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OBT: A Grand Tour 2007/2008


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Excuse my lack of experience on these boards. I came home from the ballet today and was hungry for further discussion concerning the experience.

My wife introduced me to ballet in 1996. Since that time we have been faithful supporters of the OBT. We miss James Canfield, but have tried to keep open minds because we really do enjoy going to the ballet.

Today's performances at the Newmark Theater in Portland (April 27, 2008) were outstanding. The lighting, dancers, and musical scores reminded me of reasons I love going to the ballet. Alison Roper brings something to the stage that I find lacking in many other dancers. Her expression and movements do not appear forced, but create the perception that she truly enjoys what she is doing.

We almost left after seeing Kent Stowells' "Through Eden's Gate" for a second time. When we saw it last year we double checked the program, thinking it was a quirky ballet from the early 80's. As it turns out, it "new." Cheesy set, boring choreography, etc. It made us miss James all over again. What's Christopher thinking? I figure the OBT board was looking for a move toward more classical ballet when they hired Christopher, but I just don't get the attraction to repeats of Swan Lake, the Nutcracker, and day-glow paint on one-dimensional sets.

Trey McIntyre's "Just" and Balanchine's "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" were outstanding! Sometimes I feel like our yearly membership only encourages the crowd that wants more of the old and less of the new...or at least newer pieces that reek of old age.

Was anyone else there? What is your perspective?

Again, I apologize for my newness on these boards. I do not come from a ballet background and do not speak the language. I have however, been in love with ballet as performance art for the past 12 years thanks to my wife who grew up going to the ballet in San Fransisco.

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Thank you for your review, M&S. It does sound like a varied and interesting program. Loving ballet is all that's needed to join this board -- that plus a keyboard.

Welcome to BalletTalk!

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Loving ballet is all that's needed to join this board -- that plus a keyboard.
Those, of course, along with an inquiring nature, an eye for what is happening onstage, and the wish to put your experience into words for the rest of us. You have all of the above. It's good to have another voice in Portland to help us see what this young company and its relatively new director are accomplishing. Welcome M&S!

Were there any stand-out performances, in your opinion? I guess Slaughter is the ballet that readers of Ballet Talk are most familiar with: what did you think about they way the handled it?

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And what is it about Canfield's work that spoke to you -- since you mention him a couple of times, he seems to have made an impression.

I only get to see OBT once or twice a year, but given that situation, I think the company has really been growing over the last few years. They've been convincing in existing rep, especially Balanchine, and committed to the new stuff I've seen them in. I particularly liked the Kudelka "Almost Mozart" -- it made the company look very sophisticated and free. I'm still kicking myself that I missed the Forsythe last autumn.

Programming for a resident company with a subscription audience is indeed a tricky business. You're right to think that your renewal is like a vote for an incumbent -- you wouldn't come back if you really hated it. But part of what you come back for are the performers, not the repertory. Looking at the company from the outside, it seems that Stowell has worked hard to balance his offerings -- they are almost always doing something that I really want to see. I've been happy to haul myself down to Portland for their work.

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We liked James' rock ballets and "Jungle"...and really most of his new work. I love that the company does classics - I will never get tired of seeing "Serenade". I just love to be surprised with new and unique moves, non-traditional ballet music, and choreography/dance that generally pushs the envelope.

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From my understanding, there is a great divide between the pro-Canfield faction and the Stowell camp.

I have seen a few performances this year and was very impressed with the quality of the dancing. Stowell is adding new, young and vibrant dancers and the company is poised to become more than a regional company.

Their performance at the Kennedy Center will be the second time that they have appeared with PNB. They have already been on the same billing with SFB.

Almost Mozart and and Just are 2 ballets that push envelope. Their command of Balanchine is outstanding. As for Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker....you need them to fill the seats to pay the bills....nothing wrong with that. They are good ballets as well. I would think that dancers only dancing neo-classical ballets yearn to do the classics as well.

I enjoyed reading your opinions and since I don't always get out to see them, look forward to reading about them on the board.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008 2PM matinee...another great performance by OBT.

Act I: Rubies by Balanchine.

We saw the company perform this in 2003 and enjoyed both performances. It is a fun ballet to watch and it looks like the dancers are having fun right along with the audience. Hope they firm up a few things if they are going to perform this ballet at the Kennedy Center. One of the lead females struggled and shook during a few of her positions, and we were unmoved by the lead male.

Act II: Tolstoy’s Waltz by Christopher Stowell.

