sandik

Cinderella

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Casting is up for the first week of performances and, thanks to the gods, the company has returned to a grid on their website (rather than the drop down menus that made comparisons so difficult)

Carla Korbes dances opening night, partnered by Karel Cruz, and Carrie Imler is her Godmother (her only performance for this run). Leslie Rausch and Maria Chapman have the other two performances in opening weekend (with Bakthurel Bold and Seth Orza, respectively, and Kylee Kitchens and Laura Gilbreath as Godmothers). Marisa Albee is back, guesting as one of the stepsisters for all three of the opening weekend shows, with Lindsi Dec as her sister.

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flowers.gifflowers.gifflowers.gif to those responsible for the casting grid!

Cinderella and Prince are listed for Week 2; I assume Godmother, Father, Stepmother, and Stepsisters will be added next week. It's still possible that Imler will dance Godmother again; Korbes/Cruz open and close the run.

All but Gilbreath as the Stepmother performing in Week 1 listed roles have performed them before, although the partnerships may have been different. In Week 2, there are two major debuts as Prince, each for a single performance: Jonathan Porretta (with Kaori Nakamura) and Jerome Tisserand (with Rachel Foster). I'm thrilled that Porretta has been given this role. I'm sure he'll also do Jester, but he's so much more than a jester, and he and Nakamura look wonderful together. Paul Gibson, who wasn't usually cast as the Prince -- he was also cast as Sprite, (maybe it should be called Evil Sprite) -- danced the role partnering Louise Nadeau under Russell and Stowell.

I think the strongest choreography is for the Seasons divertissement. In this playful video, PNB asks, "Which Season?" and at the end asks the audience to guess which of the four seasons is being rehearsed in the studio by five dancers. Choose right, and you'll see about a minute of the variation. Whichever way you choose, don't close the original window: by clicking each of the others, you will see a very short snippet of the variation and the beautiful Martin Pakledinaz costumes, and the dancers are identified in the individual videos.

In the studio, Brittany Reid is the dancer in the black tulle skirt. I think Lesley Rausch might be next to her in the pink skirt. Emma Love is in the blue leotard back row to the left. I don't know who the dancer in the middle of the back row is. (Elizabeth Murphy?) I think it's Leah O'Connor in the lilac shirt, back row on the right. Please point out any mistakes or omissions.

The roles of the Seasons usually are spread around the wonderfully talented women in the company, and it's an opportunity for many corps members to shine. Mullin's bold Fall and the now-retired Lowenberg's languid Summer were two who were particularly fine in 2011. The other featured roles are Sprite, Harlequin, and Columbine. The dancer who is Godmother also dances Fairy in the Sprite/Fairy/H&C wedding entertainment variations.

Cinderella is an opportunity to pay tribute to Francia Russell and Kent Stowell in this 40th anniversary season, but also a chance to remember Pakledinaz, who died this summer.

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Thank you Helene. PNB certainly produces beautiful marketing material.

Very happy to see Porretta's name. Has he been injured? I feel as if I have not seen his name so much in the last year.

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Lindsay Thomas is the videographer, and she does beautiful work in editing the videos.

Porretta was injured during the first week of the second rep of the season, "Love Stories"; he had to withdraw from other performances of "Divertimento from 'Baiser de la fee'" and Bluebird Pas de Deux. He was also injured for the "Carmina/Apollo" rep, having been cast in the "Prima Vere" couple with Kaori Nakamura, who danced with James Moore.

Porretta did Dancing Master in Wheeldon's "Variations Serieuses" in the All Wheeldon rep, and he was, in my opinion, the star of the Ratmansky "Don Quixote" in two character roles: Gamache and Sancho Panza. In "New Works" he was, IMO, a rock star in "A Million Kisses to My Skin" (as were a couple of other dancers), and he danced in "Cylindrical Shadows." He was Franz to Nakamura's Swanhilde in the season-ending "Coppelia."

