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review, fall program 2005


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I went to see OBT's fall program Saturday, Oct. 15. This is my first attempt at a review. :)

The first piece was Jerome Robbin's In The Night, to Chopin performed beautifully live on piano. The basic structure is that there are three separate couples who each individually perform a pas de deux, then a fourth bit where they are all onstage at once and notice and interact with each other. Although I enjoyed watching it and found the costumes very beautiful, I didn't "get" it. I think the couples were supposed to represent different 'types' of relationships (blissful? Passionate? etc.) but I found that the first two couples both just looked like happy couples and the third seemed a bit irritated with each other - if this was some observation on the types of love, it didn't come across clearly to me. Still, some pretty dancing. I felt that Artur Sultanov (of the second couple) and Yuka Iino (of the third) were the most effective. I _love_ Yuka!!!

A very long intermission followed.

Then came "Angelo", by Julia Adam. This was a contemporary/modern dance, and some of the movement vocabulary was repetitive (too many hops around in second position grande plie!!!). Kester Cotton was excellent as the central character (Everyman?), whose main character attribute seems to be not understanding how to act around women. :) My favorite part of the piece was when he was rebuked for 'inappropriate behavior' (hand over breast) by a young girl playmate. :) :) That got a big laugh from the audience. I also loved the pas de deux with the "friend", the one with the apple. It reminded me (in a simple way) of the Reed College juggling vaudeville show that I recently enjoyed - passing the apple between the dancers was very well synched with the music and looked great.

What I REALLY didn't like about "Angelo" were the costumes. ALL the women (each supposed to be a distinct character - mother, young friend, older friend, wife) wore very similar looking red dresses, with the top of each having a slightly different cut. From the balcony, I had a very hard time telling who was who - I spent most of the dance with the young friend wondering why his mother (from the previous scene) was suddenly acting so different!! :) Almost worse were the men's costumes. The pants (looked like stretch velvet?) looked great. Each man then had a slightly different, but each unattractive, top. Artur Sultanov ("lover") was wrapped in what looked like a "Peter Pan Lost Boys" version of a sports bra. :(

Then followed an even longer intermission. I think it was longer than intended - the musicians for the last bit were sitting in the pit for over ten minutes before the show started again. It was pretty clear once the curtain opened what the likely culprit was - they had put down red marley on the floor, and it looked great!

The third piece was "Eyes on You" to music to Cole Porter, with a mix of recorded and live music (sadly, I preferred the recorded - the musicians were good, but I like the music that sounds more familiar to me). This was a jazzy, upbeat, feel good crowd pleaser piece that very much reminded me of (Taylor's?) Company B that I saw last season. The choreography was by Stowell and was SO much better than a piece of his I saw last year (thank goodness!). I really enjoyed this piece - it was a good show-off vehicle for some very fast and fancy dancing and was a lot of fun. After this and "Company B", though, I'm ready for non thirties/forties era style in future programs. :) My favorite pieces were all the men in "Just One of Those Things" and all the women in "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" as well as the final medley. Really most of the pieces were strong, but after all the pas we'd seen that evening it was nice to see a lot of dancers on stage!

My husband and I had a great time (well, he at least had a good time :) ). This is our first year with season tickets and I'm looking forward to going to Nutcracker next!


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jayo, many thanks for your debut review!

I've noticed lately that certain operas tend to play in bunches -- a sudden spate of La Fanciulla del Wests, for example -- and certain ballets do, too. Company B was very popular the last two years, and this year, there seem to be a number of Nine Sinatra Songs/Sinatra Suite and In the Night. I believe this is the Robbins ballet that is the easiest to get from the Robbins Foundation; it's a litmus test of sorts to see if a Company will be allowed to progress to more Robbins ballets.

