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mixed rep casting and reviews

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I don't recall her ever in it - I assume she's doing Whelan's part and I could be wrong but don't recall anyone else ever dancing that at NYCB.

Weese is assumedly doing the part she danced at NYCB (I think Jennie Somogyi's) - I'm guessing that Nakamura is doing Tinsley's part and Nadeau Ansanelli's but again, it's just a guess. It will be interesting to see how Ben Huys does on staging - Kathleen Tracey has been doing a lot of the stagings of Wheeldon's ballets so far.

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Did Carla Körbes perform in Polyphonia in NYC?

I don't recall seeing her in it in NYC, but she did dance (Whelan's role) in Polyphonia during NYCB's visit to Edinburgh in March, 2001, to very favorable reviews in an otherwise disastrous non-Balanchine program.

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I saw this afternoon's performance of the "Wheeldon, Duato & Balanchine" program. The opening ballet was Polyphonia, staged by Ben Huys. I can see why this ballet is entering more and more into company repertoires: the score by Ligeti is beautiful -- and any chance to hear Dianne Chilgren play, here accompanied by second pianist Christina Siemens, is a great positive, in my book -- and the choreography clear, precise, and directed. There are also two fantastic roles for women. The first and central role was danced by Maria Chapman with tensile expansiveness. While never indicating a story, through her phasing Chapman communicated an inner life and internal logic through movement in both of her pas de deux with Stanko Milov. Chapman is not an "in your face" kind of dancer in abstract works, but there's something deeply personal about her response to music, which I find compelling.

In part VI to "No. 2 Hopp ide tisztan" Rachel Foster was given an opportunity to be featured and shine. In both the pas de deux with Josh Spell and in her solo, the was she used her arms and shoulders was exquisite. It's very easy to see how the experience of dancing this role could translate into beautiful epaulement in a classical role.

The adagio pas de deux were more successful due to their clarity, in my opinion, than the faster ones, which I think were a bit of a muddle. As a result, Chalnessa Eames' and Miranda Weese's roles weren't as defined or impressive as Chapman's and Foster's. For the most part, dancers in solo and soloist roles at PNB dance as if each performance was an opportunity; while I've seen occasional performances I thought were misguided or miscast, I've rarely seen an underdanced one. Eames made the most of her role; Weese's approach was more casual, and compared to Chapman's quiet intensity in Part VII, she looked flat. Weese has had an upheaval, retiring from NYCB after a hectic Winter Season and making a move -- to the Seattle winter, which isn't easy -- and perhaps later in the season her energy will show through.

It was great to see James Moore -- almost unrecognizable with his hair slicked back -- who seemed to disappear from prominence after his terrific performances in Kiss. He partnered Eames and was paired with Lucien Postlewaite, Weese's partner, in the dynamic Part V.

From the overwhelming audience reaction to Nacho Duato's Rassemblement, I realize I am in the minority. Set to Toto Bissainthe's Haitian Voodoo slave songs, the ballet has big shoes to fill. Much of the vocabulary is similar to that in Jardi Tancat and Arenal, and the PNB dancers perform this very well. Where Duato extended the vocabulary, the range was hit or miss. Not with Carla Korbes in the main woman's solo role: she could have been a character from a Marquez novel, part birth mother, part bird, part hellion. Kiyon Gaines and Noelani Pantastico had a moving duet. Given any chance to really move, Jonathan Porretta will take advantage of it from the last follicle on his head to his toenails, and he absorbed the vocabulary like he had the magic language gene.

I think the work is limited; when the program notes are more moving than the dance itself, I know I'm in trouble. The closest Duato got, in my opinion, to meeting the pathos of the music, is the choreography where the main male character, danced by Gaines, is beaten up by two soldier thugs. This ballet made so little impression on me the first time I saw it, that I didn't realize I had seen it before until I looked it up. I think Duato's vocabulary is more of a match to the songs of Maria del Mar Bonet. I don't think his choreography reflects the core of the music or its timeless yearning.

