she needs to find a more balletic solution to the challenges she's working on -- currently she strikes me as a powerhouse modern dancer in a different environment. But this was her first go at the part, so who knows how far along she'll get by the end of the run.

This is one of the ballets in the 50's pre-Farrell years that was all about Ballet with a capital "B". It's not just about speed: of the two parts of the girl's solo in the finale, one emphasizes turnout, specifically the open thigh and the presentation of the foot -- seen earlier in the attitude front in plie pose in the adagio section, like the muses in Apollo -- and the other demands great strength of the feet to fully extend in the beats and echappes. Those are the givens from which to shape the role, and without them, the role doesn't take hold.

Foster was more confident in the opening and the adagio last night than in her debut, but her fundamental approach is what you described; the ballets demands are not her strengths. Watching her again made me think of the difference between a meta approach and a broad approach. Foster's struck me as broad, because the underlying technical emphases in the piece weren't there.

I hadn't seen Mara Vinson in an allegro role for a while, including this role in the last run, and I missed her Odile; I wasn't sure how she'd tackle this. She was spectacular, using her formidable technique to create a whole and infusing it with joy and wit. She looked like she could have fit more in the music, and she really went for the big pas de chat lifts: Seth Orza looked like he had to scamper to keep up with her. Orza isn't as refined as Lucien Postlewaite or as precise as Benjamin Griffiths; instead his approach was more athletic, using a lot of space with fine energy, and it worked.

Ariana Lallone owns Choleric in much the same way that Wevers is attached to Phlegmatic, and with this set of performances she gets even deeper into the violence of the part. She's like watching an electrical storm as it rages in the sky -- you just sit a little further down in your seat and hope it passes over you.

If Dec was a crabby Greek hero, Lallone was a crabby Greek god, and it was a great performance.

All three women I saw (Lallone, Dec and Gilbreath) nailed the timing of it, which in itself is fantastic. That they used that energy to create a specific impression makes it just that much more thrilling. Gilbreath is still finding her own way to the anger implicit in the role, but Dec really made a big step forward here.

Gilbreath had the energy, but, I agree, anger wasn't at the forefront. Brittany Reid danced Choleric Thursday night, and it looked like Lindsi Dec passed the cheerleader mantle to her, a bright presence more than a malevolent one. Reid looks a lot thinner, and to me looks like she has lost some power in the way she moves.

Karel Cruz is working on the role, but he's nowhere near as far along in his interpretation. Right now he's being very careful and very faithful about the shapes, so that the broken lines and in-turned limbs all register with us, but he hasn't found his way to connect them into a sequence yet.

Cruz performed last night, and it was still like a series of snapshots. There was not much time to develop this, with only two performances this run.

Lucien Postlewaite danced Melancholic in the same cast, and when he stopped moving, he created friezes and continued the characterization, like the George Platt Lynes original cast portraits. I had never noticed the last arm gestures, from the abdomen and out until he did emphasized them, and they reminded me of Carabosse's rolling gesture that she's about to tell a wicked story and place a wicked curse, only Melancholic was offering his sorrow from his gut.

Postlewaite replaced Jonathan Porretta in Melancholic -- in the Q&A we were told that Porretta is having trouble with his knee, and he is being rested to be ready for "Coppelia" -- and this afternoon, Benjamin Griffiths replaced Postlewaite. (There was a lot of murmuring about it, but no one asked why at the Q&A.)

There were a lot of wonderful Theme couples, all of them giving a different spin: In First Theme, there was the geometric contrast among the very tall, sweeping Laura Gilbreath and William Lin-Yee, the mediums Sarah Ricard Orza and Josh Spell, dancing taller than they are, and the shorter pair of Amanda Clark and Eric Hipolito, Jr., each bringing different emphasis to their roles. In the Second Theme, Lindsi Dec and Kiyon Gaines made an unusual physical pairing -- Dec, tall with long limbs and Gaines a medium, muscular dancer -- while Lesley Rausch and Andrew Bartee have similar slender body types. It happened backwards, but I was able to see the Sanguinic in Rausch's Theme. The Third Theme has my favorite music and, along with the Devil's Dance section, is my favorite section of the ballet. Rachel Foster was wonderfully lyric, and she has strong chemistry with James Moore. Last night Sarah Ricard Orza and Jerome Tisserand did an elegant reading.

