Posted 24 April 2010 - 09:33 PM
Posted 25 April 2010 - 09:43 AM
Has anyone here seen this yet? I'm going to be down in Portland next weekend to catch the second week.
Please post your impressions about this program. Thanks.
Posted 26 April 2010 - 06:21 PM
Known by Heart Duet by Tharp was fun. Yuka Iino was the ballerina. She is always wonderful but for this number was a bit too ballerina like. Squires nailed it and made the number extremely enjoyable to watch. I could hear giggles coming from the balcony with the humorous music and movements.
I enjoyed the movement in the piece by Emery Lecrone, "Divergence". It had lovely movement,and interesting costumes. I would like to see more of her work. Very nice.
Like a Samba by Trey McIntyre closed the program. I have seen this piece before on Sacramento Ballet. It is another fun number to watch and looks fun to dance. This cast included Kathi Martuza , Yuka Iino, Artur Sultanov, Brian Simcoe and Brennan Boyer. They were all excellent.
My least favorite number of the day was Stowell's Tolstoy Waltz. Just not my cup of tea, I guess. The part with Kathi Martuze and Artur Sultanov was nice, but I was so worried about them tripping on the long dress that I just couldn't relax to enjoy the number.
Posted 20 May 2010 - 11:27 PM
If we’re being picky, this isn’t really a program of duets. There’s plenty of fascinating partnering work here, but only one of the five ballets is specifically about a couple. Still, the company probably needed a theme to hang their marketing campaign on, and “Five Ballets by Five Different Choreographers” doesn’t really have the same pithy quality, so I shouldn’t complain.
Christopher Stowell is doing the same thing here that his father did at Pacific Northwest Ballet – making works that fit the dancers in the company and filling in different parts of the repertory. Tolstoy’s Waltz is mix of Russian composers (including Balanchine!) that sort out into two different sections, both about relationships. Initially, a solo woman dances with a series of three men, with the main exploration being about movement rather than character. Anne Muller and Yuka Iino were both excellent here, very fastidious and clear in choreography that flirts with the twisty side of neo-classical work without distortion. The stage at the Newmark Theater is smaller than the standard opera house, and the audience sits closer as well -- the movement was pitched to this more intimate range so that we could really see its sculptural elements. Lucas Threefoot (and I’m sure he’s gotten all kinds of comments about his name from his colleagues in the dance world) was quite fine, especially in one duet where, at the end of a long, twining phrase, he let go of his partner in a ‘look, no hands’ moment. Stowell has made a solo for Javier Ubell (to Balanchine’s Valse Lente) that points up the virtues of being small and swift -- I understand that Ubell does an excellent job in Stowell’s Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck, and I can see that in his work here.
About halfway through the ballet the tone shifts -- a gauzy curtain is pulled part way on stage and we have a mini-drama with a blind woman and a menacing man. She drifts across the stage, seeming to avoid him, but never quite escaping. He’s dressed in leather, with gloves (which really add to the tension -- what is it about leaving no fingerprints?) and doesn’t really manhandle her, but we’re still apprehensive. At one point he steps on her train (costume as drapey as the curtain) to stop her momentum, and it’s an awkward moment. This whole section has a kind of “La Sonambula” feel to it, and like when PNB performed that ballet a couple of years ago, the audience wasn’t really sure if this was drama or comedy. I was sitting with a colleague who was convinced to start with that this section was comedic, and there was an awkward titter in the audience when he stepped on her skirt, but Stowell insisted in a later conversation that it was dead serious, and indeed the music (Georgy Sviridov) was from a very dramatic film score with all kinds of doom and gloom. Seeing it again the next day with this knowledge I could recognize the dramatic elements, but I still think it could be read either way, and have been wondering since then how we “know” that something is supposed to be funny. Gavin Larsen and Kathi Martuza were both appropriately wafty in this part, and Adrian Fry was especially looming (with Larsen) -- using his height to emphasize the drama.
Tharp’s Known By Heart duet has a kind of “golly gee” quality to it -- it doesn’t tell a story, or even really describe two complex characters but they do have a lively and blithe relationship as they speed through the tricky choreography. This is Tharp’s vernacular virtuosity – she toe taps, he shadow boxes – at the end you think she might snap her gum. But as often happens with Tharp’s work the patterns underneath the breezy exterior are complex and exciting. Yuka Iino performed so cleanly that you could really see that the personality is built into the material, not layered on top. As her partner Christian Squires was right in sync with her rhythms. At another performance Anne Muller and Chauncey Parsons were a bit more actorly, like Archie and Betty, or Little Abner and Daisy Mae.
Emery Lecrone is a young choreographer just starting her career, and so we’re likely to be generous as we look at her work. Divergence is a multi-section dance where the parts don’t necessarily add up to a whole. Her first section is a group work with some nice close-quarters dancing, moving people around each other and through the space with assurance. This is not faint praise – the traffic cop aspect of dance making is tough to learn and can trip up what is otherwise professional work. The central duet specializes in the pretzelly twining aspects of partnering, with a nice sense of increasing tension that resolves in an exhausted flop at the end. The ensemble comes back together for the last section, but it’s dynamically very similar to the opening, so there doesn’t seem to be a change or sense of growth over the course of the work. There are some mild references to Egypt (a pyramid-shaped sculpture on stage, some sphinx-like poses) but Divergence is not an investigation of traditional or contemporary Egyptian culture. Lecrone can build a phrase and move a group – both important skills. Now she needs to find a reason for us to care about the dancers in those groups.
Balanchine’s Duo Concertant looked particularly fine in this intimate theater. With the musicians on stage, this has always felt more like a quartet than a pas de deux to me. The opening section, with the dancers “listening” to the piano and violin duo, can sometimes feel a bit contrived and self-conscious, but both the couples I saw danced this with great believability. Kathi Martuza had a mischievous quality to her dancing that came from some sharp accents and deliberate focus choices. Watching her, I couldn’t tell if she was pointing out the moments where Balanchine quotes himself (Apollo, Prodigal Son) or if she was just very clear, and so the references pop out. Gavin Larsen had a softer quality to her work, especially in her relationship with her partner. Artur Sultanov danced the male role in both performances, and was very natural in the folk dance references. He’s quite tall, and uses that height difference to great effect, especially with Larsen. This was her last performance (she’s retiring to teach and coach children’s roles) so the transformation moment where the woman becomes a goddess was even more fraught than usual. After this duet, the company staged a special curtain call for her, with former partners and students joining her on stage.
Like a Samba is an appropriate title for Trey McIntyre’s send-them-home-happy ballet. It isn’t really a samba, in the same way that the Girl-From-Ipanema score isn’t traditional samba music either. Both are sleekly crafted variations on the primary source material. McIntyre starts with his quintet of dancers each outlined in their own square spotlights upstage next to the drop curtain. They are busy, busy people, hips twitching and shoulders shimmying, and they flash on and off stage, including an ultra-bouncy male solo, until they get to the Ipanema moment, when McIntyre pulls everything back in an extremely exposed adagio sequence. Kathi Martuza was especially effective pacing through that familiar song, and Lucas Threefoot turns up again with great buoyancy in the jumping solo.
Every time I see the company, they’re just a little better than they were before. Congratulations to everyone concerned.
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