The more I see La Sonnambula, the more I appreciate Balanchine's compact storytelling, which I missed completely when I saw it almost 30 years ago. It takes a superb dance actor like Christophe Maraval to establish the ruthlessness of the Baron in the few master strokes that he's given. Noelani Pantastico brought her Odile to The Coquette; she clearly enjoyed the badness of her flirtation with the poet, danced by Le Yin, and she was very confident in her charms and in invoking the jealousy of the Baron.

Yin was equally the flirt, and while he was fascinated by The Sleepwalker, I wasn't convinced, though, that he had a poetic side to be attracted to her otherworldliness, which Louise Nadeau in her portrayal of The Sleepwalker gave him every chance and reason to. She was a ghost to follow anywhere, so lovely skimming across the stage. She was tangible and unattainable at the same time.

Rebecca Johnston, a tallish, sumptuous redhead, and Kara Zimmerman, a shorter, slender brunette, have been paired in a number of recent programs, this time in the "Pastorale" partnered by Barry Kerollis and Anton Pankevitch. In classical roles, Zimmerman has the edge; in the neo-classical, it's Johnston who fares better, with her amplitude and gorgeous legs and feet. She (and Kerollis, too) were made for 17th century wigs; her face is cherubic but she has devillish eyes. It was difficult to take my eyes off Chapman in the Pas de Deux until Karel Cruz started doing entrechats quatorze (at least that's what they looked like). Porretta was a irrepressably charming Harlequin.

I know everyone's busy, but male Guests, with the exception of Kiyon Gaines and apprentice Sokvannara Sar, were all from the Professional Division of the PNB school. It's great that they had the opportunity to dance, but experienced and jaded courtiers they were not, and the women, all pros, were leading them a bit.

This program is important in two ways. First, Opening Night this past Thursday was dedicated to Ariana Lallone, who celebrates her 20th anniversary with PNB. Peter Boal concluded his "Director's Notebook" column in the program,

In closing, I want to say a word about Ariana Lallone. Our opening night of this repertoire honors Ariana's twenty years of excellence with PNB. She has been the first choice for dozens of visiting choreographers and a favorite with our audiences. She is both a rare performer and a rare person. Brava Ariana.

On page 27 of the program is a full-page tribute to Lallone, featuring her in photos by Angela Sterling in a jete from the First Movement of Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet and a series of smaller photos of Lallone (some with partners) in her most celebrated roles: in the middle, somewhat elevated, Carmina Burana, Lambarena, The Moor's Pavane, Carmen, and Time and Other Matter. It includes a quote by her,

My life is filled with indescribable joy and a passion for dance, which is eclipsed only by my gratitude for all my teachers, my association with stagers and choreographers around the world, my devoted family, and loving friendships that I know will last a lifetime...

This is also the program in which the dancers dedicated their salaries from Opening Night to Second Stage, the program that helps dancers transition to new careers and maintains a relationship with Seattle University, which allows dancers to earn credits towards an undergraduate degree. Carrie Imler did the pre-curtain speech. She mentioned that while she's been injured over the last three months, she, too, has been thinking about what comes next (but that's she's not planning to retire anytime soon, whew...) I hope she heals well and fast, and we see her as soon as possible.

Also in the program (and in the opera program for Giulio Cesare) is an interview with Peter Boal about the upcoming "Celebrate Seattle" Festival, which opens next month with two weeks of Mark Morris' Pacific and Kent Stowell's Carmina Burana, followed by a week of mixed rep programs with choreography by Joffrey, Cunningham, Caniparoli, Gibson, Gaines, C. Stowell, Alleyene, and other choreographers with ties to the Seattle area.

An excerpt from the interview sheds light on his approach for the Festival and his hopes for dance in Seattle:

Encore: Presenting other local companies such as Spectrum Dance Theater is new for PNB. Are you doing some bridge-building here?

Boal: It doesn't make any sense to have a dance audience that says "we only go to On the Boards," or "we only go to PNB," or "we only go to Meany." I want audiences to support all of the dance in Seattle. This festival is about PNB and the surrounding dance community.

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I went last Friday. I'm a bit tardy with these impressions, but here goes.

