More Dancers Leaving by End of 2010-11 SeasonLowenberg, Wevers, Milov, Spell, Eames, Kerollis
Posted 13 April 2011 - 05:05 PM
But frankly, I'm very surprised that 8 new dancers are going to be hired (perhaps there is some sort of misunderstanding).
Posted 16 May 2011 - 10:59 AM
Philadelphia-based BalletX is a contemporary ballet company dedicated to commissioning new work. Co-artistic Directors Matthew Neenan and Christine Cox seek to expand the boundaries of ballet both by choreographing new works themselves and by building a repertory of works by emerging talents and established choreographers. Since 2007, BalletX has been the Resident Dance Company of Philadelphia’s The Wilma Theater. In its first three seasons at The Wilma, the Company presented 21 world premieres, including interdisciplinary multimedia work incorporating ballet, spoken text, video, originally composed music and imaginative set design. For more information, visit www.balletx.org.
Said Mr. Kerollis when announcing his new position, “I have always excelled in PNB's contemporary programming. During my time at PNB, I have had the most rewarding experiences in those works. I’ve realized that I am really interested in exploring the contemporary side of my dancing. This is the perfect place for me to do that. It is only an added bonus that the company is in Philadelphia and that I will be close to home.” (Mr. Kerollis is from Downingtown, PA.)
Seattle’s last chances to see Mr. Kerollis dance will be during the upcoming performances of Giselle (June 3-12) and the Season Encore Performance (June 12). As a choreographer, his newest work, It Gets Better, will be presented as part of the June 18 performance of NEXT STEP (formerly the PNB Choreographers’ Showcase).
Congratulations to Mr. Kerollis!
Posted 13 June 2011 - 08:51 PM
We started off with Petite Mort (once of my favs), 4 of the 8 dancers were departing dancers (Eames, Spell, Lallone, Stanton) so this was very special, indeed. Seattle audiences love this piece, which oddly was the only reprise from earlier in the 2010/2011 season. Peter Boal followed with personal remarks, praising each performer in turn. There was sustained applause for the 4 departing principals, but also the other performers.
Agon was next, with Stanton partnering Maria Chapman, and reminding everyone that PNB is a Balanchine orthodox company. Next came both choreography and dancing from Stacy Lowenberg, partnered by Karel Cruz in 'Rushed Goodbye'. Agon is a tough act to follow, it's a benchmark ballet, and Lowenberg choreo isn't in the same league. It was pretty, and instantly forgettable. The audience loves Lowenberg, and fans raced to the front to throw flowers onto the stage - at least a hundred.
The dancing was back in high gear with 'Slaughter on Tenth Avenue' featuring Lesley Rausch (she was "on") and Stanton returning as the hoofer. Audience again eating it up. 'Nine Sinatra Songs' section 'One More for the Road' was the final performance for Chalnessa Eames, who danced 'drunk' with Jerome Tisserand. My seatmate complained afterwards "he was a horrible partner!" and I had to explain the tripping on stage was on purpose. Multiple bouquets of roses were presented, including from what appeared to be many family members.
This was a marathon for Jeffrey Stanton, who returned next with Carla Korbes for 'Who Cares' pas de deux to 'The Man I Love'. I really don't love the costumes for this dance (never have), but the dancing was very pretty. A white screen was lowered in front of the curtain, and a film projected an old video excerpt. It was Mr. Stanton as a child, tapping to a selection of Gershwin songs. Really cute, they should do this for all the departing performers!
The screen and curtain rose, to show Mr. Stanton alone on stage in top hat and tails, tapping away to 'Silver Lining' and Jerome Kern song 'I'll be Hard to Handle' from the broadway musical and hollywood film "Roberta". A standing O from the audience, flowers from each of the female principals, Peter Boal and founding directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell.
I'll post about the remaining performances in a separate post, as this one is getting quite long!
Posted 13 June 2011 - 09:06 PM
After a short pause, Olivier Wever's choreography 'Monster' was performed by Andrew Bartee and Lucien Postlewaite. Mr. Wevers chose to have his choreo represented - rather than dancing himself. I missed the debut while I was in South America, but the audience responded very well. This was very modern, with 6 flourescent lights lining the sides of the stage (3 per side). Poetry about discrimination and hatred towards homosexuality was read in darkness before taped music started the dancing. Afterwards Mr. Wevers took the stage to a resounding cheer from the audience. Flowers were presented, and his husband (Mr. Postelwaite) planted an affectionate kiss.