He was all over the place last season. He's cast for one performance of Prince in "Cinderella" on 29 September, a role debut, and since he's danced jester in the ballet in the past, and he said in a Q&A at the end of last season that he'd be doing a lot of jesters this season, I suspect he'll be cast in that role as well. The wild card for this season is that there are so many new ballets (by Morris, Wheeldon, Gibson, Gaines, Bartee, and Mullin), that it depends on what they envision and whom they'll use.

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Poretta was indeed great in Kisses last year, and knocked everyone flat in Don Q. He's at a point in his career where he could easily say "this is what I do" and continue to do just that until he was ready to retire, but he seems to be excited about stretching his options, particularly with works like Kisses and Baiser. He's the kind of dancer that develops physical facility early on, and then refines the skills to make them evocative and expressive. He's always been great fun to watch, but I see much more in his performances now than I did a few years ago. There's a person on stage, not just a skill set.

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Thank you Sandik and Helene for the update.

Mr. Porretta is one intelligent man/artist to broaden his range.

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There's a person on stage, not just a skill set.

Perfectly said.

Poretta has always been a spectacular technical dancer, and his enthusiasm has always been infectious; but in recent years, IMHO, he has added a depth, a feeling for humanity, a seriousness that has elevated him to even more of a star than he has always been. And when you see him just as a "normal person" at a post performance Q&A (or other venue) he is always so open and willing to "bring the audience into his world".....almost like he was sitting in your living room just shooting the breeze.

He's a person I greatly admire.

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There's a person on stage, not just a skill set.

It's funny, because if there were criticisms of him, they were that he had too much personality or was too "Broadway." Admittedly, there were times when he was dangerously close to the edge of that, but considering the way he was cast, often in jester/virtuoso roles, it was never in a role, like a prince, where I've seen many go from "Prince" to "Now it's time for my spectacular solo." His Tetley "Rite of Spring" was one of the first roles that used his dark, dramatic ability, and he was magnificent in it, which he later followed with "State of Darkness" in which he was equally magnificent.

And, speaking of the devil, my subscription tickets arrived today, and a photo of him in "Agon" graces the large, glossy ticket envelope. Hopefully New York audiences will get to see him in the First Pas de Trois. He's also featured on the "Modern Masterpieces" ticket (in "In the Upper Room").

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There's a person on stage, not just a skill set.

It's funny, because if there were criticisms of him, they were that he had too much personality or was too "Broadway." Admittedly, there were times when he was dangerously close to the edge of that, but considering the way he was cast, often in jester/virtuoso roles, it was never in a role, like a prince, where I've seen many go from "Prince" to "Now it's time for my spectacular solo." His Tetley "Rite of Spring" was one of the first roles that used his dark, dramatic ability, and he was magnificent in it, which he later followed with "State of Darkness" in which he was equally magnificent.

I understand what you're referring to with the "Broadway" description, and there were works that tended to bring out that Mr Entertainment side, but I mostly remember his early performances just for their daring -- lately that has been in the service of specific choreography or character. And I think you've put your finger on it -- the Tetley "Rite" was a big moment for him.

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It's funny, because if there were criticisms of him, they were that he had too much personality or was too "Broadway."

I do think this has been, and may still be from time to time, a valid criticism of Jonathan; however, I took sandik to mean that these days Jonathan has greatly improved his ability to project the human ("person") emotions and human predicament that the choreography and/or music is attempting to communicate. That's just the shift I think Jonathan has been so successful in accomplishing in recent seasons..........the "person" he projects in the past was too much his personality (as wonderful as it is), but now that takes a back seat to what the piece is demanding he be in service to the piece. In a word, his dancing, though always technically skilled, has now matured. And as I said before that is something I greatly admire.

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I see him as having being given the opportunity to dance roles in which he get to show more aspects of himself and making the most of those opportunities. I just never saw him as a technician: to me, there was always a person there, and that was what made/makes him compelling.

I would love to see him take on an Iago or Tybalt, as good as he is a Mercutio.

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I would love to see him take on an Iago or Tybalt, as good as he is a Mercutio.

Well, he certainly has the quickness that the Iago character in the Limon version requires. The role was built on Lucas Hoving, who used his length as well as his flexibility and snap, but depending on who was cast as the Othello character, height might not be a concern.

