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Points of View, March 16-26, Info, Casting, and Reviews

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PNB's "Points of View" program opens next Thursday, 16 March and features three ballets:

"THE BRIDGE (Dmitri Shostakovich/Val Caniparoli)

Returning to PNB, The Bridge is Val Caniparoli's moving portrayal of the tragic Bosnian War lovers known as the 'Romeo and Juliet of Sarajevo'.


(David Lang/Dominique Dumais)

The always-provocative French-Canadian choreographer Dominique Dumais (Scripted In the Body, 2000) returns with a compelling new work for PNB.

LA VALSE (Maurice Ravel/George Balanchine)

Balanchine's achingly beautiful portrait of societal decadence unveils a ballroom gone mad where a white-gowned heroine is irresistibly drawn to the uninvited figure of Death."


Peter Boal's "Director's Notes" have been published to the site, and they are a fascinating read. Here's an excerpt:

Choreographers throughout the history of classical ballet have expressed their views on war and politics. American Ballet Theatre recently presented Kurt Jooss' anti-war ballet The Green Table, choreographed in 1932 in the wake of World War I. In 1987, Jerome Robbins used the background of World War II to comment on the tragic loss of American life in Ives Songs. Recently, Twyla Tharp let us feel the effect of the Vietnam War in the Broadway musical Movin' Out. As I watched Director's Choice night after night, I saw William Forsythe's cold reference to the Third Reich in Artifact II and recognized the subtle and powerful references of Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine to World War II in Symphony in Three Movements. Ballet can comment on war with great profundity.

The new Dominique Dumais work has been named: it is Time and Other Matter, with music by David Lang. On the Other Minds site, his music is described as follows:

His distinct sound fuses the tradition of classical music with urban aggressiveness, where melodies are accompanied by noise and subtle harmonies are pulled apart by pounding rhythms.

He has an impressive list of commissions from orchestras around the world, and a formidable list of teachers who are squarely in the mid-late 20th century classical tradition: Jacob Druckman, Hans Werner Henze, and Martin Bresnick.

I've never seen The Bridge, having been out of town on business during its first run. I'm looking forward to seeing that work and Dumais' for the first time next week.

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Nadeau, Wevers, and Maraval will be quite the triangle in La Valse.

I've seen her in it before, in the old version of the Opera House. She was very affective, seemingly frail and easily swept away by the powers around her. I don't know if that's how she's approaching the role now, but I'll be interested to see.

She's doing a lecture demonstration with Francia Russell on the 21st at the PNB studios talking about La Valse -- certainly worth the detour.

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from Helene's post:

In 1987, Jerome Robbins used the background of World War II to comment on the tragic loss of American life in Ives Songs.

I felt that Robbins' WWII commentary was Fancy Free -- and that because of when Ives composed Ives Songs plus the uniforms and the use of the lyric/melody from"Over There" that it referred to the First World War.

The quote from Peter Boal reminded me of a program note by Glen Watkins I found online about the Stravinsky Symphony in Three Movements, which is entitled Music in Time of War (1999) and can be found at http://jacksonsymphony.org/concerts/1998/9...0/sym-3-mvt.htm . He quotes

IS as saying from an interview with the San Francisco Examiner:

"War can never be good for the arts. The cannons speak, not the violins - not even the cymbals."

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In 1987, Jerome Robbins used the background of World War II to comment on the tragic loss of American life in Ives Songs.
I felt that Robbins' WWII commentary was Fancy Free -- and that because of when Ives composed Ives Songs plus the uniforms and the use of the lyric/melody from"Over There" that it referred to the First World War.
I thought that was a typo, probably from PNB's material. A significant typo, but a typo. I have read commentaries on Ravel's waltzes that they refer to the turmoil in Europe as WWI approached inevitability.
The quote from Peter Boal reminded me of a program note by Glen Watkins I found online about the Stravinsky Symphony in Three Movements, which is entitled Music in Time of War (1999) and can be found at http://jacksonsymphony.org/concerts/1998/9...0/sym-3-mvt.htm . He quotes

IS as saying from an interview with the San Francisco Examiner:

"War can never be good for the arts. The cannons speak, not the violins - not even the cymbals."