I was sent into orbit. I loved all the Swan Lakes, but now with this program, I'm back to my roots. I'm a contemporary kind of guy. Hats off to Peter Boal for arranging this program. First, he blows me away with human movement I'd never imagined. I didn't know of Wheeldon until that night; now I can't get enough. Not since I saw my first Twila Tharp in the 70's have I had my concept of ballet so thoroughly re-arranged (well, OK, maybe Forsythe did it too). Then Rassemblement. Boal said in the Q&A afterwards that he built the program around this piece. Well done. To go from the future and pure creative intellect that was Polyphonia to as well grounded a statement of the human condition in all of its bitter reality that is Rassemblement was inspiring. All that was missing in this program was a statement by a Zen master. That came too. Who else but Balachine. I was as excited by this program as by any I can remember. Too bad NYC, we have Peter now. I can only hope he learns to love our weather and our natural landscapes. Once you love the Northwest, you are trapped. You can't escape. We were ready, but we probably didn't know. Maybe nobody knew, not even Boal; but it was a match made in heaven.

I thought the pairing in Polyphonia was exquisite. The highlight for me was Bold/Korbes. In the past I've criticized Bold for his lack of expression and lack of connection to the audience (while praising his technique), I hereby give that up. Batkhurel was magnificent. I've never seen him this expressive. Someone's been working with him, or perhaps simply gave him a role where he had no choice. He was not only spot on technically (as always), but he created a human presence that spoke for all oppressed peoples everywhere. I want more. Call me selfish, but I want his perfection AND his being. I want him to share himself more.....as he did here. Bravo. His partner was Carla Korbes. She was masterful. She has the ego to dominate just as this role demands. I shouted after the 1st duet; how could I not. I am going back this Thursday to see how she handles Arianna's role in Rassemblement, but maybe that's just the excuse to see her again with Bold in this powerful, inventive, abstract piece.

15 years ago Arianna Lallone was the first dancer that ever had me see the person who danced instead of a idealized, aloof piece of dancing excellence. Her dancing launched me onto a new level where I could see dancers as individuals: each with their own style and strengths. I'll always be grateful to her for that. Rassemblement is one of those roles that simply belongs to her. Is there anyone, anywhere who is better suited to this role? I can't imagine. I want to see Carla do it, but even she -- the wonder that she is -- can't be what Arianna is in this ballet. How fitting to acknowledge Arianna's 20th year with this piece (Peter again). Like Helene, Rassemblement isn't necessarily one of my favorite ballets (I prefer Jardí Tancat), but as a vehicle for Arianna, I was thrilled. I have to say one other thing. I will admit it, I've never particularly liked Mara Vinson's dancing -- it seemed to lack zest. But WOW, she was terrific in this ballet. I was reminded of one of my previous favorites, and most sensual of all dancers ever at PNB: Julie Tobiason.

Then came Mr B. How perfect I thought. Part way through I had my doubts. This wasn't Balachine. What is this La Sonnambula (which I had never before seen)? It seemed to lack the unity, purity, and cohesiveness of Balachine. OK, OK, so it's a story ballet, I told myself; but no, it played loose with the drama. Plot elements ended abruptly. Humor appeared out of nowhere. Was it a classic story ballet in the Russian tradition, or something else? I couldn't get behind it, UNTIL it hit me. Mr B, you clever son-of-a-gun. He was laughing. He was laughing at himself, and at all of ballet in 1946. Once I saw La Sonnambula as a parody, all fell into place. Now, I am no expert on ballet; I am no historian of ballet. I basically don't know what I am talking about, but I submit that Balachine meant La Sonnambula as a tip-of-the-hat to the classic tradition, but at the same time as a fun loving, exquisitely danced, satire of the limitations of that form. You are supposed to have exotic dancers in a ballet from that tradition; so I'll give you one or two (Lesley Rausch and James Moore, and the Pastorale) even tho they have no reason to be there, and come out of nowhere. You are supposed to have a male leaping and doing pyrotechnics; OK, I'll give you one except this time he will have back trouble. You are suppose to have magic and fairies; OK, but this time I'll make the Sleepwalker strange beyond credibility, and even have her poke fun as she steps over our hero while she is presumably unaware of her surroundings (Nadeau was perfect for this role; she looked like she weighed about 20 pounds and nearly floated off the stage -- and how does someone stay on point for that long??). He crammed a full length into 30 minutes by poking fun and INSISTING on having all the components no matter how impossible. Heck, I'll even have the ballerina carry our hero off into the candle light. How could you help but laugh? Mr B you did it to me again.

