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Pacific Northwest Ballet March mixed rep

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First week casting is posted on the website

pnb casting

Three casts for the Liang, and some doubling for the Gibson and the Dove, but not much variation for the Forsythe.

It looks like the biggest shift in casting (compared to opening night) comes on the Saturday matinee, in case you're thinking strategically...

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(Helene......this is for you .....you know why :))

I went to the dress rehearsal Wednesday night. Here are my impressions in brief.

This program is billed as "Director's Choice". Once a season, about mid-season, Peter Boal does a program entitled "Director's Choice". The title is self-explanatory, but what is not so obvious is: What message is Mr Boal sending with his selection and to whom?

The pieces are: "Sense of Doubt" by Paul Gibson (Glass), "Fur Alina" by Edwaard Liang (Part) [umlauts omitted], "Vespers" by Dove (Rouse), and "One Flat Thing, Reproduced" by Forsythe (Willems). Quite a collection of contemporary pieces mostly by relatively young and world known choreographers (well, OK, so Gibson isn't world renown yet......but he will be, mark my words). So what's Boal saying with these pieces?

I think he is telling the Seattle audience: "Yep, ballet can get this crazy, this different, this fresh, this demanding....can you dig it?" The PNB audience has been raised under the sure hands of Kent Stowell and Francia Russell to a diet of primarily classical and neo-classical pieces with the occasional sojourn into something really modern (it was under their direction that I saw my first Forsythe....an experience I will never forget). But like everything else Peter Boal has done, he is taking things to a new level. This program blows the doors off of anything "expected" and "accepted". Some here in Seattle are going to dislike this program. Some are going to say that this is not ballet (or at least not what they think of when they think of ballet). Others, probably younger and perhaps newer to ballet, are going to say WOW, I didn't know ballet could be like THAT. I suspect the former may come less often to PNB, and the later will be coming more often than they had planned to. There is a shift a foot I think. Boal is taking the "temperature" of the audience with this program. Just how much heat in the kitchen can you take? I doubt anyone knows the answer YET.

I surmise this program is sending messages to other groups too......the dancers for example. Imagine a competent, talented dancer who has just finished blowing their (and everyone else's) mind with Malliot's R&J last month as they discover just how great actors they can be; and now to be thrown into something like Forsythe's "One Flat Thing, Reproduced". I can't think of 2 pieces more similar, and yet so completely and totally different. My guess his message to his dancers is: "See, I told you, you can do anything....and do it well!".

Last, I suspect that Mr Boal is "speaking" to the world of dance. I am amazed as I think of the coveted pieces he has somehow convinced jealous choreographers to allow to migrate up into this provincial corner of the world (justifiably jealous.....quality and proper interpretation are everything): Dove, Forsythe, Mailliot, Twarp, Robbins, Parsons, Duato, Wheeldon, and even the Balachine Trust with a full performance of Jewels for the first time. I think his message here is: "Thanks for trusting me, you knew I could deliver, and I have, or rather my dancers have. Incidentally, we're only getting started. Take a look."

Overall, I can't say I loved every minute of the entire program, but I was an easy mark for "Sense of Doubt". I fell in love with it last year at a festival PNB did. I will be excited to see it before the full audience as it deserves to be. I thought it lacked pep at the rehearsal, and I suspect Gibson did too because he was up on stage during "notes" pushing the orchestra faster and faster until I got turned on just with the re-do's. Neolani Pantasico was in the solo role and once again, as always, she can do no wrong by me. Vespers was like nothing I'd ever imagined. It is inspired by memories of Ulysses Dove's grandmother in a small church (Baptist?) where she met with other woman to worship. The "music" is all percussive; in fact, if I remember right, it is all drums, with the most wonderful changing rhythms imaginable (solidly based on jazz I'd say). The dance is an interaction of 6 women and 6 chairs that defies description. I was enchanted.

Now the less accessible pieces. "Fur Aline" I need to see again (and will Friday night -- my subscription night). The words that come to mind are "minimalist" and "classical". It was more like a moonlit night than the full rush of day. I didn't know what to think. Then comes "One Flat Thing, Reproduced". I've loved every Forsythe I've ever seen, but I don't know about this one. I could hate it, as I'm sure many will, or it could do some magic on me and thrill me more than I would ever expect. The movements are....I don't know....gymnastic maybe? All I could think of as I sat there watching it was that I was being given an opportunity to look "inside" an ATOM to see all its quantum mechanical glory of order in chaos: where everything moves according to strict laws (the tables) but with the "youthful" abandon of the Uncertainty Principle's overriding demand that there be no rules. Right now I have no idea how I feel about it.

