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PNB All Robbins Casting and Reviews

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Casting is up for the PNB All Robbins' program ("Fancy Free," "In the Night," "The Concert") that opens next Thursday, 29 May.


Of the dancers who are leaving the Company at the end of this season,

*Noelani Pantastico will dance in "Fancy Free", first couple (with Olivier Wevers) in "In the Night", and the Angry Lady in "The Concert".

*Casey Herd will dance in "Fancy Free", third couple (with Kaori Nakamura) in "In the Night" and The Husband in "The Concert".

None of the corps women who will be leaving are cast in named roles in this program, although there is a TBA for one of the "Matinee Ladies" in "The Concert". The real season finale is the evening of 8 June with the 8 Encores program, and, hopefully, each will be featured in that program.

I'm really sorry I'm going to miss both performances with Benjamin Griffiths, James Moore, and Seth Orza as the sailors in "Fancy Free", and I hope that someone will review it here. Sarah and Seth Orza are cast together as the first couple in "In the Night". Jordan Pacitti, who was literally the poster boy for "Fancy Free" when it was last performed is cast for it this season, making his debut on Friday, 30 May, yay!

Feel free to add reviews to this thread, and I'll move it to "Recent Performances."

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PNB's "All Robbins" program opened Thursday. In "Fancy Free", the irrepressible Jonathan Porretta portrayed the irrepressible Sailor #1, eliciting a burst of applause at the first Russian jump into split. Casey Herd danced Mambo Sailor (#3) and the Pas de Deux as a man with confidence who had picked up some moves along the way to wow the girls. The variations for these sailors are long and similar in style. The variation that is often lost and is dramatically most challenging is the one for the "hopes and dreams" sailor (#2). In it Josh Spell wove a huge landscape of a narrative and dramatic arc of nuance and muscial interpretation. It was as if Rodolfo's "Che gelida manina" was transformed into a dance for a boy from mid-America, were that aria less focused on a single outcome.

Each of the three women's characters were as distinct as each of the sailors'. Noelani Pantastico was more willful than faux sophisticated as the girl with the red pocketbook, a woman who knew her strength with the men away at war. Kylee Kitchens showed a sense of delight and maybe discovery in how her long sinuous legs and glamorous golden locks could affect the men.

It's as if Louise Nadeau was born to dance Robbins. In "Fancy Free," as the girl in purple who dances the Pas de Deux, she was game but no pushover, and she showed a wonderful detachment from the big-talking boys. It was sophistication that is sharp and smart about people, another American archetype from the period. In "In the Night" Nadeau danced with Karel Cruz in the third Pas de Deux. As dramatic as it needed to be, Nadeau's interpretation was an organic transformation of the music to gesture and movement. In a pairing of perfect pitch, Cruz danced the role of a true poet, a man who is involved with an emotionally complicated woman. If the superb Dianne Chilgren hadn't started to play the final piece, the audience might still be applauding them.

Noelani Pantastico and Olivier Wevers danced the first couple (romantic love). It was an emotional experience to watch: early in her career as she gained more principal roles, she was partnered by Wevers -- it was he who was her partner in the "Brahms-Schoenberg" 2nd movement guest performances with NYCB -- and the partnership has come full circle. It was a rich performance: romantic but not innocent. Ariana Lallone is back after having suffered a calf injury mid-performance as Hippolyta in the last program. In the Verdy role. about as physically opposite of Verdy as a ballerina comes, she was a wonder of a mature, romantic dancer. Watching her here renews my hope for "Liebeslieder Walzer" (although it's getting harder and harder to convince the people in my building that the burnt sacrifices are just generic barbeque, and eye of newt is getting difficult to come by).

Miranda Weese could not have had more perfect comic timing and phrasing as the Ballerina in "The Concert", especially in the hat scene, her big eyes projecting to the balcony. I could not stop thinking about Bart Cook watching Jonathan Porretta's Groucho Marx of a Husband, and Carrie Imler was a formidable Wife. I also could not stop wishing that it was as easy to quiet the chattering, pocketbook-rustling members of the audience as it was in "The Concert", as I had to move seats to avoid the 70-something non-stop chatterering couple behind me.

