Helene

Coppelia: Previews, Casting, Videos, Reviews, News

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Coppelia opens next Friday, 1 June, and there is an additional, non-subscription performance on Saturday, 9 June at 2pm.

Casting has been posted for the first week-end. The three leads are:

Friday, 1 June 7:30pm

Swanhilde: Kaori Nakamura

Franz: Jonathan Porretta

Dr. Coppelius: Jeff Stanton

Saturday, 2 June 2:00pm

Swanhilde: Rachel Foster

Franz: Benjamin Griffiths

Dr. Coppelius: Peter Boal

Saturday, 2 June 7:30pm

Swanhilde: Lesley Rausch

Franz: Jerome Tisserand

Dr. Coppelius: William Lin-Yee

The Swanhilde/Franz pairings were three of the original 2010 couples, with Korbes/Orza and Vinson/Moore.

Coppelia Casting.xls

From the press release:

SEATTLE, WA – Pacific Northwest Ballet concludes its 2011-2012 Season with its beautiful production of Coppélia, George Balanchine’s classic comic ballet. PNB’s production of Coppélia,which premiered in 2010 with new sets and costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi de Bagno,runs for eight performances only, from June 1to 10 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Tickets start at $28 and may be purchased by calling the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424, online at pnb.org,or in person at the PNB Box Office at 301 Mercer St.

Audiences and critics were captivated when the curtain rose on PNB's premiere of its exquisite, wisteria-hued production of George Balanchine's Coppélia in June of 2010: "The audience actually gasped when the curtain went up" (Journal Newspapers). Originally created in 1870, Balanchine and famous ballerina Alexandra Danilova drew on source material and memory for 1974's New York City Ballet version. The story, inseparable from Léo Delibes' superbly melodic score, is a lighthearted comedy about vivacious young Swanilda, her impetuous suitor Franz, and the eccentric toymaker Dr. Coppelius. Though Franz loves Swanilda, he is swept away by Coppélia, a life-sized doll whom he believes is real. When Swanilda steals into Dr. Coppelius' workshop and discovers the truth about Coppélia, she dresses up as her rival and amuses herself by tricking both toymaker and her lover. All ends well in the final act’s splendid wedding festivities, revised by Balanchine and enhanced by the addition of 24 "baby" ballerinas who frame ensemble and solo variations. Beautifully detailed by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno's lavish sets and costumes, this production is a complete delight for all ages. "Coppélia...demands repeat viewing" (CriticalDance.com).

Drawn from ballet's Romantic period and informed by a 19th-century fascination with mechanical toys, Coppélia is the tale of cheerful young lovers, Swanilda and Franz, whose courtship is briefly interrupted when Doctor Coppelius, the village's eccentric inventor, creates a doll so life-like that Franz becomes infatuated. When her suitor attempts a clandestine rendezvous, Swanilda evens the score by dressing as the doll and pretending to come to life. Ultimately, the pair is reconciled, and Act III's effervescent wedding-day festivities offer an array of spectacular dances.

Coppéliamarked the passing of ballet supremacy from France to Russia. Originally choreographed by Arthur St. Léon in Paris in 1870, it was restaged by Marius Petipa in St. Petersburg in 1884 and revised by Enrico Cecchetti in 1894. Little, if any, of St. Léon’s choreography remains in today’s production, although Acts I and II retain his ideas and the story of mischievous young lovers. Balanchine provided entirely new choreography for Act III.

Balanchine wrote, “In 1974, I decided we should stage Coppéliaat the New York City Ballet and asked the ballerina and teacher Alexandra Danilova, celebrated for many years for her Swanilda, to collaborate with me on the choreography. I remember very well performances by the Russian Imperial Ballet of Coppélia and as a member of the company danced in the mazurka.