What a wonderful evening. What wonderful dancers. What a wonderful director.

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Well, life once again teaches me that I often have my head where the sun don't shine :-).

Forget all that near-drivel of my previous post regarding La Sonnambula being a parody. I went to the performance again last nite and saw the ballet in a different light. First off, I went to the pre-performance lecture given by Doug Fullerton. I missed much of the lecture since I was unaware of the change in start time (the lectures are now 1 hour before the performance), but I did catch most of his remarks on La Sonnambula. Clearly, Doug's view of the ballet was as a serious attempt by Balanchine to place the essential elements of a "typical" story ballet into just 30 minutes. After the lecture I spoke to Doug about my initial reaction to the ballet last Friday. He said he had heard people say that before, and that although he could see reasons for thinking that, it was clear that Doug wasn't buying my theories. He brought up several excellent points. He said that when he looks at all the ballets Balanchine did both just before and just after La Sonnambula, he sees no indication that Balachine would have been in the mood to do a parody. Hmmmmmm......powerful argument I thought. I asked about the curious "back ache" element in the Harlequin's dance. He noted that the Harlequin's situation is humorous and uncertain from the moment he arrives on stage since he is seemingly "pushed" onto the stage by unknown and unseen "persons" at whom the Harlequin shakes his fist. So there is something "funny" going on with this jester from the very start. Hmmmmmmm......good point again. He felt that the Sleepwalker's mystical ability to step over the Poet even though she unaware of her surroundings, simply emphasized her unattainability. Hmmmmm.....again.

So I watched La Sonnambula for the 2nd time with fresh eyes. This time the ballet did NOT seem to have that "parody" quality I imagined at my first viewing. It seemed now to have the sense of unity I found missing the first time. I still thought that the exotic dances were somewhat disingenuous, and still seemed to pop out of nowhere for no reason; and I still had a hard time accepting that the Poet and the Coquette would just sit patiently on a bench, with their passion on hold, while the exotics did their thing, but overall, I bought the story line this time. I'm going to have to do some research because it would be interesting to see what Balachine himself said about this quite unusual ballet.

Polyphonia amazed me again. Lesley Rausch was cast this time instead of Louise Nadeau which pleased me to no end since I can never get enough of Lesley. I am hungry for more Wheeldon too. At the Q&A afterward a lady audience member made some eloquent observations: that for her the ballet, almost miraculously, retained the beauty of classical ballet while exploring the possibilities and excitement of modern dance for today's audiences. Bingo, I thought.

I picked this performance to see Korbes in Lallone's role in Rassemblement. What a contrast. Carla was quick, powerful, and confident, where Arianna is flowing, dramatic, and "at one" with this very non-classical ballet. As big a fan as I have become of Carla, this will always be Arianna's role for me. Arianna translates this music and Duato's "down, low, grounded, emotional" choreography seamlessly. How lucky we have all been to have had Arianna for these 20 years! Kiyon Gaines did the "prisoner" role Thursday in place of Bold last Friday. Kiyon was terrific, tho I preferred the "Bold-unleashed" performance on Friday. I find it remarkable that Kiyon did the Harlequin in La Sonnambula, and the "prisoner" in Rassemblement in the same week. Such opposite roles, both so marvelously done. I give him high marks for both roles, but I thought his Harlequin was his best (interestingly in the Q&A Kiyon said he enjoyed the Harlequin perhaps better because he sees himself as a care-free, fun-loving, humorous, sometimes almost making-silly person, so he feels "at home" in such the Harlequin role). I'm anxious to see the ballet he choreographed for the festival next month. It's going to be fun watching this multi-talented young man in the coming years. Incidentally, he gave a fascinating explanation of why he named this new ballet eSchwa (but the "e" should be upside down). It had to do with the ballet being influenced by the Tango, but done with subtlety such that the ballet would not be about the Tango.

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