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Tonight I saw the second cast in "Fancy Free", and it was magical. Each of the three sailors -- Kiyon Gaines as the athletic one, Jordan Pacitti in "hopes and dreams", and Jeffrey Stanton in the rhumba -- shaped his solo like a long classical variation. This is one of Stanton's greatest roles, tapping into a far more outgoing side that he doesn't often show: alternately show-offy and deadly virile, with spot-on mime and physical characterization and bullseye comic timing. The pas de deux with Louise Nadeau crackled; they have chemistry to spare. I almost wished they had managed to sneak away from the others.

Kiyon Gaines displayed a nuanced side to the first sailor, and although the work is full of vernacular movement, he showed the ballet spine in the choreography. as well as a more thoughtful version of the character than many. Jordan Pacitti was born many decades too late; he could have been a movie star in the dancing era. Just when I thought he was chanelling Gene Kelly, in his solo he threw in a perfect Fred Astaire phrase. What a performance! It was a gem.

As the two new women -- Nadeau has been in all casts so far -- Lesley Rausch was upstanding without being prim, a true period character. Lindsi Dec was a first-class girl-next-door flirt trying on the glamour.

In "In the Night" Seth and Sarah Orza danced the first, romantic couple. Seth Orza's picture should be in the dictionary next to the entry for "plastique". He does not have a bad side and every shape and position is fully realized. Sarah Orza had the softest pointes, making the simple walk at the end of the piece a wonder. Kaori Nakamura danced with Casey Herd as the third couple, and she was an emotional tempest, a fascinating, high-maintenance woman. When she surrendered to Herd at the end, I thought of Fonteyn and Ashton, and wondered if it was a similar surrender.

But in this ballet, it was Laura Gilbreath's night. From the opening movements filled with true Eastern European character, carriage, and formality -- this couple may have called each other Mr. and Mrs. even in private -- to the expansive and dramatic dancing in the middle section that fit the music like a glove and showed the spirit of its originator, Violette Verdy, even if Gilbreath, another tall dancer in the role, is nothing like her physically -- to the resonant ending, she showed great range and gave the characterization a splendid arc. She was very sensitively partnered by Stanko Milov.

I can't remember the last time I went to the ballet before this program and heard my fellow audience members howling so much. The cast of "The Concert" was mainly the same as in the last performance, and again, Miranda Weese was superb as The Ballerina. What a face. I can't praise Carrie Imler's The Wife enough; she caught the essence of the role. Benjamin Griffiths as the meek young man who later partners The Ballerina was a scream.

In the post-performance Q&A, Boal said that Dianne Chilgren may have been the best The Pianist ever. Oh, and she played the piano, too. If she's playing for "Dances at a Gathering," that alone will make the program.

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It's as if Louise Nadeau was born to dance Robbins...As dramatic as it needed to be, Nadeau's interpretation was an organic transformation of the music to gesture and movement. In a pairing of perfect pitch, Cruz danced the role of a true poet, a man who is involved with an emotionally complicated woman. If the superb Dianne Chilgren hadn't started to play the final piece, the audience might still be applauding them.

I couldn't agree with you more on Louise Nadeau. "Organic transformation of the music" is the perfect way of describing what she did in "In The Night." She was splendid, and Karel Cruz was a perfect partner. I was struck by the enormous height difference. Is this standard for "In The Night"? Whether it is or isn't, it definitely worksl--I imagine that it made the lifts even more spectacular. This was by no means the only highlight of "In The Night," as the luscious Lallone and the breathtaking Pantastico also gave beautiful performances.

"Fancy Free" was entertaining and expertly danced, but it was a struggle to get past the sour-sounding orchestra. It's not the first time I've been distracted by the orchestra. It's especially frustrating when it's music I know well- to listen to PNB's orchestra's Nutcracker or Agon was agony. However, Dianne Chilgren's rendering of Chopin in both "In The Night" and "The Concert" more than made up for the orchestra's shortcomings. And what comic chops in "The Concert," along with those of the dancers! The six girls' dance, for one, was an absolute riot! I went home with a sore stomach from laughing so hard :wink:

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I reviewed this program, but as is often the case, had more thoughts than there was space in the paper. In no particular order

Fancy Free

Very interesting seeing the different casts' interpretation of the teasing section at the beginning (stealing the first girl's handbag and mocking her) -- the fuse can go at several different places here.

When Poretta and Spell leave to follow the first girl, their crouching lope off stage makes them look like Groucho Marx.