“I have often said that Delibes is one of my favorite composers for dance. In our new Coppélia, we used the entire score of the three-act version. The first dance drama of really uniform excellence deserves no less! No part of the ballet is subordinate to any other; most important of all, ballet music in Coppéliaparticipates in the dance drama as never before, Delibes’ charming, melodic music assisting the plot and unifying the music and dance. Tchaikovsky was directly inspired by Delibes’ score to write his own ballet music. Delibes is the first great ballet composer; Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky are his successors.” [Program notes by Doug Fullington.]

SPECIAL EVENTS & OFFERS

FUN FOR FAMILIES

Special activities for children and families – including crafts and dance classes – begin one hour before all matinee performances. FREE for ticketholders.

GROUP SALES

Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. For group tickets, please call 206.441.2416, email juliej@pnb.org or use PNB’s Online Group Builder at pnb.org.

$15 TICKETS FOR AGE 25 & UNDER

All Thursday and Friday performances: June 1, 7 and 8 at 7:30 pm

One ticket for $15 or two for $25 for patrons 25 years and younger! To purchase tickets, contact the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424 or visit 301 Mercer Street. This offer is good for June 1, 7 and 8 performances only, is subject to availability and not valid on previously purchased tickets. Each attendee must present valid ID upon ticket retrieval.

TEEN TIX

PNB is a proud participant of Seattle Center’s Teen Tix program. Young people 13 to 19 years old can purchase tickets to PNB performances and other music, dance, theater and arts events for only $5. To join Teen Tix or view a list of participating organizations, visit seattlecenter.com/teentix.

STUDENT AND SENIOR RUSH TICKETS

Subject to availability, half-price rush tickets for students and senior citizens (65+) may be purchased in-person with current, valid ID, beginning 90 minutes prior to show time at the McCaw Hall box office.

FRIDAY PREVIEWS – SOLD OUT

Friday, May 18, 6:00 pm

The Phelps Center, 301 Mercer Street, Seattle

Join us for an hour-long dance preview led by Artistic Director Peter Boal and featuring PNB dancers rehearsing excerpts from Coppélia. PNB Friday Previews offer an upbeat and up-close view of the Company preparing to put dance on stage. (This event is SOLD OUT.) Friday Previews are sponsored by U.S. Bank.

BALLET PREVIEW — FREE

Tuesday, May 29, 12:00 noon

Central Seattle Public Library, 1000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle

Join PNB for a free lunch-hour preview lecture at the Central Seattle Public Library. Education Programs Manager Doug Fullington will offer insights about Coppélia, complete with video excerpts. FREE of charge.

PNB LECTURE SERIES & DRESS REHEARSAL

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lecture 6:00 pm, Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall

Dress Rehearsal 7:00 pm, McCaw Hall

Join PNB artistic director Peter Boal and Judith Fugate, stager and original cast member of Balanchine’s Coppélia, for an engaging discussionduring the hour preceding the dress rehearsal. Attend the lecture only or stay for the rehearsal. Tickets are $12 for the lecture, or $30 for the lecture and dress rehearsal. Tickets may be purchased by calling 206.441.2424, online at pnb.org or in person at the PNB Box Office at 301 Mercer Street.

Pre-Performance Lectures

Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall

Join Education Programs Manager Doug Fullington for a 30-minute introduction to each performance, including discussions of choreography, music, history, design and the process of bringing Coppélia to the stage. One hour before performances. FREE for ticketholders.

Post-Performance Q&A

Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall

Skip the post-show traffic and enjoy a Q&A with Artistic Director Peter Boal and PNB dancers, immediately following each performance. FREE for ticketholders.

Listen to the Ballet!

PNB partners with 98.1 Classical KING FM to bring listeners some of the world’s most popular ballet scores, featuring the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra direct from McCaw Hall. Tune in to KING FM for an opening weekend performance of Coppélia on Saturday, June 2 at 7:30 pm. Only on 98.1 fm or online at king.org/listen.