For Tybalt, it would depend whose production you're looking at. Maillot's version of the character has a certain massive quality that might not fit so well for Porretta, but again, it would depend on the rest of the ensemble.

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Tonight was the opening of "Cinderella" and PNB's 40th Anniversary season.

The program opened with a one-time performance of the Robbins/Stravinsky "Circus Polka," with students from the PNB School and special guest Patricia Barker as Ringmaster. It was followed by a slide show of photos chosen by Peter Boal, while the orchestra, which played superbly all night, played the finale from "Firebird.". Then the Company danced Kent Stowell's "Cinderella."

No speeches and no promotion announcements.

There were parties before and after, and in the lobby I saw former members of the Company, including Ariana Lallone, who looked drop-dead gorgeous in a long black dress, Jeff Stanton, who looked like he was born to wear black tie, Anne Derieux, Jordan Pacitti, Julie Tobiasson, and Melanie Skinner. It was more low key than the NYCB red carpet, but they looked just as good.

Per the program, the former Liora Reshef has changed her stage name to her married name and is listed as Liora Neuville.

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Heads Up for tonight, Saturday, 22 September evening performance:

In this afternoon's Q&A Peter Boal said that Seth Orza is having a problem with his knee and that Kaori Nakamura and Jonathan Porretta, in his role debut, will dance Cinderella and Prince.

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Casting changes for Week 2:

On Thursday Jerome Tisserand will make his debut as Prince partnering Maria Chapman, with Margaret Mullin making her debut as the pushier Stepsister (Marisa Albee's original role). They will also dance at the Saturday matinee.

Chapman's original partner, Seth Orza, hurt his knee, per Peter Boal at a Q&A. (Wishing him a speedy recovery.)

On Friday the audience is in for a real treat: Kimberly Davey is returning as the Stepsister with the headache, the role she created, and she'll be performing with Marisa Albee. They will be in the Saturday evening and Sunday matinee performances, too.

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Random Cinderella thoughts

It feels like Moira McDonald was right in the Seattle Times when she thought that it was perhaps too soon for the company to revive the work -- the ballet has many charming moments, and a nice collection of roles for soloists -- but it’s not two years since the last time we saw it, and it feels a bit too familiar. I went back and looked at what I’d thought about the work the last time we saw it, and I don’t really have many new insights (which may just mean that I’m slow). There are some lovely ensemble sections (the group dances in the ballroom scene and the Four Seasons divertissements), but the big dances for Cinderella and the Prince aren’t really designed to be big -- they’re not in the classical pas de deux form, but are through-danced duets set in private spaces. Stowell really seems to prefer this kind of partner work -- he’s made several traditional pas de deux, but he often will pass over the chance to do one in a program-length narrative work in favor of a more contemporary duet. He does that here, and in his Romeo and Juliet -- he’s said that he was looking to focus on the relationship between the two main characters, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude the more traditional form. Whatever the reason, Cinderella and the Prince dance with each other, but not necessarily for their community in this work -- it makes me think of the feminist epilogues to classic fairy tales from the 1970s, bemoaning the way that the plucky heroine has to conform to the traditional mores of “happily ever after.”

Stowell has created several “I remember” moments in the ballet, and although Carla Korbes gave a lovely performance overall on opening night, Leslie Rausch looked like she had a clearer backstory attached to them in the Saturday 9/22 matinee. Her mime elements were nicely calibrated throughout the ballet, and Brittany Reid, as stepmother to her Cinderella, had great rhythmic clarity that helped point up all those specifics. (her sequence in the first act, as she’s leaving the kitchen to go to the ball, was dead-on. She sweeps her husband out of the way, confronts Cinderella and then dismisses her in a perfect three-part phrase). William Lin Yee didn’t quite match her musicality, but was very clear in his intentions and focus, making what is sometimes a secondary character much more legible. Sometimes, when the father acts as the deus ex machina in the third act, he seems to come from nowhere, but when the dancer makes himself more visible early in the ballet you don’t have that sense of “huh?” at the end.

