Helene

Director's Choice: March 14-15, March 20-23 2014

32 posts in this topic

I haven’t seen Susan Stroman’s work for NYCB, and so can’t say if “Take Five… More or Less” is similar kinetically to “Blossom Got Kissed,” but I do think it’s less engaging than what I know of her work in “Contact.” Perhaps that’s because the Broadway show has a longer time to develop its characters and narrative – “Take Five” is maybe 15 minutes long (and is paired with another work in order to make a reasonable time before an intermission) so it needs to get down to things right away. But I feel that she’s making too much use of stereotype characters without amplifying them in the movement. If we’re going to have the jazz man or the vamp, fine – but use those shortcuts to get me to a more complex place. In the original tune, Paul Desmond really clarified and expanded what listeners thought about 5/4 time, and it’s still an unusual time signature. I want the same experience in a kinetic form here, and I’m not really getting it . We just saw the Ronald Hynd staging of “Sleeping Beauty,” where the male duet in the Gold and Silver pas de trois is in 5/4, and in many ways it was more innovative than Stroman’s choreography over 100 years later.

Complaints aside, there were some excellent performances of the ballet this time out. Kaori Nakamura will look special in everything she does from now until her final performances at the end of the season – announcing your retirement shifts the way we look at you – but even with that, she zipped through the perky ‘girl in Yellow’ role. Angelica Generosa was even more excited, and gave a very sparkly performance in the part, making snapshot moments really clear. This was particularly true of a series of shifting positions, from an extension a la seconde to arabesque – it felt like a cheerleader version of a Bournonville classroom phrase, and I mean that as an absolute compliment.

The corps men/chorus boys aren’t really differentiated, but it’s always easy to follow Joshua Grant around – he’s covering ground so smoothly these days. Kiyon Gaines did a great job with Jeff Stanton’s old part as the hoofer, especially the jokey moments. He’s got a very subtle shoulder shimmy that makes you wonder if you really saw it. Then you notice the expression on his face and you realize that yes, you did. Seth Orza seems less confident in the tap work, and so leans more on the characterization. Unfortunately for me, I was sitting in just the wrong place to see him in this – his hat was so far down on his forehead I could barely see his face. I understand that Christian Poppe, who is currently in his apprentice year, is a tapper, and got a go at the part during the second weekend – if anyone here saw him, please let us know how he did.

Between the shifting casts for the new Cerrudo work, and the grueling challenge of Molissa Fenley’s “State of Darkness,” moving casts in and out of “Kiss” apparently was governed by who wasn’t doing something else, so that first weekend audiences all got James Moore and Carla Korbes. This isn’t a hardship per se – he shines in contemporary work and she’s coming back after a long rehab – but it would have been nice to see another couple as well. Nonetheless, he looked very able in this, and it was a pleasure to see Korbes back on stage.

Seattle has been looking at aerial work of many kinds for years so this isn’t quite the novelty that it might be for another community. Susan Marshall isn’t trying to make a magic trick with this work – it’s not about hiding the technical skills behind a silky attitude or dramatic narrative. In this case the physics of spinning and swinging are integrated into the development of a relationship. I found myself thinking about Foucault pendulums and eccentric orbits as much as I was about the individuals onstage. It’s a fairly quiet work, especially coming after the brass of the Stroman, and although energy builds over the course of the dance, it doesn’t resolve in a ta-dah moment – I found the ambiguity much more satisfying.

I’m probably biased when it comes to any discussion of “State of Darkness” – I love the score, and have made a point to see as many stagings of the danced versions as I’ve been able to. So the fact that I got to hear the score played live three times over the course of the first weekend already makes me a happy, happy girl. But I do think that Fenley has made a very distinctive work – even beyond the fact that it’s a solo (and therefore an incredibly grueling challenge) she’s distilled a kinetic partner to the score. It acknowledges the baggage of the original production but it doesn’t really share many aspects – it’s not specifically historical or overtly narrative, and although there are several references to sacrifice and death, in the end, it’s not about trading blood for renewal – the dancer survives the ordeal, stepping forward into the light on the final notes. We got to see Jonathan Porretta twice during the first weekend – he’s been dancing this work for several years, and really brings all that experience with him to the process. This time out was the most nuanced I’ve seen – we could really follow along on what he insists is a dance about a journey. Matthew Renko made a debut on the Saturday matinee, and did an excellent job. Not as detailed or clearly phrased as Porretta, but very intense and devoted – it felt like a sacred test that he managed to pass. James Moore and Angelica Generosa performed during the second weekend, and I’m so sorry to have missed them. The grapevine here is very positive about Generosa’s debut – I’m hoping the work comes back into the rep soon so I can see her as well.

I had a mixed reaction to the new work by Alejandro Cerrudo. Coming during a year when we’ve seen significant works by Jiri Kylian and Crystal Pite, and on the same program with the Fenley “State of Darkness,” “Memory Glow” feels more tentative – I think if he’d had more time, he might have taken some of it apart and rebuilt it as a stronger and more cohesive work. Part of my response comes from the score – like many contemporary choreographers he’s working with a pastiche of film scores, so that it’s already music that doesn’t really demand much from the listener, and doesn’t offer a strong throughline for the choreography. Cerrudo got some really lovely performances from his cast (I only saw the first weekend, so didn’t see the first cast), and gave them some challenging, twisty material, but when I think back on the work I don’t have a strong image of the work as a whole.

Some miscellaneous stuff:

In Q/A, someone asked about the orchestration of “Take Five” – his comment was that the Tharp Sinatra piece uses the original recordings, so why does this ballet need an orchestrator? Peter Boal said that was partially at the request of PNB, to use their orchestra. There were a couple of comments to the effect that the orchestration makes the distinctive nature of the score less specific, that it flattens it out a bit.

Boal said that we’ve got Edward Villella, Jacques d’Amboise and Violette Verdy coming to coach “Jewels.”

Apparently Molissa Fenley saw Matthew Renko at the Guggenheim Works and Process and suggested casting him in “State of Darkness.”

And apparently people are calling to find out if there’s something in the water at the Phelps Center – right now Foster, Chapman and Kitchens are all on maternity leave.

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An excerpt of "Memory Glow" with Leah Merchant and Andrew Bartee:

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Jonathan Porretta in "State of Darkness":

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Boal said that we’ve got Edward Villella, Jacques d’Amboise and Violette Verdy coming to coach “Jewels.”

You are so fortunate! Bravo for Boal!

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Not sure what the difficulty is here, but these last two video clips are substituting Korbes and Orza in Midsummer act I for the Cerrudo and Fenley excerpts!

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Boal said that we’ve got Edward Villella, Jacques d’Amboise and Violette Verdy coming to coach “Jewels.”

Boal mentioned a couple of nights ago in an Q&A that William Forsythe might come to Seattle to stage the rep devoted to his choreography next season (The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude*, New Suite*, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated). Boal didn't sound too hopeful, but indicated that it was a definite possibility. He mentioned that it would be wonderful experience for PNB dancers to work with Forsythe directly.

If I remember correctly, Forsythe does not like to fly....so maybe that's the hangup, or perhaps it's a health reason; but in any case, as a huge Forsythe fan, I have my finger's crossed.

*PNB premieres

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My fingers are crossed as well, which makes typing hard...

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