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Casting is up for Week 2; here are the principal couples:

Thursday, 7 June 7:30 pm:

Swanhilde: Lesley Rausch

Franz: Jerome Tisserand

Dr. Coppelius: William Lin-Yee

Friday, 8 June 7:30pm and

Sunday, 10 June 1pm

Swanhilde: Leta Biasucci

Franz: James Moore

Dr. Coppelius: Ezra Thomson

Saturday, 9 June 2pm

Swanhilde: Kaori Nakamura

Franz: Jonathan Porretta

Dr. Coppelius: Jeff Stanton

Saturday, 9 June 7:30pm

Swanhilde: Rachel Foster

Franz: Benjamin Griffiths

Dr. Coppelius: Peter Boal

James Moore returns as Franz. Two years ago, he partnered Mara Vinson in her last regular season performance in this ballet. This year, his Swanhilde is Leta Biasucci.

Here is a new video in which he talks about the role of Franz and comedy in the ballet:

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I'm glad Biasucci is getting a chance at the role -- I wondered who Moore would dance with this time. And the tiny clip of Ezra T as Coppelius was very intriguing. I'm sorry I'm going to miss that.

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Jeff Stanton was the dancer in the Friday night Q/A -- it was very nice to see him onstage again. He was asked what he’s been doing this year, and said he went to China after the end of the season last June, to work on a project with an Italian choreographer. Since then he’s been teaching, at PNB and Evergreen Ballet, both ballet and tap.

He said he felt much more in tune with Dr Coppelius this time around -- he hadn’t had much experience with character parts before he learned this role when PNB staged it in 2010 -- since then he's done Drosselmeyer, and said that the experience helped with Dr C.

Since both Boal and Stanton perform Dr Coppelius in this production, I asked what their perceptions were about the transition from the 2nd to the 3rd act -- at the end of the 2nd act, Dr C is almost a tragic figure, having his ideal “woman” exposed as a puppet and his feelings rejected, but at the beginning of act 3, when he enters with the marionette to claim justice, he’s given the same bag of coins as the rest of the young couples and he leaves without any other resolution. I know that Coppelia is at heart a comedy, and that the balance between tragedy and comedy is a subtle one here, but I’ve often thought of this moment like Alain’s resolution at the end of Ashton’s Fille -- he loses the girl but keeps the umbrella. Lise and Colas need to finish the ballet together, but for a moment we see Alain as something other than comic relief, and it adds a great dimension to the work. I think Balanchine lost a little opportunity in Coppelia, to do the same.

Both Stanton and Boal agreed that the real finale for Dr C is at the end of the second act, and that his appearance in act 3 is mostly vestigial.

Peter Boal was asked about the CW series Breaking Pointe, and said that they had approached PNB about participating, but that he said no. The impression I got was that he thought the reality show context was too harsh -- I was going to ask him to compare it to Steven Manes’ recent book about the company, but the discussion went in another direction.

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After seeing "Breaking Pointe," I'm glad Boal declined.

I just found info from PNB about "Coppelia" in my inbox:

Peter Boal's Letter:

We have all so enjoyed watching our wonderful production of Coppélia come together again over the past several weeks. I hope you are able to see it at least once. Here are a few insider facts that may be of interest to you:

- 60 of our students appear in each performance, dancing the roles of brides, grooms, corps of war and discord, dolls, bells ringers, villagers, and our miniature corps de ballet.

- New York City Ballet has enjoyed a summer home in Saratoga Springs, New York, since the 1970s. Coppélia was created for this audience who loved more traditional offerings than their cosmopolitan neighbors to the south. When Coppélia was first presented in Saratoga, Patricia McBride and Helgi Tomasson danced eight performances in one week. They were the only cast.

- There are a few minor changes to PNB's production since it premiered two years ago. Swanilda has added two plate racks to her interior, the window of Dr. Coppelius' workshop now boast a view of neighboring buildings, and a layer of tulle has been removed from several of the tutus.

- PNB's efforts to perform Balanchine's Coppélia led to three additional companies performing the work: Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and Dresden Semperoper Ballet. Judith Fugate staged the ballet for all three as well as for PNB.