The Devil's Dance was especially striking last night, with Ariana Lallone surrounded by Lindsi Dec, Sarah Ricard Orza, Laura Gilbreath, and Lesley Rausch.

Christina Siemens was the piano soloist for "The Four Temperaments" and she would have done Mr. Balanchine more than proud.

Jordan Pacitti gave the curtain speech for Second Stage this year -- very clear delivery and nice to have it pointed out that, while college coursework is a valuable part of the program, they also exist for business/vocational training as well.

It was interesting to see the various audiences react. One night clapping began as soon as someone saw that there was a body coming through the curtain. Another night there was complete silence until he mentioned his name. Today was a blank audience, at least during the speech. I noticed that he often wore the same warm-up jacket that Russian Olympics team members wore, a white background with a red swirly pattern on the shoulders. I was almost expecting him to come out to ask us to donate to the Send-Allan-Dameron-To-A-Vacation-Location-Of-His-Choice-To-Enjoy-His-Favorite-Umbrella-Drink-Fund, because Dameron has been doing an incredible amount of work since Stewart Kershaw resigned unexpected after "Romeo et Juliette" last fall, and an extraordinary job with the orchestra, which has been superb in this program. :huh: Mr. Dameron. And :P to the orchestra that has been lead, too, by a number of guest conductors, including Alastair Willis, for whom the orchestra played beautifully last Saturday matinee.

Jeffrey Stanton gave another wonderful performance of Phlegmatic, and he was the guest speaker at the Q&A today. He was very mellow, even when an audience member pretty much asked him to choose favorites among his partners. (Peter Boal, paraphrasing the question, wryly noted that the questioner offered a couple of suggestions.) While refusing the bait, Stanton spoke about his partnership with Patricia Barker, how it started -- she was established, and he was a "young pup" and eager to learn -- and that it was able to develop over the years to the point where they didn't have to talk much about the partnering specifics. He also talked about having joined SFB in 1988, dancing as a student and then company member until 1994, when he auditioned for PNB, having been told earlier by a teacher that PNB might be a good fit and after several of his SFB colleagues joined the company.

Last night Ballet Master Otto Neubert moderated with Jerome Tisserand as Q&A guest. Unless there is a Pay-Otto-Neubert-A-Second-Salary-To-Moderate-Q&A's-Fund, I hope that this is immediately forgotten: Neubert is a great moderator. He starts by asking a few insightful questions and sets the standard, and he asks follow-up questions on interesting subjects. Last night he elicited more than the standard biography from Tisserand, and an interesting discussion of partnering. (This is one of the few Q&A's where no one asked how dancers learn roles.) Everyone thinks they know what Peter Boal does, and they rarely ask him, but someone did ask Neubert what a Ballet Master does.

Neubert spoke about the difference in approaching partnering in Europe compared to when he joined NYCB, and after Tisserand mentioned that he had learned Romeo and was fourth cast Sanguinic -- he danced neither role -- Neubert spoke about how hard it was to have a limited number of performances: the last cast doesn't always get to perform, and when there are four casts, a lead might only get two performances, and it's hard to grow that way, especially when the ballet might not be staged again for three or more years. When someone asked if the reason there weren't more Principals and Soloists in the company because of money, he answered directly that incoming funds might not be spent that way, because the company can't have Principals and Soloists without having enough performances in which to cast them. (Next year, there will be seven subscription performances instead of eight.) When asked why there were so many foreign-born dancers in the company, Neubert said that foreign tours exposed PNB to a lot of dancers who didn't know about them and generated interest in the company.

In response to questions about partnering, Tisserand spoke about the mechanics of partnering, including what the woman did to help, and how it became muscle memory to remember the difference between how to partner one woman versus another. He described having been trained for three years at Paris Opera Ballet School, then two years at a private school in Lyon, then at SAB where he met Peter Boal, and joining Miami City Ballet, which he said didn't go very well, before PNB. He said that in France there only is POB (for ballet), and that there, as a corps member, you're expected to dance and look like everyone else. He said that he wanted to join an American company for the freedom to "become your kind of dancer", but in answer to a later question, he said the hardest thing was standing out, "to become your kind of dancer."

Tisserand is learning Franz in Coppelia, and I hope this gets to the stage. There's an extra matinee performance, and Neubert is teaching 20+ kids, which hopefully will mean bigger audiences -- it was hard seeing empty seats for this program -- and meet budget for the rep.

