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Fall '06 Triple Bill, Oct 25-29, 2006

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Did anyone else attend the opening last night at the Kennedy Center? What did you think?

For me, the evening was mostly tentative, with moments of brilliance, as can be expected at a 'preview opening.' I am sure that the ballets will improve in the coming nights. Quick thoughts:

In the Night (Robbins/Chopin) company premiere

The only couple that truly felt the music & brought drama into the work was the 3rd one, Laura Urgelles and Luis Torres (I think...the Playbill casting was supplanted by an insert sheet & there were errors in that). Whoever -- the 3rd couple was miles above the rest in dance, musicality, interpretation. People seated around me were commenting the same. Hopefully, the other two pairs will infuse their dancing with passion, at future outings.

Oui/Non (Webre/various popular French songs) world premiere

The weakest link of the evening. Another 'gimmicky' ballet by its creator -- involve popular, local singers & try to pull-in 'cross-over' audiences. A couple of years ago it was the Sweet Honey in the Rock gospel-folk group; this time, the "gimmick performer" is a local cabaret chanteuse (a Stepford-Wife-looking Karen Akers, in lovely red silk gown but shaky voice) on the stage singing popular French songs (Piaf, Brel, etc. melodies) while the dancers dance. The choreography seemed labored & contrived, for the most part, although a segment with Brianne Bland + three guys was cute and much-appreciated by the audience.

The backdrop -- a huge canvas of a reclining woman with short black hair (or was it a young man?), against a red wall -- was more a distraction than an enhancement.

In the Upper Room (Tharp/Glass) company premiere

Good first outing for a tough ballet. Yet, it was rather milk-toasty, compared to ABT...but the WB dancers are getting there. Most dancers seemed to be going-by-the-book & just trying to make it through to the end of the exhausting ballet. Among the 'moderns,' only Sona Kharatian and Luis Torres seemed to have the right sassy style and attitude last night. [in fact, Torres seemed to be in absolute ecstasy by the end of the ballet - he was so into the music. A joy to watch!] Also, kudos to Maki Onuki as the leading classical girl, performing with perfect ballerina form; perfect casting there! She was every bit as good as ABT's current classical-girl leads, Dvorovenko and Herrera, if not better. Newcomer Jade Payette was impressive as the second classical solo girl. The audience woke up during this ballet, giving it the loudest ovation of the night by far, with many people standing.

The ballet was staged by Stacy Caddell, a former NYCB soloist, who danced the leading classical girl in the TV version, a few years ago. I wonder if that is a reason for the 'softness' of the WB version, compared to the more edgy style at ABT, which I saw last week? That one (staged by Keith Roberts) was razor-sharp & favored the 'moderns.' The WB rendition favors the softer, classical dancers. One of the 'modern' girls seemed to be tip-toeing in those sneakers!

- Natalia

p.s. Septime Webre did not do an on-stage 'welcome & introduction' in front of the curtain, before the first ballet, as in the past. Odd.

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I attended the Sat. afternoon performance (some cast changes for In the Night and oui/non, same cast for In the Upper Room.) I enjoyed all 3, but especially Upper Room. It is the kind of postmodern work that WB does really well. The performance I attended was enthusiastically received with a S.O. Not having seen this piece before, I can't comment on other versions. But I thought the WB casting and coaching was right on, with an excellent match between individual dancers and the very specific interpretations they brought to each role. The piece is basically one huge crescendo where the intensity builds and builds. I wish I knew how those folks can dance flat-out for 50 mins. and still make it look like so much fun!

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:wallbash: I saw Saturday's matinee. It was a perfect afternoon at the ballet for me. I thought the program fit the company well. The orchestra seating section was quite full and the audience was very warm and appreciative.

Karen Akers is very well known and I was lucky enough to see her perform at the New York Cabaret convention in 2001.

She is cabaret royalty and I think it is a very innovative idea to combine her artistry with that of the Washington Ballet's. I though Oui, Non more than held it's own with the two other ballets. The backdrop

for Oui, Non was breathtaking. The lighting was used very effectively. I also though the costumes were

lovely. They moved well for the dancers and were wonderfully designed sort of 1940's. Dirty White? I though more of a rich off-white. Keep it coming WB!

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Friday night's performance also generated a cheering SO and at least a dozen bows for In the Upper Room, a work ideally suited to the WB's ensemble capabilities and into which the dancers poured tremendous verve and skill. I haven't seen WB dance better. Luis Torres again -- as Natalia observed him do on opening night - danced as if he were the happiest person alive.

Earlier in the evenening, in "In the Night", I had mentally been calling the first two pairs "Puppy Love Couple" (the girlish lavender costume didn't help) and "Dignified Couple" -- then Luis Torres and Sona Kharatian woke the whole thing up as "Passionate Couple". A great night for Luis Torres.

As for Oui/Non - I thought Karen Akers sang all the songs - whether funny, flirty or world-weary - in the same, rather sterile, way. Perhaps the need to project from the back of the stage prevented her from conveying emotion as she might in a cabaret setting. This sameness also afflicted some of the dances, with the exception of the fun one with -- in this performance -- Maki Onuki as the girl tossed around by three men.

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