- The inspiration for the Spinner costume was a John Galliano couture gown.

- Along the spines of the books in Dr. Coppelius's workshop are the names of 153 patrons of the production. Addition initials can be seen on the bells in act three: GB for George Balanchine and LD for Léo Delibes. The vanity mirror in Act II has AD for Alexandra Danilova. The two cushions the automatons sit on also boast a monogram: RL for Ralph Lauren.

- Poor Franz spends a long time passed out in the large book chair in Act II. Helgi Tomasson, NYCB’s original Franz, used to have a heating pad placed in the chair for cool evenings in Saratoga Springs. We’ve added a large backrest that looks like a book.

Doug Fullington's notes on the Act III Festival of the Bells:

In the original 1876 Paris production of Coppélia, the Act III festival to inaugurate the new town bell was celebrated by an elaborate divertissement in the form of an allegory of both a day in the village and the cycle of life.

The opening Waltz of the Hours was performed by the Hours of the Morning. Dawn then appeared, surrounded by flowers, and the Hours of the Morning danced around her. Prayer followed, blessing the new day and rising into the heavens. Dawn and the Hours of the Morning gave way to the Hours of the Day, who introduced Work: a spinner and harvest women. Hymen, bearing a torch, symbolized marriage and presided over a village wedding, accompanied by Cupid. Discord interrupted the scene, bringing with her War. The sky darkened with a fiery glow. Peace appeared, carrying an olive branch, and all became calm. After a solo for Swanilda, danced by 16-year-old Giuseppina Bozzacchi, the Hours of Evening and of Night were joined by two follies and Pleasure. The entire company danced the final Galop.

When Balanchine choreographed Act III of Coppélia in 1974, he left much of the allegorical divertissement intact. In a stroke of genius, he gave the roles of the Hours to 24 young girls from the School of American Ballet. Dawn, Prayer, and Spinner were solo roles, and Hymen was replaced by four Jesterettes. Discord and War was set as a romp for a principal couple with eight supporting couples in ancient military garb. Peace took the form of a pas de deux for Swanilda and Franz, with music from Delibes’ Sylvia incorporated to create a traditional pas de deux structure (adagio, male variation, female variation, coda), and the Galop concluded not only the divertissement but the entire ballet.

Q&A Participants (subject to change):

Friday 1-Jun eve:

Jeffrey Stanton

Saturday 2-Jun mat:

Margaret Mullin

Carli Samuelson

Saturday 2-Jun eve:

William Lin-Yee

Thursday 7-Jun eve:

Lesley Rausch

Jerome Tisserand

Friday 8-Jun eve:

Ezra Thomson

Saturday 9-Jun mat:

Kaori Nakamura

Jonathan Porretta

Saturday 9-Jun eve:

Rachel Foster

Benjamin Griffiths

Sunday 10-Jun mat:

Leta Biasucci

James Moore

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"and a layer of tulle has been removed from several of the tutus."

Well, last night in the second act, there was some tulle hanging from Swanilda's skirt, which had apparently caught on one of Coppelius' buttons. Perhaps they thought they needed to do some additional tailoring?

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Well, last night in the second act, there was some tulle hanging from Swanilda's skirt....

Which I found very distracting (as I'm sure others did too). It wasn't clear that Leslie Rausch knew that a piece of fabric was hanging there.....I became anxious that she might trip on it.

One disappointment.....I figured someone back stage certainly noticed the loose material and someone would have been dispatched ASAP into the curtained "room" that Swanilda retires to briefly so the offending material could be removed in those couple of minutes, but when Leslie re-appeared that damn piece of material was still hanging there.

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One other comment.......

Congratulations to William Lin-Yee for his protrayal of Dr. Coppelius on Saturday night. He produced a very believable character with a wonderful mixture of comic foolishness and tragic victim-hood. William has a terrific sense of acting to go with his powerful style of dancing.