One final thought, if you are in a mood where ballet just doesn't seem to stimulate you like it used to, come see this program......you won't be visiting any old corners of your mind that night :) !

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I rarely ever comment on the shows I see (at least in this forum), but dang this show is worth commenting on!

Starting from the beginning, oh lordy why did I sit through Sense of Doubt yet again. Seeing it last year I just didn't get it. Not only did I not get it, but I was bored by it. A friend of mine said it all when she stated that "the only thing I'm doubting is if I just watched a ballet class or not". Watching it this second time, I was able to decipher a bit more why I just really don't like this piece. During the pre-show lecture, Doug Fullington was talking about how the title didn't mean anything, it was just the title of one of the pieces of music. Well, I can normally accept that, but in this instance the title does lend itself to a specific mood, wether the choreographer likes it or not. The music, costuming, and ligthing add to that mood. For the most part, the choreography does not. The choreography could just as easily be set to a pretty little Mozart ditty and come off just as well. I think if the entire work was to take on the same vocabulary and atmospher that the solo and v. v. ending of the finale, then I think I would feel differently, but it didn't, so...I was bored...again. I'm planning to go back again either Friday or Saturday, but I think I'll be arriving late as I really don't want to sit through that one again.

"Fur Alina" I DO want to see again. Partly, because I want to be immersed in the atmosphere of it without being interrupted by a) the talking ladies in the back b) the cell phone that rang twice c) the exorbent amount of coughing and hacking that sounded like an outbreak of TB had suddenly hit the PNB audience.

It was such a beautiful piece, with so many things unexpected. The turned in stances that punctuated the ending of such soft lyrical phrases, those keep coming back to me now. There was such sadness in them. Rachel Foster isn't a dancer that I normally notice, but this role is one that I will never forget her in. She really hit me.

"Vespers" took me a bit to get into the groove with. My heart and mind weren't making sense of the rhythms with the movement and theme. It took a couple of minutes into the group section before my heart made sense of it all... I had to leave the mind behind. Once my body accepted--and loved the rhythms, with the theme and movement, then my mind was able to catch up with why it worked. It was like the internal rhythm when one is caught up in spiritual exctasy...balanced against the social network of a church community that is just so. There is order, and exctasy at the same time. It took me awhile to get there, to feel it, but I definetly liked it by the end...or half way to the end. By the time the six ladies repeated the contractions in the chairs on stage left, I was love.

I loved, loved, loved "One Flat Thing, Reproduced". From the getgo, with that inital surge of rushing dancers pulling the tables forward, I was hooked. I am in awe and have such respect for just how cerebral Forsythe's choreography is, but that's not why I love it. There's a hundred choreographer out there who are cerebral, but they don't hook me in. There is something about his work that makes my heart pound a little--well, alot, faster. It makes me want to get up and run around and scream and dance and love and just be excited for life. I can sit down and discuss how brillant his choreographic techniques are, which I truly think they are...but there's so much more than that that catches me and makes me love every minute of it.

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I'm pleased there is someone else willing to state their reactions to this unusual program. It motivates me to state my point of view in a bit more specifically to the dancing itself.

For one thing, I learned once again that a dress rehearsal isn't even close to a real performance. The movements are there, the music is there, the costumes and scenery are there, but the spirit isn't. My previous comments on the dances themselves were after having seen only the dress rehearsal, and as such aren't worth much given the artificiality of a dress rehearsal. Since then I have seen 2 real performances of this program and now have some confidence in my true reactions to these pieces.

julip, naturally my reactions are different than yours (I love it when folks see the same piece very differently). Our biggest difference is with "Sense of Doubt". I find Paul Gibson's piece extremely exciting and satisfying. In spite of what some may say, I do think that the themes of mystery, intrigue, and suspicion are fundamental to this piece. It was that sense of intrigue that unified the piece for me, and that would make a Mozart setting completely different (take the ending of the dancer with her back to us, walking away in mysterious light, suddenly turning her head directly toward the audience, then black out.....no fit with Mozart there). To my eyes, Gibson did some very innovative things in his choreography while still maintaining the overall classical feel. For me, Paul Gibson's choreography is brilliant. He is one of the best of any new choreographer I have seen who is so firmly rooted in the classical style -- a rooting I am very glad about. I thought the company danced it to perfection -- at least the 1st cast did (opening night and 3/14)....I thought the 2nd cast (3/16 matinee) was not quite up to the same level -- altho I did greatly enjoy Lindsi Dec in the PdD role (but it is not fair to compare Lindsi with the master Carrie Imler). In fact, I thought the entire piece was really missing something without the dramatic talent and perfection of dancing Carrie Imler brings to the piece.