#24 SandyMcKean

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 01:49 PM

There is little for me to say.....we are blessed in Seattle with a company, PNB, that is far superior to any company a city of our size has any right to expect, but we are also blessed with the likes of Helene and Sandik who review PNB's performances with such insight and detail. I've learned so much from the both of you.....thanks.

There is much I could say about this wonderful "All Balanchine" run. Carla Korbes' wonderful debut as Waltz Girl. The stellar performance of Carrie Imler in "Square Dance". Seth Orza homing in on his own voice in the male solo in "Square Dance" last Friday (Sunday afternoon I didn't think he was quite at the same level). Laura Gilbreath in Choleric turning her exceptionally long limbs into dramatic assets. And generally the dedication and belief all the PNB dancers showed in doing the Balanchine rep with power, skill, interpretive insight, and just plain having fun. But I won't (or did I just do it? :wink:).

I do want to second what Helene says here:

I hadn't seen Mara Vinson in an allegro role for a while, including this role in the last run, and I missed her Odile; I wasn't sure how she'd tackle this. She was spectacular, using her formidable technique to create a whole and infusing it with joy and wit. She looked like she could have fit more in the music, and she really went for the big pas de chat lifts: Seth Orza looked like he had to scamper to keep up with her. Orza isn't as refined as Lucien Postlewaite or as precise as Benjamin Griffiths; instead his approach was more athletic, using a lot of space with fine energy, and it worked.

Quite frankly, Mara Vinson has not been one of my favorite dancers. She's terrific, but somehow she hasn't moved me.....until "Square Dance". Technically she is beyond reproach, but somehow the character and the thrill was missing. She did it for me in this difficult "Square Dance" role. Helene said "wit" and I can't agree more. She showed me not only the dance, but also what it is that she loves about the role. Mara seemed to just plain be having fun. Kudos Mara. And for me, her partner in "Square Dance", Seth Orza, had a break-thru solo on Friday night. It was just as Helene notes. He will refine things, but as Helene said "it worked". He owned the stage that night as I have not seen him do before. What a wonderful cavalier dancer he is becoming. Ballet is rarely long on those!

#25 sandik

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 04:14 PM

(on Serenade)
When Carrie Imler or Kaori Nakamura swooned and fell in the first movement, it was an episode separate from the Elegy movement; when Lesley Rausch did, it was foreshadowing.


Oh, I can see this distinction working really well!

(on Square Dance)
I hadn't seen Mara Vinson in an allegro role for a while, including this role in the last run, and I missed her Odile;

For me, it was stronger than her Odette. Vinson uses epaulment to great effect, especially anything looking over her shoulder, like renverse. Her Odile has a moment looking back at Siegfried where it seemed very much like a fisherman setting the hook in a prize salmon -- not a pretty image, but my father used to fish and I saw this often. Back to Square Dance...

I wasn't sure how she'd tackle this. She was spectacular, using her formidable technique to create a whole and infusing it with joy and wit. She looked like she could have fit more in the music, and she really went for the big pas de chat lifts: Seth Orza looked like he had to scamper to keep up with her. Orza isn't as refined as Lucien Postlewaite or as precise as Benjamin Griffiths; instead his approach was more athletic, using a lot of space with fine energy, and it worked.


I am so sorry I didn't see them -- I feel like I really haven't had a chance to see her since she came back from maternity leave, and it sounds like I've missed a great opportunity. Plus the combination of "Seth Orza" and "scamper" -- I think I'd have to see it to understand it!

(on 4Ts)
If Dec was a crabby Greek hero, Lallone was a crabby Greek god, and it was a great performance.

This characterization made me laugh out loud!

Brittany Reid danced Choleric Thursday night, and it looked like Lindsi Dec passed the cheerleader mantle to her, a bright presence more than a malevolent one. Reid looks a lot thinner, and to me looks like she has lost some power in the way she moves.

She is slimmer, and it seems like she may have lost some strength in her core. I loved her in that Italian Wedding piece during the humor festival -- she was paired with Jordan Pacitti and she just ate the material up.

In the Second Theme, Lindsi Dec and Kiyon Gaines made an unusual physical pairing -- Dec, tall with long limbs and Gaines a medium, muscular dancer


They have some physical differences, but apparently are good friends and work together off stage frequently.