In the Night opened Peter Boal's first program at PNB, and we in Seattle saw it performed within the last month. On the whole, the ballet contrasts "young love," "mature love," and I'm not sure what the official description is for the third pas de deux: "melodramatic love"? "passionate love"? There were several people here who saw the PNB production and who liked the performances, but were underwhelmed by the ballet; "predictable" was one description. I found it interesting that there was a hush in the theater during both performances I saw, and the buzz at first intermission after the ballet was very positive, but that I overheard a number second-intermission and post-performance conversations along the lines of "I like that so much better than the first one. Of course, "that" was Balanchine's Symphony in Three Movements, but still.

The costumes for Angelo sound unfortunate. It's very hard for new audiences -- or old audiences when there are a lot of new dancers -- sitting far away to keep everyone straight if they are similarly dressed. Whenever I see a new company, I need to be able to distinguish them as "the red dress," "the apricot tutu," "the tall redhead," etc. until I can put some names to faces.

I'm glad you enjoyed the Stowell piece. He's choreographed to a number of different kinds of music, so I don't think you have to worry about him sticking to forties tunes. But since you have a subscription, you'll see a variety of ballets this year, although be prepared to see one of the greatest show tune ballets in the repertoire, Balanchine's Who Cares?, in February. The Stowell piece, Quick Time is very energetic and best seen from the Balcony, where the patterns are clear. (It premiered in Seattle last year.) And then there's an all-Mozart program in April and Swan Lake in June.

We hope you'll tell us about The Nutcracker -- it's a wonderful production -- and I hope you and your husband enjoy it very much.

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Thanks, jayo, for your review. It's good to get first-hand accounts of what is going on all over the country. Those of us who are not real experts need to contribute too, since our perceptions may be closer to those of the general audience which buys (or does not buy) the bulk of the tickets.

And I think that ballet in general benefits from knowledge of what is going in the smaller dance centers. I hope your post will encourage others in the OBT audience to chime in. I know we have many members all over the country. Please let us know what is going on in your area!

As Helene says, ballets like operas seem to be produced in bunches, with multiple productions of a particular choreographer's work all of a sudden showing up everywhere. For instance, Ballet Florida, my own local company, did In the Night both in 2003 and 2004. It's a marvelous ballet for a smaller company and with dancers with strong individual styles or "looks".

The nocturnes are so beautiful and surprisingly varied, and each couple dances with a style and personality that SHOULD BE quite different from the others, though I guess this might not have occurred 100% with OBT. I've heard that you can think of this as three stages of a relationship: the airy, emotional passion of first love -- the calm joy and sharing of a happy, settled relationship -- and the emotional rollercoaster that may or may not lead to a break up. I love the way the three couples exist entirely in the bubble of their relationship to each other.

I agree with your comments about the lack of costume differentiation and how hard it was to tell who was who. I first experienced this when NYCB, with all those leotard ballets and a tendency to simple, whitish costuming in general, went to the huge State Theater. At the same time, with female dancers anyway, a thin, lean, long-legged style seemed to be everywhere on stage, increasing the difficulty of differentiating. I like to notice (and to get to know) individual dancers and not to have to strain to do so. So I have bitten the bullet and opted for closer-up seats in general.

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I attended OBT's fall program on opening night. In the Night was not only very beautifully done, but was clearly a picture of three couples in different stages of romantic relationships. It was great dancing and great emotion and the season-opening audience was very enthusiastic.

The costumes in "Angelo" were a problem on opening night, and it was hard to differentiate between some of the female dancers, but it was clear that the ballet was about the birth and growth of a young boy into a man. Kester Cotton was excellent as the main character, with great dancing from Allison Roper, Gavin Larsen and Kathy Martuza. The strength of the core dancers was clearly shown here.

Christopher Stowell's "Eyes on You", set to music by Cole Porter, was true entertainment! I saw similarities to last year's "Company B" and as far as I am concerned, these numbers should be included in every show. The real pleasure this year was the depth of talent of the OBT Company, with seven couples on stage together at one time.

I look forward to seeing what Stowell will be doing with the Company for the rest of the season. I understand that ticket sales for June's Swan Lake are already brisk, even though they do not go on sale to the public until the end of October. It should be a fine season indeed for the new OBT!

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