I too found "Fur Alina" enchanting. I was ho-hum at the dress rehearsal, but in the 2 real performances I totally loved it. In fact, it may turn out to have been my favorite of the entire program. I can tell you why too.....Louise Nadeau. After the performance, as I walked up to the room for the Q&A session that happened to include Louise as Peter Boal's dancer companion, I was considering what I might say about the way Louise danced that night (I often say something at these sessions), and the word that came to me immediately was exquisite. I wanted to compliment Louise with that word as one of the first speakers, only to have the wind taken out of my sails by Peter Boal himself who introduced Louise Nadeau as being an "exquisite" dancer. WOW, I thought what are the odds he would use the exact word I was thinking. Well, perhaps exquisite is the only word to properly describe Louise's dancing in "Fur Alina" because several minutes later a lady from the audience took the floor and sang Louise's praises beautifully, and nearly the first word out of her mouth was the word "exquisite". Is it the dance or the dancer? Hell if I know. What I do know is Louise in that piece was pure heaven.....exquisite heaven. (Incidentally, I thought Karel Cruz did a magnificent job of partnering her. He is very poetic in his moves. This is perhaps the first time I really felt some sense of uniqueness and command from him on stage.)

I really like your description of "Vespers". I'm right with you on that one for all the same reasons (altho I couldn't have put it as well as you were able to above). I may have "gotten into it" a bit quicker than you, but it did take a while for the rhythms to permeate my being (after the first solo I think). But then again, I like to let myself go like that.

The most interesting piece surely was "One Flat Thing, Reproduced". I can't say I exactly loved it, but I can say that at the dress rehearsal I didn't even know if I liked it. Then after real performance #1, I knew that it was in my personal "like" group as opposed to my "don't like" group. By performance #2, I knew I liked it very, very much and wanted to see it again. BTW, Peter Boal said in one of the Q&A's that "One Flat Thing, Reproduced" will be done next season as the shocker (my word, not his) part of a more traditional mixed bill. I guess I see Forsythe's piece as exciting and wonderful to watch because it does have such aliveness as you say so well, but also because to me it is a sort of lexicon of possible modern/balletic crossover moves. It's sort of like a Rosetta Stone -- complete unto itself, but also a key that can unlock so much more in the future.

Bottom line......thanks PNB for bringing this unusual program, and especially to the big donors that made it possible to have such challenging pieces placed before us since the house was less than half full I'd say -- as I suspect a program like this typically means.

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Well, you just inspired me to say more!

-- altho I did greatly enjoy Lindsi Dec in the PdD role (but it is not fair to compare Lindsi with the master Carrie Imler). In fact, I thought the entire piece was really missing something without the dramatic talent and perfection of dancing Carrie Imler brings to the piece.

I went again last night (Saturday) and I saw Dec in the PdD. I actually (shock coming) preferred her in the role to Imler. I can't believe that I just typed that. I hate to say it, but I think it might have had something to do with body type. Normally I'd rather watch someone with Imler's body on any given day, in any given role, but she just didn't look right in alot of the movements.

Sense of Doubt, however, still didn't do it for me. Sandy M., I wish that I could agree with you on it, but I just can't. But, as Peter Boal kept saying in the Q&A, he's all about having pieces that make the audience have a conversation. Somehow I doubt he was referring to this piece, though, when he was saying that.

Nadeau was the cast that I really, really wanted to see in Fur Alina, but it just didn't work out for me to see her. I did see Miranda Weese on Saturday, and honestly, I preferred Rachel Foster. It's nothing that I can put my finger on as to why, they were both beautiful, but there was something about Foster's performance that grabbed me a bit more.