I expect this level of skill from the seasoned performers Jeffrey Stanton and Peter Boal, but did not expect such a terrific performance from a young dancer like William. I saw Jeffrey Friday night and he simply out-did himself....he was masterful in this role (a skill that William Lin-Yee freely acknowledged was an inspiration to him as he developed his version of the character). William also mentioned at the Q&A using his own grandfather as a model.

Now to see one of the dancers on my "short list" of new young dancers, Ezra Thomson, attempt this tricky role this coming Friday. Frankly, I'm going this 3rd time just to see this young man strut his stuff. IMHO, Ezra is loaded with talent!

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It's a very bizarre addition, with the men and women dressed as gladiators. According to Doug Fullington's notes from the seminar he gave in 2010 before the PNB premiere, it was in the 1870 original score.

Every time I see it, I think of "Springtime for Hitler," because it almost seems like a farce, especially after the four beautiful solos (Hours, Prayer, Dawn, Spinner) that precede it.

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Every time I see it, I think of "Springtime for Hitler," because it almost seems like a farce, especially after the four beautiful solos (Hours, Prayer, Dawn, Spinner) that precede it.

Oh ouch! It reminds me of an old music hall number, especially the way they hold their spears almost like canes during the emboites at the end of the section. But Coppelia is full of cakewalking, especially in the 3rd act diverts.

The first time I saw D and W I was pretty dumbfounded, but I've gotten very fond of it. It's like a sudden rainstorm, that blows over and clears up quickly, leaving the air fresh.

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It's like a storm and cleans everything up for the great wedding pas de deux. I don't know if this was in anyone's mind during its creation, but in my Italian home town it's considered good luck for there to be rain on one's wedding day.

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I also saw the 3rd performance on Saturday night. I don't have my program in front of me, so I'll try to do this from memory.

Jerome Tisserand made an excellent Franz, he doesn't have much air on his jumps, but he is so smooth and secure in them. He had a couple of centering issues on some spins, but his lifts made Swanhilde look light as a feather. He acts well, and has matinee idol good looks. The slicked back hair is a good look for him. While I think Kaori Nakamura is the best dance-actress at PNB (especially in soubrette roles) I looked forward to seeing Lesley Rausch, and she didn't disappoint. She had the pique, youth, and aplomb that makes the character so appealing. I liked, but didn't love William Yin-Lee as Dr. Coppelius. The character was a little one dimensional to me, Jeffrey Stanton is the gold standard in this role.

The costumes and sets continue to please the eye, and the little girl corps seemed better practiced this time around. The corps looked fine, but again, the acting in the 1st act was inconsistent - especially for the Hungarian dance - which needs smiling throughout. I know the cast had a large sprinkling of professional students, and there were a few standouts (unfortunately without my program in front of me, I cannot ID them, perhaps I will come back tonight and edit this post).

Leta Biasucci is a real steal from OBT. She is definitely on the soloist-track for 2013. And deservedly so. She played the best friend (who finds the key) and in the 3rd act leads one of the golden hours. Carrie Imler performed a lovely Prayer to great applause, Laura Gilbraith performed a servicable Prayer (I think the steps are somewhat unexciting after all that preceeds Prayer, so all dancers get a humdrum response from the audience), and Maria Chapman made Spinner stand out (of course That Dress is also an attention-getter).

Kiyon Gaines substituted for Bakhurold Bold as the lead in Discord & War with Lindsey Dec. I thought it was awkward at the debut, and still think it's strange, but it is a fun dance to watch. I had a 4th row seat, so facial expressions were very clear to me. D&W dancers seemed to shift from big smiles to stern looks throughout the performance. All steps were big, and looked imposing after the delicacy that came before it. IMHO, they should stick to stern (as D&W in real life isn't a happy occasion). Mr. Gaines' headdress kept falling back. I still think this is the best Halloween costume, ever.

The audience was involved, and seating was about 80-85% full. I heard a lot of Russian around me. I went to the discussion afterwards, but can't think of anything to add that hasn't already been stated on the boards.