War is bad for people, but many of our greatest works (and much of our most enduring mediocre art) come from extreme human trials of war. I hate to say it, but I think war is good for art. Once it's over.
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I attended both performances of "Points of View" yesterday. The program opened with Val Caniparoli's The Bridge, which he choreographed for the Company in the winter of 1998. I confused this piece with another, thinking I had missed it, but as soon as the curtain rose, I recognized it immediately. The ballet is Caniparoli's response to the real-life and internationally publicized fate of Admira Ismic and Bosko Brckic, who in 1993 tried to escape Sarajevo over the bridge of the title, only to be shot dead in their war-time attempt. Instead of a single couple, he divided the charcters into five couples, each with a different tone and emphasis, culminating in the their death. The music, an orchestration for string orchestra of Shostakovich's 8th String Quartet, is one of my all-time favorite pieces, and the theme and choreography suited the music, dedicated "to the memory of the victims of fascism and war" admirably.

Many contemporary ballets with four-six couples are structured so that groups dance the same choreographer simultaneously or in canon. The Bridge is one of the few ballets I've seen in which this technique was entirely appropriate to the theme and not a lack of imagination, and it was used sparingly at that. One of the more unique features of the choreography were movements in which the man lifted the woman barely off the floor, and she skimmed the floor as if she was skating. In one breathtaking sequence, the woman in the second couple went from being turned in the equivalent of a front inside spread eagle which turned into the equivalent of a sideways Ina Bauer. Elsewhere, the woman's feet were in parallel, one in front of another, with bent knees in an Egyptian-like pose as the man lifted her enough to skim the floor.

Although the music includes the Jewish folk music theme that also appears in the second string trio and one of the symphonies, which is about as ecstatic as the piece gets, there is always tragedy underlying it and in the tender moments in the ballet. As a story of two young people defying their societies and amidst a war-torn city, that sense of stolen time and impending doom was reflected in the music. But like in any treatment of the story of Romeo and Juliet, with whom the international press equated this couple, there are various ways to interpret the characters. What was remarkable was how the five couples in each performance managed to convey a similar sense of character, while the overall character in each performance was different.

In the afternoon cast the Admira/Juliet character was a quieter one, with a great sense of the ability to grasp a fleeting moment of tenderness, a growing realization of doom. This may have had to do with the relative youth of the cast. It was not that the emphasis was on the men, but the boldness of the energy came from them. Mara Vinson and Josh Spell were the first incarnation. They do not stay too long, but it was enough time to establish Vinson's passionate response to him, and for Spell to establish a virile presence. Spell is often cast "happy," and he seized this great opportunity to show that he has far greater range than he's been allowed in the past. They were followed by Körbes and Herd in the first part in which the skating movements were dominant. Korbes floated over the stage in them with a sense of physical lightness that was like a physiological transformation into a cloud that could make both of them disappear. Herd extended the dramatic focus he showed in Kiss in the (last) "Valentine" program, showing once again that the fact that he's tall is just a plus; he'd be a formidable dancer at any height. For fleeting moments, they were with each other alone, without the immediate threate of bullets flying.

Lesley Rausch and Nicholas Ade danced the third couple, to the famous folksong theme. Rausch alternated between openness and protectiveness, while Ade was explosive, hitting shapes in air and hanging suspended. Watching that confidence and Rausch's exuberance made this section the top of the dramatic arc, which could only mean bad things ahead. One of the most fascinating things in the performance was watching Jodie Thomas convey the realization of what the future held. Jonathan Porretta, her partner, has been cast over the past few years to show his dramatic and dance range. For Thomas this role was an equal opportunity to extend her range, and she did something quite remarkable: rather than over-project outward, she brought me inward to a quiet realization of tragedy. Noelani Pantastic and Jeffrey Stanton's section, which followed, was like a farewell. Vinson and Spell returned, propelling the story to its inevitable ending. In a beautiful stroke of theater, they were each shot and each fell, only to stand, Vinson behind Spell, to die vertically.

In the evening performance, the women took control and were relentless, which in itself was remarkable, since the men included Christophe Maraval and Olivier Wevers, two of the most dramatic presences in the Company. After relatively short opening appearance of Chalnessa Eames and Lucien Postlewaite, Ariana Lallone, with Maraval, dove into the role. When she did the skating motions, it was as if a force were pulling her from him, and she was not going to let go. Carrie Imler burst onstage for the folksong movement with Karel Cruz; it was as if they were the temperamental opposites of Rausch and Ade. Imler set the bar high to increase the intensity, and Kaori Nakamura, partnered by Jordan Pacitti, met it and raised it higher, and Louise Nadeau, with Olivier Wevers, entered as a force. Although there were are tender moments in this section, including a repeated social slow dance, they almost looked like exhaustion more than resignation. The entire trajectory of the story in this cast was an upward vector toward the shooting, compared to the arc of the first cast.