On opening night Karel Cruz made a very jokey prince in the ballroom act -- at moments it seemed that the only thing distinguishing him from Jonathan Porretta’s Jester was their height. He egged the Jester on as he tries to avoid dancing with the stepsisters -- it really isn’t until we see Cinderella enter the ballroom that he has much gravitas. I know this isn’t Swan Lake or Giselle, but I’m not sure I like a Prince quite this prankish. But the choreography for the corps has a nice edge to it -- between the blood red costumes and the just-a-little foreboding score (which keeps making references to Romeo and Juliet) the ensemble is a powerful unit, almost like "La Valse." At moments I wished that the stakes were higher in this scene, so that the corps could be a real player in a bigger game -- their potential wasn’t really used to its full extent here.

The Godmother has a similar vibe, especially as danced by Carrie Imler. She is so stable and so smooth, and her entourage with the Four Seasons divert is so substantial it makes me wonder if perhaps the Stepmother has supernatural powers, instead of just being a harridan. It takes all this magic to defeat the stepmother and her dithering daughters? This time around the Godmother reminded me a bit of the Marschallin in "Der Rosenkavalier" -- she arranges other people's lives. (though I think part of that impression comes from her costume, which looks a lot like the peignoir that Renee Fleming wears in the Met production of the opera)

The Seasons were a pleasure to watch, especially Summer and Winter, which have more sustainment that Spring and Autumn. (although Sarah Ricard Orza does a thoroughly lovely job as Autumn) Leta Biasucci was a very springy Spring at the matinee, and Laura Gilbreath was very queenly as Winter.

Tangentially, the Seasons bring in the Godmother’s gifts to Cinderella, but they don’t go in the traditional order. Spring brings in the dress first (and Biasucci, who is quite tiny, has to lift it high up so it clears the floor), and then it’s Summer with a necklace and Winter with a tiara -- Autumn gets to deliver the shoes. This probably doesn’t mean anything at all, but I have to wonder, why the change?

In the Theater of Marvels Eric Hippolyto and Matthew Renko both got turns as the Evil Sprite (dancing opposite whoever plays the Godmother as the “Good Fairy.”) The solo ends with a series of gestures -- big and fancy finger pointing like casting a spell -- both of them used so much energy that it was more Evil than Sprite. The Harlequin and Columbine duet was a welcome contrast. Tisserand and Ricard Orza were very appealing on opening night, but it was especially sweet to see Kiyon Gaines dance with Amanda Clark at the matinee. It’s seemed that he’s been dancing less and less as he’s been choreographing more and more (though I think part of that has been due to injury), but he was in very good form here, bouncing through the Italianate material.

One of the reasons that Peter Boal brought “Cinderella” back so soon was to honor Kent Stowell during the company’s 40th anniversary season, and so it was charming to see Marisa Albee, one of the original stepsisters, return to perform the part in this run. I can’t know if she’s working from original knowledge, or just profiting from all that experience, but either way she has a great sense of comic timing. As she stalks the Prince during the ballroom scene, she works her fan like a pro, knowing exactly when to pause for maximum effect, taking the beat to let the audience really respond to the situation. And when she gets irritated (which happens all the time) she shakes her head so that the feather at the top of her impossibly tall cap quivers with her indignation.

Opening night had a few special extras -- a one-time-only performance of Jerome Robbins’ “Circus Polka” with former PNB ballerina Patricia Barker as the ringmistress, and a slide show of photos from the company archive. Barker looked great as she shepherded her tiny tribe around the stage (instead of the usual initials at the end of the work, they arranged themselves into a 4 and a 0 for the 40th anniversary), and the slide show was full of images that made you remember how much younger everyone was at the start of this enterprise. The orchestra played the finale from Stravinsky’s "Firebird," which was the score for the Grand Defile when Stowell and Russell retired in 2005. I’ve always thought it was a problematic section of the ballet, but it’s great processional music, which is how it operated here. Strangely enough, Peter Boal didn’t appear in front of the curtain on opening night, but the audience was full of former dancers, which gave the rest of us plenty to look at when the curtain was down.

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