After the 2nd act, my seatmates were talking about one dancer who looked startlingly gaunt. I much prefer the physiques of Carrie Imler and Leta Biasucci. The extra muscle that Ms. Imler and Ms. Biasucci carry allow them greater physical control, stronger jumps, cleaner steps, and more believably youthful faces.

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The music for "War and Discord" has a bubbly, bouncy section to it, with matching upbeat choreography, and it would be hard to keep the stern face throughout that section.

The Dawn variation, which Imler danced, was choreographed originally for Merrill Ashley, and the Prayer variation, which Gilbreath danced, for Christine Redpath.

Getting Biasucci almost feels like stealing. She's scheduled to debut as Swanhilde this Friday, with a second performance this Sunday (matinee).

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Thanks for the schedule -- I wanted it for my records...

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The music for "War and Discord" has a bubbly, bouncy section to it, with matching upbeat choreography, and it would be hard to keep the stern face throughout that section.

I've read in this thread (or perhaps elsewhere) that some think this War and Discord section seems "out of place" in the overall feeling of Coppelia. I can understand that reaction, although I personally really love this section just as it is. My question is what type of choreography was once done to this music? Or if choreographers before Mr B left this section of music out, the question reduces down to what did Delibes have in mind when he wrote the music as ballet music?

Getting Biasucci.......scheduled to debut as Swanhilde this Friday....

I'm so excited that I am going to be able to see this on Friday. Like most of us, I was struck big time from the moment I first saw Leta on stage (I knew nothing about her). Her cupid in Don Quixote was spectacular. Swanilda is another role which seems taylor-made for body type and dancing style (much like it is for Nakamura....my favorite Swanilda so far).

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What an exciting night at the ballet last night was!

Two stars were born last night: Leta Biasucci and Ezra Thomson.

Ezra absolutely nailed Dr Coppelius.....I might just have witnessed a new gold standard being established. Furthermore, he absolutely loves what he is doing (he was the Q&A guest last night).

No surprise, I suspect, to those of us who continue to be blown away by this extremely talented new dancer to PNB. Swanilda is a "perfect" role for Leta, and she made the most of it. Except for her diminutive size, Leta kept reminding me of Carrie Imler (to be expected, I guess, given that they both studied at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet with Marcia Dale Weary). Leta's speed, accuracy, musciality, acting ability, and presence, a presence that simply dominates the stage, is highly impressive. A stellar career is in front of this determined young lady.

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I went to two Q&A's on the second weekend, and here are my (legible) notes from the first:

Saturday, 9 June matinee, with Kaori Nakamura and Jonathan Porretta (Swanhilde and Franz), moderated by Otto Neubert

Neubert broke the ice by telling us that "We're going to need a lot of help today, because Jonathan is very shy."

Porretta started by saying that he loves to partner Nakamura: she's the easiest partner in the world, and she teaches him something every time they dance together. Nakamura said she loves dancing with Porretta. When asked how long they've danced together, they answered 14 years, and Porretta explained to the questioner that partners change per rep.

When asked about what it is like dancing matinees -- both danced opening night first weekend as well -- Nakamura said that it's more relaxed. Porretta said that they go from class directly to the show, and that there's good energy.

Asked about their favorite ballets, Nakamura answered that she loves full-length ballets, like "Coppelia" and "Giselle", and they both talked about how they get to spend more time rehearsing them [than mixed rep ballets]. Porretta elaborated that they spend more time developing their technique, acting skills, and partnering, and explained that they don't partner in class every day. He mentioned "Prodigal Son," "in the middle, somewhat elevated," and "A Million Kisses to My Skin" as some of his current favorites. [it showed in his performance of the excerpt from the last ballet in the Encores program Sunday night.]

The were asked what was most demanding about "Coppelia". Nakamura answered, the combination of acting and technique, and stamina, especially by the end of Act III. Porretta said he celebrates backstage after the double-tours sequence in his Act III variation. Neubert talked about how difficult it is for Franz to sit in the chair for most of Act II -- normally the lead gets to disappear and warm up -- and mentioned that Helgi Tomasson used a warm cushion on the chair when he did the part.