Herd and Nadeau play the duet more overtly sexy, more knowing. By the time his hand makes it to her breast it seems very logical.

Stanton was the most rhythmically accurate in the Robbins solo -- everyone else seemed to be acting out their nerves and rushing the clapping and slapping. And since the orchestra stayed on top of the actual rhythm, there were some awkward pauses. Seth Orza came the closest to an actual rhumba -- for some reason none of them keep their knees together, so that the quick changes of level and direction don't have the thrilling suddenness that they're meant to have. Orza was willing to shift his pelvis in an arc at the beginning, so that there was an actually swoop.

Poretta does a very fearless version of the Harold Lang role -- you don't see the mechanics of the splits, and he rebounds off the floor just slightly so the audience invariably winces. He's like all the Katzenjammer Kids put together. In the same part Kiyon Gaines is all about the action -- he practically vibrates during every stillness.

Orza really leaned into Miranda Weese at the end of the first section, when he's trying to chat her up outside the bar -- there was a nice balance with the tilt of the streetlight.

In the Night

The Orza's made a very nice debut in the first duet yesterday (Sunday), but I was still happiest with Pantastico and Wevers. They made lovely work out of the long phrasing

Arianna Lallone is back from her injury and physical therapy, and just as queenly as I remember her from the last time she danced the second duet. Stanko Milov is a good partner for her length, particularly in the mirroring sections. A few people during Q&A sections said they felt this section was not as powerful as the others in the work, but I disagree. It's certainly very subtle, but there's so much subtext here you could be untangling it for days.

And yes, Laura Gilbreath -- I can see her (and Carrie Imler, for that matter) calling her husband "Mr. __." Imler has a part of herself in this role that is very womanly, not youthful. Sometimes she reminds me of an Edith Wharton doyenne.

Nice contrast between Louise Nadeau and Kaori Nakamura in the third duet -- Nadeau is more erratically volitile, I think, while Nakamura has a clearer agenda. One place I think I see this is in the capitulation at the end. Nadeau's decisions are all immediate -- when she's crossing I don't know that she realizes she's going to kneel, and when she's knelt I don't know that she anticipates bowing her head -- it all seems spontaneous to me. Nakamura, on the other side, seems to make a choice anticipating what the elements of that decision entail, and then follows it through.

but your mileage may vary.

The Concert

Jodie Thomas has really stepped up this year -- she often gets the avian parts (Canary in Sleeping Beauty, Butterfly in Midsummer) or the small and perky, because she's, well, smaller and quicker than some of them. But she's got excellent comic timing (her nurse in R&J was great) and as the Angry Woman here she's a knockout. The glasses make her look like Harold Lloyd, but it's her timing that clinches the deal.

It's a tossup for me between Lallone and Imler for the Wife -- Lallone is more regal, and Imler more deeply middle-class (like the wife in that Britcom Keeping Up Appearances that insisted her name was pronounced Boo-kay rather than Bucket, as it was spelled) Either way, you have great sympathy for the husband when he comes out wielding a knife.

And speaking of the knife -- I know I'm a slow learner, but I just saw the relationship between that and the chorus line of assassins in Paul Taylor's Sacre du Printemps/The Rehearsal!

During the fake Sylphides ensemble, as the Wife comes downstage center between those lines of corps dancers, I realized that Carrie Imler is meant to dance Myrtha. I don't know that it will ever happen, repertory here being what it is, but she'd be fabulous as the queen of the underworld.

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During the fake Sylphides ensemble, as the Wife comes downstage center between those lines of corps dancers, I realized that Carrie Imler is meant to dance Myrtha. I don't know that it will ever happen, repertory here being what it is, but she'd be fabulous as the queen of the underworld.

I had the very same thought, but I'm not objective about her. I've loved Carrie Imler since the first moment I saw her on stage at her school performance in 1995, 13 years ago. When she started to move in "Square Dance" last night in "8 Encores" the world was right, if only for those 10 minutes.

sandik, thank you so much for sharing your extended thoughts here. I wish Seattle Weekly had room for all of them.

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Carrie Imler......I worship her at her feet.

Last nite's 8 Encore program was so special, so brilliant, so satisfying that it's practically impossible to single any single part of it out, but within minutes of the last curtain, I told my wife:

"Carrie Imler in Square Dance was the epitome of the evening for me."

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