(On Jordan Pacitti speaking for Second Stage)
I was almost expecting him to come out to ask us to donate to the Send-Allan-Dameron-To-A-Vacation-Location-Of-His-Choice-To-Enjoy-His-Favorite-Umbrella-Drink-Fund, because Dameron has been doing an incredible amount of work since Stewart Kershaw resigned unexpected after "Romeo et Juliette" last fall, and an extraordinary job with the orchestra, which has been superb in this program. :) Mr. Dameron. And :flowers: to the orchestra that has been lead, too, by a number of guest conductors, including Alastair Willis, for whom the orchestra played beautifully last Saturday matinee.


And it looks like the administration won't be making a choice about a new music director until the middle of next season, so I'm hoping that Dameron gets a nice long vacation this summer!

Last night Ballet Master Otto Neubert moderated with Jerome Tisserand as Q&A guest. ...Neubert spoke about the difference in approaching partnering in Europe compared to when he joined NYCB, and after Tisserand mentioned that he had learned Romeo and was fourth cast Sanguinic -- he danced neither role -- Neubert spoke about how hard it was to have a limited number of performances: the last cast doesn't always get to perform, and when there are four casts, a lead might only get two performances, and it's hard to grow that way, especially when the ballet might not be staged again for three or more years. When someone asked if the reason there weren't more Principals and Soloists in the company because of money, he answered directly that incoming funds might not be spent that way, because the company can't have Principals and Soloists without having enough performances in which to cast them. (Next year, there will be seven subscription performances instead of eight.)


The longer I think about this the more frustrated I get -- I know, I know -- they have to make economies, but it already seems like we hardly ever see certain dancers because there are only so many opportunities for them to perform. Boal is doing the right thing in trying to bring along the next generation -- they need to get the chance to step up and do real stuff (thinking back to seeing Maria Chapman in Symphony in C several years ago -- I thought she would faint after holding her breath that long, but she needed to do it). But every time we see a 'young person' in a big role we don't get to see one of the mature dancers, who're at a place where their technical skills and their interpretive abilities are at a fever pitch.

Sigh...

(Tisserand) said that in France there only is POB (for ballet), and that there, as a corps member, you're expected to dance and look like everyone else. He said that he wanted to join an American company for the freedom to "become your kind of dancer", but in answer to a later question, he said the hardest thing was standing out, "to become your kind of dancer."

Tisserand is learning Franz in Coppelia, and I hope this gets to the stage. There's an extra matinee performance, and Neubert is teaching 20+ kids, which hopefully will mean bigger audiences -- it was hard seeing empty seats for this program -- and meet budget for the rep.


We can only hope. I thought he was a fascinating contrast to James Moore in Wheeldon's Carousel last year -- with more attenuated lines and more emphasis on shape rather than force it was a very different view of the character.

#26 Helene

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 09:06 PM

Plus the combination of "Seth Orza" and "scamper" -- I think I'd have to see it to understand it!

It was kind of like a series of lateral passes in touch football, except he was both the quarterback and the receiver.

#27 sandik

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 10:19 PM

Plus the combination of "Seth Orza" and "scamper" -- I think I'd have to see it to understand it!

It was kind of like a series of lateral passes in touch football, except he was both the quarterback and the receiver.


Wow. I mean, well, wow.

#28 SandyMcKean

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 10:29 AM

Seth Orza scampering.......

I too saw what Helene is talking about. It was subtle, but it was there.

Then I saw another wrinkle in that same sequence. In the lift immedidately following the one Helene speaks of (where Orza had to "scamper" a bit to catch up to Vinson), he may have overcompensated because when he got his hand around Vinson's waist in preparation for the next lift, he was moving so fast (perhaps not wanting to be a bit late again) that his momentum transferred to Vinson and she accelerated a bit while she was in the air during a hop before the actual big lift. It was like she had a little jet fire while she was airborne that sort of propelled her forward. For me that entire sequence just went to show the energy both dancers were expending in order to put life into the speedy choreography that is "Square Dance".

#29 Helene

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 07:17 PM

PNB has published a post-show wrap-up video with clips from "Serenade" (Kaori Nakamura; Mara Vinson/Lucien Postlewaite) and "Square Dance" (Carrie Imler in the Girl's Solo and corps couple Liora Reshef and Josh Spell), each of which ends in an Angela Sterling snapshot.


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