There were kudos from the dancers to the "amazing stage crew."

One of the three mentioned that Jeffrey Stanton has been teaching a lot and doing some guesting this year.

When asked what roles he'd be doing next year, Porretta said that he'd be doing his jester roles, and when asked why, he said that he doesn't dance or look like a prince, and that he's too short to do those roles, but kidded, "My roles are better."

They were asked about eating during the performances. Both Nakamura and Porretta drink water, but said that other dancers snack.

They were also asked if there were concerns when the kids -- the 24 girls, ages 8-15, who dance in Act III -- are dancing. All three looked a bit puzzled by that, and I think it was Porretta who asked, "Like watching your language?" and then he said, "We have Otto backstage." Neubert, who serves as Ballet Master for the children as well as the Company, then spoke about the "little people": He said it was amazing what they do, and that if you give them responsibility and rehearse them enough, they will do their jobs: they are the only constant in the ballet. He said that Kent Stowell used to say to the dancers, "If you don't know what to do, ask the children. They will know what to do."

Asked what a Ballet Master is [obviously the questioner didn't read Stephen Manes' book], Neubert answered: teach class, rehearse the ballets, assist the choreographers, take notes so that the next time the ballet is performed, he can bring the dancers up to speed for the Artistic Director, and, speaking to the dancers, "giving you guys a hard time." He also does roles; Porretta said, "That's because he's so good at acting," and they spoke a little about performing Don Quixote and Sancho Panza together in the Ratmansky "Don Q" [this past February, and they were dynamite together].

Porretta and Nakamura both started to dance at 7. Porretta did the gamut -- ballet, jazz, tap, etc. -- and gradually went from twice a week to three times a week to every day.

Asked what is the most difficult part, I think it was Porretta who answered that there were so many, including keeping the legs turned out and toes pointed all the time. Neubert then said that it is different for each dancer, and each works on different aspects of technique. He said people confuse ability and technique, and that it's technique that prolongs a dancer's career.

I think it was Porretta who answered the question "What surprised you most about becoming a professional dancer" with "It was harder than I thought. As a student, taking so many classes, I thought it would be easier [than being a student]."

There were lots of kids at the Q&A, and Porretta was an absolute sweetheart answering their questions.

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Sunday, 10 June matinee Q&A with Leta Biasucci and James Moore (Swanhilde and Franz), moderated by Peter Boal.

Boal noted that in the last performance, "Everyone was adding choreography, even the bell ringers." He said that the dancers will be back in a week to rehearse for the "All Tharp" program that the company will perform at the Spoletto Festival, and to a question about the initials on the bells, he answered that two (LD and GB) were for Delibes and Balanchine, and the other four were the initials of major patrons, three from Seattle and one from San Francisco. [PNB's partner in the co-production was San Francisco Ballet, and they performed it superbly last season.] In the original production, some of the initials were the performers' in original cast.

Someone asked about Carla Korbes, who was injured during the "Apollo/Carmina Burana" rep, and Boal said that Seth Orza had an injury, and Korbes lost her Swanhilde. He later said that originally, Leta Biasucci was cast with Kyle Davis, and Liora Reshef with James Moore, and that he expected the Biasucci/Davis cast to do only an outreach performance. [Maybe Discover Dance]. However, Reshef was injured and couldn't dance.

Both dancers were asked about their background. James Moore was a member of Pittsburgh Ballet before PNB, and when asked if he was a Steelers fan, he said "Yes", and Leta Biasucci was with Oregon Ballet Theatre for three years [before joining PNB this year].

Someone asked if we would ever see same-sex marriages in Act III. Boal said that in Ezra Thomson's new ballet [in the Next Step program, performed last weekend], three women are pining over shoes, representing their partners, and when the "Men" come in, one of them is a woman.