I am VERY glad to hear that One Flat Thing is coming back next year. I had heard it as a rumor from a couple of people, but it's great to know that it was said in the Q&A. I definetly want to see it several more times. I was astonished in just two viewings at just how much of the structure was revealed. In the second viewing the moments of stillness, unison, call and response...on and on...everything became clearer...but at the same time the chaos was even more chaotic. I need more! lol. Oh, and apparently by the last performance, the length was down to (i think) 15:4somthing. That, to me, is amazing. The piece originally started at, what, 32 minutes? Something like that. Increadible.

Also, it's worth it to try to talk to the sound mixer for One Flat Thing. I was lucky enough to be able to sit beside him for both shows (Well, unlucky, I'm on crutches and was sitting in the wheelchair area). It was very interesting to hear about how it is done and the rules surrounding it...apparently he worked with Thom Wilhelm (sp?) in order to do it. Understanding how the music works really helped me understand and see more of what was going on on the stage.

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I love it that we don't agree. What could be more boring than: me too.

Yes, I can see your point about Imler vs Dec. However, Carrie Imler is one of the best all around dancers I've ever seen. She creates character in a way that Lindsi can only dream about (so far that is....I have high hopes for Lindsi Dec!). OK, how shall I say it.....there needs to be a bit less of Carrie. No one knows that more than Carrie, and I'd bet it is her personal cross. Don't let that get in your way (Carrie gives her all no matter what). Next time watch Carrie's stage presence; watch her be her character, watch her relate to the audience. I'll take Carrie any way I can get her.

It's really interesting to me that we differ so on Sense of Doubt. That's the best thing about ART -- different people respond differently. All I can say in my defense is that this is the only ballet from last year's Festival that Peter Boal decided to feature in a regular season program. Frankly, I think both Peter and I see a bright future for Paul Gibson (sorry, couldn't resist :off topic:)

I am so jealous of you "seeing" the ballet thru the eyes of the sounder mixer. The first time I saw OFT,R I figured the sound was pre-recorded. I love the idea that it too is a one time unique performance. Lucky you for getting the insight that came from interacting with him. I'm already looking forward to seeing OFT,R again next year.

P.S. I also rented the DVD on Forsythe from Netflix (tho I haven't watched it yet). If you don't know about it, check it out HERE:

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wow thats quite a bold assumption! do you know her personally???

No, I don't.....altho I have met her.

Bold? Hmmmmmmm. I guess I'd reserve the word "bold" for a bigger stakes game; but if you'd like to feel you've "caught" me, that's fine with me, you've caught me.

Indeed I may well be wrong, but then again, knowing what I know about people, and about how the vast majority of folks feel about weight, I wouldn't bet against me.

BTW, did you see these performances?

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It feels a bit self-serving, but I reviewed the show


(please note I don't write the headlines)

(and yes, I screwed up the number of tables in the Forsythe)

I'm afraid I disagree with julip about Sense of Doubt. When I first saw the ballet, I got a very strong feeling of film noir from it, in part from the suspenseful nature of the score and the ominous quality of the lighting, but I think it's also integral to the movement. The opening run, as the two dancers look over their shoulder at whatever they're running away from, sets up a menacing tone that follows along throughout the work -- although it would be a fascinating exercise to swap scores and have this danced to something baroque and upbeat, I don't think that it is without meaning in its original staging.

I saw two casts, and liked parts of both of them. Of the two couples, I did think that Imler and Herd gave a more nuanced performance, just through the sense that they seemed to be aware of their movement options and to make specific choices about how they would do things. It's nice to see Imler onstage (I missed her presence during all the Romeos). She often strikes me as a very independent dancer, even in a duet with extensive partnering. I wish that I could see her in the Agon pas de deux -- the moment where the two dancers approach each other at the beginning of the duet, almost like boxers coming out of their corners to touch gloves before a fight, has a very egalitarian feeling, and I can imagine her there.

I don't mean to imply that Dec and Cruz were lightweights, but just that they are at different points in their development, and so we see different things in their dancing. Cruz really seems to have made a big change recently, maybe because of his work in R&J. In the past he's seemed just a bit hesitant to step up into the soloist roles -- a bit diffident. Here he was fully present in the part.

I did have one tangential concern about the program as a whole -- the first three dances were all staged with dark curtains, black or dark brown costumes and an emphasis on side light (rather than light from the front of the stage) -- by the end of Vespers my eyes felt really strained. There were many things about the Forsythe that felt bracing, and the white environment and bright lighting really enhanced them!

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