Next we saw a film highlighting Ms. Lallone's many performances over 24 years with PNB. She then took the stage in Kent Stowell's 'Carmen', partnered by Karel Cruz (in his debut as Escomillo). I wasn't a huge fan of this ballet when it debuted, but I liked it better here, without the background video images. Ulysses Dove's 'Red Angels' followed (and I think is becoming a calling card for PNB) - with Laura Gilbreath, Batkhurel Bold, Carrie Imler and Lucien Postelwaite. Mr. Postelwaite got the biggest cheers, but I liked them all. Mary Rowell reprised on electric violin. I do wonder how this music would sound on electric guitar....
Val Caniparoli came out and described working with Ms. Lallone for the first time. The tall cool glass of water was obvious in the studio from the very first, and he enjoyed walking around town with her to observe the reactions from men. Finally, Ms. Lallone took the stage for the finale to a solo from Caniparoli's 'Lambarena', which was acquired from PNB specifically for her talents. She smiled throughout (a good way to go out, and hard to cry when you're smiling) and audienced whooped. Everyone stood for an emotional standing ovation, and the bouquets included a basket about the size of an easychair that appeared to be from the stage hands.
An emotional, satisfying evening, with dancing that I cannot fault for any technical difficulties. My only wish - and perhaps he did not want it - was for a film montage showing Stanko Milov's performances, followed by a bow on stage. He did not have to do it, but it was his due, and I think the audience would have responded with tremendous ovations. He gave us 12 years of noble dancing, romantic charm and passion. But alas, it did not happen.
Wish you were there.
Posted 17 June 2011 - 03:10 PM
Posted 27 June 2011 - 12:59 PM
Midsummer is a great ballet to check in with people at different parts of their career – unlike some other program length works there are multiple roles for principal and soloist level artists. Like I said in the Seattle Weekly, I doubt that Peter Boal was thinking that he would need performance slots for multiple artists leaving the company at the end of this season, but serendipity is a powerful force.
Titania is one of those roles that women seem to grow in, when they get the chance to come back to it. I think this is Imler’s third time around with it, if I’m counting correctly. She’s danced both this and Hippolyta previously, and her innate stability really underlines the autonomy of both roles. Titania is Queen of the Fairies and Hippolyta is Queen of the Amazons – both of them have power on their own, both of them have very formal relationships with their spouses – without beating the idea over the head with a stick, both roles benefit from the comparison that this casting creates. Beyond the metaphorical similarities, there are some choreographic echoes in the side by side processional moments that make it very easy to see the relationship.
All three Titanias that I saw had some great wild moments with the role, especially in the big stag jumps that so often show up in poster images. The deep twisting action in the solos, with the arms sweeping across the center line of the torso reminded me of the descriptions of Suzanne Farrell after her return to NYCB.
Though none of the women dancing Titania are scheduled to leave this year, we are losing two of the production’s Hippolytas. Ariana Lallone has been getting quite a lot of press about her career and we’ve all speculated about the awkward nature of the announcement, but I wanted to say something about Stacey Lowenberg, who has been at PNB for almost all of her professional life. When I think of dancers who can jump in and out of the corps, she’s one that always comes to mind. It’s a trickier kind of transition than most people might think -- the mindset for a good corps performance requires a commitment to the group that doesn’t always match the soloist’s need to stand out from the ensemble. I’ve said before it’s the difference between “look at us” and “look at me” -- Lowenberg manages both quite deftly. But while I’m always glad to see her clean lines and musicality in the big ensemble corps things, one of my favorite memories of her is from Tharp’s Waterbaby Bagatelles, as one of the bathing beauties. There’s a moment where she’s upstage left (from the audience perspective) in a group of boy watchers, where she does this little flutter kick -- it’s like a pouf of whipped cream on top of the best dish of pudding, and I am always grateful to her for that. She’s been working hard on choreography the last couple of years, teaching herself the lessons she needs to learn like all new choreographers do, and though the work is still awkward in places, she’s making real progress. I hope that she continues that endeavor.
I was so sad to miss Barry Kerollis’s debut as Puck, in part because he’s going elsewhere and it’s likely I won’t see the next part of his career unfold, but also because it’s a role that he should do well in. I like seeing him in the dancey, abstract stuff, but he’s a real treat in anything to do with a character. Even as ‘Prince’s third friend from the left’ in something like Swan Lake or Cinderella, he dances a specific person -- it’s always fun to look for the acting parts of his work. In a Q/A during the first weekend of the run, he said that he was especially pleased to have danced in some of PNBs contemporary rep (especially Dove’s Serious Pleasures), and while I have to believe him if he says so, I agree with Helene’s observation that he seems at home in a jabot and a peruke.
Josh Spell is another dancer that I will miss as much for the possibilities in his future as well as the work I’ve had the chance to see him do. Like Kerollis, he’s got a way with a personality, making small moments read clearly. I particularly remember his bartender in Slaughter, working with Kiyon Gaines to tidy away the results of the big fight, and then congratulating each other when they’re finished. His Lysander in this production, like Wevers’, has a great doofy feeling -- he’s a walking around example of the term “love-struck.”