This ballet was magnificent. Christopher really pushed the envelope with this one. In it Stowell finds the balance between classical and advent garde. Ann Mueller was outstanding, as usual, and the pas de doux with Kathi Martuza and Artur Sultanov could not have been more captivating. They were well matched and bold with their movements. Gasps could be heard at multiple times throughout the performance. We left with a new level of respect for Christopher Stowell after this show.

Act III: Raymonda by Yuri Possokhov (after Petipa).

As we were waiting for the show to start, my wife mentioned to me that her and a previous partner (a former board member for the SF Ballet) walked out in the middle of a performance of Raymonda in San Francisco when Rudolf Nureyev was the lead male. I had never heard of him before, but my wife tells me he is (or was) well known. I guess they had some issues with costume choices or Nureyev's take on the theme, or something....and felt the need to "make a point" as it were. Regardless, nobody left during today's show. I am not a big fan of the tutu, but the costumes today were beyond beautiful. Alison Roper was stunning! She is always stunning! Ronnie Underwood is perhaps the strongest male dancer in the whole company, and we need strong male dancers like him. It was pure pleasure to watch. This is why we go to the ballet!

We are thankful to have OBT. We are especially thankful both Alison Roper and Ann Mueller dance for this company. We dread the day when one, the other, or both leave. We have watched both these women since 1996 and they just continue to amaze us with both their strength and their grace. In a company that seems on the young side to us, these two dancers really stand out and have for a long time. We find them fascinating.

Questions or comments on ballet etiquette.

How does this compare to other venues around the country? Take into consideration that we choose to go to the Sunday Matinee, realizing full well Sunday matinee is when parents are most likely to take kids, the atmosphere is a little less formal, etc. The tickets still cost us around $75.00 each (which some of you will find inexpensive). To us, $150 is a significant amount to pay for two-three hours of entertainment. With that in mind....

We had a man in front of us take off his shoes and socks during the performance. He would slip them back on during intermissions, but took them off and aired his feet out during the performances. For the most part, he sat with them crossed...the sole of one foot facing the aisle. Just enough in front and to the side of me that my peripheral vision engaged whenever he wiggled his toes.

A woman behind us gave her child a cellophane wrapped bag of goodies to eat. They did not get eaten during either of the two intermissions, but were held in anticipation of the show. Crinkle, crinkle, crinkle....munch, munch, munch.

I can excuse the occasional parent who needs to leave with a child, but do they need to come back in? We have monitors in the lobby. One lady left and returned with her child twice from the row in front of us.

Lastly, what do you do about people who keep talking? Either telling the person next to them what just happened on stage or chatting away about non-ballet related events?

I was instructed at some point in my life that going to the ballet was special, and that talking, unwrapping cellophane, crunching plastic water bottles, and going barefoot were unacceptable. Have the standards changed? Have I become an old fuddy-duddy? Am I a 40+ year old beer-drinking gun-nut ballet snob?

I am glad people are supporting the ballet and the arts in general. I want more people coming to the shows, but at what point do you tell people that their behavior is inappropriate? Is this an "only in Portland, Oregon" thing?

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They are doing Christopher Wheeldon's "Rush" at the Kennedy Center.

Sounds like you saw a wonderful program. I've read the reviews in the Oregonian and Tribune (online).

I have been to OBT's evening performances and matinees and luckily haven't been through what you did. I would have lost my mind. But before losing it, going to an usher usually solves the problem. One time during an ABT performance, a woman behind me was slurping vegetable soup. Nothing I did during the performance stopped her. When she saw me speak to the usher, she high-tailed it out of the theater and didn't come back (or at the very least, she moved her seat to another section).

One day, your favorite dancers will leave and hopefully, there will be new favorites to replace them.

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Thanks so miuch for the review, M&S.

There are many discussions on this board started by peeved BalletTalkers who endured bad audience behavior. I think $150 is a fortune for one afternoon of ballet, and I don't understand not only the parents who do not use these occasions to try to teach their youngsters appropriate behavior but become downright negative role models.

At a recent performance, I was deeply moved when a woman who was coughing left the hall and returned to her seat only after a break in the dancing, not to disturb or distract anyone at a pivotal moment. Brava to her for her consideration! :D

Rudolf Nureyev, Russian-born and trained, shook the world in 1961 by defecting to the West at the height (one of the heights) of the Cold War. Even detractors would agree that he was the ballet superstar of the second half of the 20th century, revolutionizing technique and art and is the subject of a recent biography by Julie Kavanagh, which is discussed here, also a documentary based on the book and recently broadcast on some PBS stations. Here's a link to the -->Rudolf Nureyev Foundation. He died in 1993 at age 54.

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