Time and Other Matter, a new work by former National Ballet of Canada dancer-turned-choreographer Dominique Dumais, received its World Premiere Thursday night. It is set to music by David Lang, who writes in a minimalist style ala Glass and Reich, but mixed with industrial sounds. I don't have the music itself, but the short clips of Child that I found on the web, and a short review of the piece I've read, do not have or mention spoken words; as a result, I'm assuming these, and the laughs and shouts toward the end of the piece, were added by Dumais.

The set consisted of very tall, red, textured wall that was about 1/4 the width of the stage, placed upstage right at an angle. It was raised occasionally to let dancers appear and disappear from behind. Structurally, the piece is "about" Ariana Lallone's character; the voice-overs, in one woman's voice, occur when she is featured. In the first movement, she jumps into the ensemble of nine's arms several times, is partnered briefly by Christopher Maraval, but mostly she is a solitary figure, whether alone onstage in extended solos or with the others. At one early point, red leaves fall from the flies, leaving distracting debris on stage. The second movement begins with a solo for Lallone, followed by a pas de trois and a pas deux. In the third movement, Lallone's characters seems to meld with the group.

I can't say I hated this piece, because the emotion I felt most vividly was annoyance at the pretentious voice-overs. "Touch me, and I remember. Touch me, and I forget," is probably the highlight of the Very Bad Prose-Poetry. I was reminded, and not in a good way, of the scene in Sex and The City, where Jerrod Smith is in a production of A Very Pretentious Play, which is saved only when he drops his overalls. In the post-performance Q&A, Peter Boal said that Dumais had a story in mind but wouldn't tell the dancers what it was, because she wanted everyone to come to their own conclusion. I have to wonder why, then, she added a narrative to mar David Lang's score and why the dance wasn't able to tell the story on its own.

Because I don't think the dance was able to do this. I found the vocabulary for most of the piece to be extremely limited and dull. In her Seattle Times review, Moira MacDonald described Lallone as "stranded." Lallone's second section solo was followed by the strongest choreography of the piece: a pas de trois for Stacy Lowenberg, Kiyon Gaines, and Jordan Pacitti, which was a good indication that PNB has another good Novice in its ranks for The Cage, and a pas de deux for Noelani Pantastico and Christopher Maraval that had a lot of nice moments in it, and even some connection. (Happily, there were no voiceovers during these sections. I hadn't yet realized I was safe because Lallone wasn't dancing in them.) Pantastico has said in a Q&A after Valentine that she has been cast in story ballets, and she wanted to stretch her range. This role, and her role in The Bridge have done a lot to fulfill her wish, and it's great for the audience to see her in this new light. In the first and third movement with the ensemble, there were several good breakout solos, including one for the woman in beigy/grey. (Between the drape of the costumes and lots of loose hair, I wasn't sure if this was Eames or Foster.) If Dumais' point was that Lallone could be portrayed as a leaf at loose ends, she succeeded doing that. Otherwise, I think that "stranded" was too kind. Which is why it was a tremendous relief to see her in The Bridge in all of her glory.

The irony is that I really liked Dumais' Scripted in the Body, which had dialogue spoken by the male lead, with music by Bach and Pärt, and was looking forward to seeing this piece.

I'm divided about La Valse: The first half, set to Valse Nobles et Sentimentales is one of my favorite Balanchine ballets, and the second half I'm lukewarm about. The soloists in the first half and corps in the La Valse section in the PNB production are generally happier than the NYCB version. And the costumes are brighter: as Boal noted in the Q&A, in the NYCB version, the bodices are black, while in the PNB version, they are in the dusty rose to apricot range. While I think this difference in temperament works well in the first section -- they are less jaded than in New York -- in the second it makes it appear as if the corps is oblivious to the tragedy, not feeding off of it. PNB often uses students in the corps here, and it's hard to keep the kids, who are thrilled to be onstage, from smiling.