Biasucci was asked how much notice she had before dancing "Coppelia" [on the main stage], and she said "2 weeks." She had done the role when she was 15 at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB), where she trained, for the school show. While it was a different staging, she knew the story and the character.

James Moore's mother and little sister, and Leta Biasucci's parents and aunt and uncle were in the audience [performance and Q&A]. Boal mentioned that Benjamin Griffiths had five grandmothers at the Q&A the night before.

Gigi Berardi from "Dance Magazine" asked Biasucci what it was like going in and out of Principal roles. [For background: Biasucci danced a major role in most of the season's reps: ingenue in "Variations Serieuses" in the season-opener "All Wheeldon" program, lead in "Divertimento from 'Baiser de la fee'" in the "Love Stories" program, Amor in "Don Quixote", "Primo Vere" in "Carmina Burana," and Swanhilde in "Coppelia". At the same time, she danced corps and demi-soloist roles all year, often in different performances of the same ballets in which she danced leads.] Biasucci answered that it was "incredibly exiting" and "nerve-wracking," and said it was a "huge opportunity" to be asked to substitute in Doug Fullington's "After Petipa" presentation at the Guggenheim. She said that when she was feeling nervous, she told herself that she was going to do it whether she was nervous or not, so she calmed herself down. Boal said that one of the reasons he cast her, was that he saw that when she did the role of the ingenue in "Variations Serieuses", also in a short time, he was impressed with her confidence and grace under pressure, and he said he can see in class when dancers have stamina and technique.

Boal said that all three new dancers who joined the company this season [from the outside] -- Elizabeth Murphy, Matthew Renko, and Biasucci -- "found their places in the company in a nice way." [Josh Grant returned to the company, and the other new dancers were apprentices turned corps and new apprentices.]

When asked what they look forward to next season, Moore said the new Christopher Wheeldon and "Romeo et Juliette" and Biasucci said those and "Diamonds."

When asked about new works, Peter Boal mentioned finances. He said that for the Next Step program, where six company dancers choreographed for the Professional Division students, cost $5-6K for all six ballets. He said that commissions from Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp, and Christopher Wheeldon cost more than $100K. [He might have said for all three or for each, but I was too busy picking up my pen and my jaw from the floor.]

Boal said that Kent Stowell felt his production of "Coppelia" was patchy, and that he even matched roles to the costumes he had, and Stowell told him that the company could use a new version.

Someone asked if Leta Biasucci would dance Juliette next year, and Boal said that he has others for the role, but he also didn't expect her to be Swanhilde.

One question was about how is rehearsed, and the answer was, the dancers learn pantomime the same way they learn choreography.

When asked about watching themselves on tape, James Moore said that it could "freak him out", because "sometimes it feels better than it looks."

About his training, Moore studied at San Francisco Ballet School from ages 11-18, and that there was nice continuity have the same teachers throughout.

The dancers were asked about competition, and James Moore said that you compete with yourself to improve, and that if you're ready, Peter Boal is good about giving them [the roles]. Boal said there was "positive competition" in the Company, and the dancers were really supportive of each other in the wings.

The discussion turned to "Black Swan" and how much it reflected reality. Peter Boal quipped, "Directors are really like that." James Moore said that the movie was dramatic, and reality was not that hardcore or cutthroat. He said it can get intense and stressful sometimes, but that at a certain level, you want your friends to do well. Asked to compare how the extremes of "Mopey" and Franz informed him as a dancer, Moore said that SFB was a very classical company, and he dreamed of doing those roles. When he came to PNB, his first big roles were contemporary [he was featured in "Mopey," "State of Darkness," and "Kiss," for example], and then he got chances to dance classical roles.

The dancers were asked to what they aspired. Biasucci said that she reminds herself when she's tired or hurting that she's living the dream. Moore said that it's tough when you're hurting and want to stay in bed, but that you find the energy and motivation, and then you're fine. He spoke about being aware with what's happening right now.

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