PNB is heading back to Jacob’s Pillow this week, and they held an open run-through of part of the program last Thursday. Between the studio setting and the limitations of the stage space (the stage at the Pillow is narrower and shallower than McCaw Hall) we were really close to the dancers. It’s harder to see choreographic patterns like that, and you do sometimes feel like a you’re watching a tennis match, but on the plus side you really see the details of gestures and facial reactions.
They’ve got two casts for Take Five, drawn from the casting this spring. We saw Margaret Mullin as the girl in yellow, Chelsea Adomaitis in orange, Laura Tisserand in red, Lesley Rausch in purple, Sarah Ricard Orza in blue, Charles McCall, Ezra Thomson and Raphael Bouchard as the trio, Christian Poppe as the hoofer, and Jonathan Porretta as the last man on. This was one dance that looked very different close up. Lesley Rausch has been dancing the woman in purple for awhile, and at the beginning she looked rather prim, but in this last outing she’s relaxed enough that she seems comfortable with the sensuality of the part – her flirting with the three chorus boys is more of a tease, and her duet with the hoofer is egalitarian – she gives as good as she gets. Christian Poppe lobbied to get that part when the dance was announced for this season – he’s got a tap background and it really shows to his advantage here. He makes the rhythmic play that Stroman built into the part very clear. Sarah Ricard Orza is dancing the blue role that was made on Miranda Weese, and brings great sweetness to the part. She enters after most of the other dancers have already established their personalities, and seems to stand apart from them – they create a stage or a frame for her presence. There are a couple of (possibly) unwitting quotations from Apollo in her solo as she paws the ground with her pointe shoes and sits on a chorus guy’s knees, but she’s a Terpsichore without a god here – it’s all stage trickery.
A big chunk of the Jacob’s Pillow program is taken from this November’s rep performance – revivals of Nacho Duato’s Rassemblement and David Dawson’s A Million Kisses, as well as a new-to-us staging of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s duet Before After. I was glad for the chance to get more familiar with the duet in the studio – there are a number of highly detailed moments that will read very differently when I’m sitting in the McCaw Hall audience. It’s about a dissolving relationship, and the challenge for the dancers is to show that sense of disruption while still performing material that needs close coordination. James Moore and Angelica Generosa are alternating with Raphael Bouchard and Elisabeth Murphy in Massachusetts – I’m not sure if there are additional casts for the regular season.
Rassemblement was the closer for this preview, and it looked very freshly coached (indeed, Hilde Koch was there at the showing and spoke briefly about the references to slave culture in Haiti) Technically, the work has the same kind of weighted swing as the Humphrey and Limon rep, and Carrie Imler in a central role really understands how the technical demands support the dramatic intent. Leah Merchant is getting there as well – she seems to take what she’s learned performing the new Cerrudo last season and bring it to the task.
We didn’t get to see anything from Million Kisses, which is too bad – I’m really looking forward to another turn with that work. And Jonathan Porretta is doing the Fenley State of Darkness on this trip, but didn’t run it at this program. He had an excellent set of performances in the role last season – I wish I could see him do the part one more time.
If you’re in the vicinity of the Pillow August 6-10, this is a program worth seeing. (and then come back here to tell us how it went!)