Every once in a while, there are several dancers who dance beautifully together, but one is so strikingly right, that I cannot keep my eyes from him or her. In the second Waltz, with the three Fates, I think I identified Laura Gilbreath as the dancer in the matinee performance who was the embryonic version of the heroine. In the evening cast, Rebecca Johnston's arms in particular were lovely and expressive.

In the matinee performance, the three soloist couples were strikingly different: Kara Zimmerman, with Benjamin Griffiths in what I think is his first major demi role, gave a dusky quality to the skimming Waltz 3. Stacy Lowenburg and Kiyon Gaines in Waltz 4 were glimmering quickness. Maria Chapman, with Anton Pankevitch was softly romantic in Waltz 5 and in her solo to Waltz 6, in which she lightly lofted the sissone jumps. In the evening performance, both Jodie Thomas, partnered by Josh Spell, and Leslie Rausch, partnered by Nicholas Ade, danced beautifully in Waltes 3 and 4, but there wasn't a great contrast between them. They were sisters, in contrast to Maria Chapman, who with Pankevitch, repeated Waltzes 5 & 6 in the evening.

Another contrast was the different interpretations of the main roles by Barker and Stanton, Nadeau and Wevers. Barker was all bloom and danced Waltz 8 with remarkable sensuality. Both she and Stanton appeared to be searching for something and not quite finding it. Dramatically, Barker was receptive, to Stanton and to experience. Taking a different approach, Nadeau wasn't quite naive or innocent, but she was playing with fire: the man she was attracted to could very well have been the Death figure, and Wevers was as charismatic as Maraval. In each case, surrender to the wiles of Death was dramatically convincing.

In upcoming performances this week, Lindsi Dec and Kiyon Gaines debut as the second couple in The Bridge that was danced by Rausch/Ade and Imler/Cruz yesterday, and Körbes, Postlewaite, and Cruz make their debuts in La Valse, both on Friday, 24 March. The cast for Time and Other Matter is the same for all performances; Boal noted in the Q&A that Dumais did not have time to work with a second cast.

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Last night, there were several debuts in the "Points of View" program.

There is no asterisk by Rachel Foster and James Moore as Couple 5 in The Bridge to indicate a debut on the PNB website, and neither was in the Company when the work was first shown. Perhaps a debut on tour? They were sharp and vivid in the opening, establishing the precariousness of the situation instantly and made an immediate impact, and their final scene, before they are shot, was very moving. Lindsi Dec and Kiyon Gaines were listed as debuts as Couple 2. To me this was the most all-out dynamic performance of the run. They threw themselves into the choreography, so much that they took a tumble on the first iteration of the famous folk tune rendition, but they recovered quickly and didn't seem to miss a beat through the end. Dec, who reminded me of Susan Jaffe in her first prime in Stanko Milov's piece in the Choreographers' Showcase last Wednesday, here made me think of Hagar in Pillar of Fire. What a terrific dramatic dancer.

Three dancers were new to roles in La Valse: Carla Körbes, Lucien Postlewaite, and Batkhurel Bold. Körbes and Postlewaite gave a younger interpretation than the other two couples I had seen previously -- I missed the cast with Pantastico, Yin, and Cruz, who are more their contemporaries -- which made a different dramatic statement: while not naive by any means, these characters were less experienced in face of the societal maelstrom in the period in which the ballet was set. In the post-performance Q&A, when discussing the moment where her character becomes aware of the Death figure behind her, she said she didn't count it, but that she felt it. Peter Boal then said that she is a dancer who's never needed to be coached, that she intuitively understands. (At that, Körbes waved his comment off with a little, "tsk" gesture :clapping: ) Körbes was like a conduit for the changing colors of the score, from the romanticism of Waltz 7 through her reeling reaction to her face in the mirror through the death of her character at the end of the ballet. Postlewaite was an ardent partner. Bold, as the Death figure in his only role in "Points of View," was an eerie presence from the moment he stepped on stage, an entrance that dropped the temperature by 10 degrees.

I'd like to mention the orchestra, which was superb again in all three pieces. The Shostakovich, one of my favorite pieces, was ravishing, the Lang, precise and so live, and the coloration in La Valse splendid. Stewart Kershaw and Allan Dameron conducted.

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Helene, you're right that Foster and Moore made debuts in The Bridge. They weren't initially cast to perform. Once they were, they were added to the PNB website casting but without the debut asterisks. My fault, actually ...

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