While I regret missing the next stage in some dancer’s careers, with Chalnessa Eames I will miss seeing the performances here that she might have been in. She’s woven into many of the works in the PNB repertory that I trust are coming back in the near future, not to mention the parts that I was hoping she would be cast in next time around. When I realized that I wouldn’t be seeing her again as the Nurse in the Maillot Romeo, I was really sad. I’m not sure if it’s her timing in general that lends itself to comedy, or if her comic skills affect her overall musicality, but she seems to find the heart of a rhythmic or musical phrase and then show it to us. Her Butterfly and her Hermia were both excellent, but I had almost as much fun following her around in the second act corps, where she was so very clear about all the where and when.
Stanko Milov has been away from the stage for quite some time, with surgery and rehab, but I had been hoping he would be back to performing for Midsummer -- it was a big disappointment to hear that he was retiring altogether. I wish he could have made one last appearance as Theseus. The role is the dance equivalent of ‘underwritten’ -- there’s not much choreographic meat in it, but the moments it does have can really use someone who understands how to command attention and use timing to their benefit. Because the character doesn’t have a big variation, it’s often cast with non-dancing characteristics in mind -- who fits the costume, who’s taller than the woman dancing Hippolyta -- but when it gets the right person, it can be very commanding. You need someone that we believe is a match for Hippolyta -- I have very happy memories of Milov standing next to Lallone, looking like he was a good fit with the Amazon queen. Milov has been game for almost anything during his time at PNB -- I’ll miss his presence.
Of all the dancers leaving at the end of the season, Lallone, Stanton and Wevers are the ones getting the most attention, which is as it should be -- their contributions to the development of the company have been almost too substantial to recognize distinctly. Early on, many of the female principals had a kind of light and sunny quality to them -- dancers like Deborah Hadley and Patricia Barker were very skilled and very beautiful, but had to work at the mysterious part of the ballerina persona. Ariana Lallone seemed to come out of a different environment, bringing a darker quality to her performing. She’s been great to watch everywhere, willing to take risks and do whatever a new choreographer might ask of her (she was the best part of Mark Dendy’s Les Biches and Donald Byrd’s Subtext Rage) but she was particularly fine in the Balanchine repertory, ballets that are about the adult world and benefit from having adults perform them. She’s identified with the ‘tall girl’ in Rubies, and Choleric in The Four Temperaments, and she’s danced those parts splendidly, but I was particularly taken with her work in the recent production of Serenade. In an anonymous group dressed in cool blues, she brought our eyes to her as she stepped forward -- the drama of the work coalesced around her. I’m very glad that she’ll be continuing to perform, and I’m looking forward to seeing her at Teatro ZinZanni (as I understand it, Tommy Tune is choreographing the show she’ll be opening in next autumn), but I can hope that she’ll be available to advise and possibly coach at PNB -- it would be tragic to lose her institutional memory.
Jeff Stanton has been another stalwart member of PNB for ages -- he’s been such a reliable presence that I’ve sometimes assumed he’d always be there. He reminds me just a bit of Clark Kent: serious, responsible, loyal, and underneath it all, capable of some astonishing things. I don’t really think he has a big, red “S” printed on his leotard, but he has indeed been a super man through his career here. His performances this spring, and especially since he announced his upcoming retirement, have been a bit fraught, which is absolutely understandable, but they’ve also been some of the free-est dancing I’ve seen from him in years. His Demetrius in Midsummer was positively bouncy, and his prince in Cinderella swept across the stage. But one of my favorite moments was in the Encore show, in his performance of the Hoofer in Slaughter on 10th Avenue -- holding Lesley Rausch in an impossibly deep backbend, he winked at the audience, letting us share in the joke. It was a generous moment in a career that was full of kindness and grace.
Olivier Wevers is getting all kinds of attention right now for his choreography, and deserves the consideration -- he’s made some excellent work thus far, and looks to be on a good path. But I first knew him as a dancer, and I will miss that part of his career. He’s a great expressive performer, and has done a wonderful job with dramatic parts, but he also has highly refined classical skills and has used them in very evocative ways, as he did in the Divertisment pas de deux in Midsummer. It’s one thing to take on an existing character -- it’s another to find the characteristics of otherwise abstract material and show them to your audience. I’ve really appreciated Wevers fidelity to the work he’s performed, and his ability to show me the heart of the choreographer’s intentions. I look forward to seeing that reflected in his own dancemaking.
Posted 06 July 2011 - 09:38 PM
Posted 14 July 2011 - 05:53 PM
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