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Swan Lake 2015

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Here is the press release -- please note that all matinees start at 1pm!:

Kent Stowell's Swan Lake
April 10-19, 2015
Marion Oliver McCaw Hall
321 Mercer Street, Seattle Center
Seattle, WA 98109

April 10, 11, 16, 17 & 18 at 7:30 pm
April 11, 12*, 18 & 19 at 1:00 pm
*added performance!

SEATTLE, WA - Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Swan Lake, choreographed by Founding Artistic Director Kent Stowell, returns to the McCaw Hall stage as the fifth offering of PNB’s 2014-15 season. This beloved story ballet, revered by audiences and dancers alike, is classical ballet at its very best. Sumptuous scenery, costumes, and lighting, and an achingly beautiful Tchaikovsky score, set the stage for the ethereal corps de ballet and the ultimate challenge for ballerinas all over the world—the dual role of Odette, trapped in the body of a white swan until the oath of her true love sets her free; and Odile, the “Black Swan” temptress. With an added performance on opening weekend, Swan Lake runs for nine performances only, from April 10 through 19 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Tickets start at $30. For more information, contact the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424, in person at 301 Mercer Street, or online at PNB.org.

“Kent Stowell’s enchanting choreography, with masterful staging by Francia Russell, has been bringing Seattle audiences to their feet since 1981,” said PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal, in his program notes. “A milestone production for the Company, the current performances mark the 11th time we have presented this treasured work in repertory. I want to thank not only Kent and Francia, but also coach Elaine Bauer and our artistic staff for their care in bringing this work from the studio to the stage. Dance and choreography are essential, but so is light: Rico Chiarelli, an artist in his own right, brings not only light to this production, but also mood, mystery, and nuance. Add Ming Cho Lee’s monumental sets and Paul Tazewell’s vibrant costumes, and we have one of the finest Swan Lakes I’ve ever seen.”


Swan Lake runs April 10 – 19 at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street. Evening showtimes are 7:30 pm April 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18, with 1:00 pm matinees on April 11, 12, 18 and 19. (Note: Curtain-times for Swan Lake matinees are earlier than PNB’s usual Saturday matinees.)

Tickets ($30-$190) may be purchased through the PNB Box Office:

  • Phone - 206.441.2424 (Mon.-Fri. 9am–6pm; Sat. 10am–5pm)
  • In Person - 301 Mercer Street, Seattle (Mon.-Fri. 10am–6pm; Sat. 10am–5pm)
  • Online - PNB.org (24/7)

Subject to availability, tickets are also available 90 minutes prior to each performance at McCaw Hall.

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(Press release, continued)



Tuesday, April 7, 12:00 noon
Central Seattle Public Library, 1000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle

Join PNB for a free lunch-hour preview lecture at the Central Seattle Public Library. Education Programs Manager Doug Fullington will offer insights about Swan Lake, complete with video excerpts.


Thursday, April 9
Lecture 6:00 pm, Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall
Dress Rehearsal 7:00 pm, McCaw Hall

Join PNB artistic staff for an engaging discussion during the hour preceding the dress rehearsal. Attend the lecture only or stay for the rehearsal. Tickets are $12 for the lecture, or $30 for the lecture and dress rehearsal. Tickets may be purchased through the PNB Box Office.

Pre-Performance Lectures

Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall

Join Education Programs Manager Doug Fullington for a 30-minute introduction to each performance, including discussions of choreography, music, history, design, and the process of bringing Swan Lake to the stage. One hour before performances. FREE for ticketholders. (NOTE: There will be no post-show Q&A’s during the run of Swan Lake.)

Listen to the Ballet

Friday, April 10, 7:30 pm

PNB partners with 98.1 Classical KING FM to bring listeners one of the world’s most popular ballet scores, featuring the mighty Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra performing under the direction of music director/ principal conductor Emil de Cou, direct from McCaw Hall. Tune in to KING FM for a live broadcast of Swan Lake on opening night, Friday, April 10 at 7:30 pm. Only on 98.1 fm or online at KING.org/listen.

BACKSTAGE BASH: Black Swan Soiree

Friday, April 17, 10:30 pm

Join PNB’s Young Patrons Circle members for a backstage after-party immediately following Swan Lake. Doors will open at 10:30 for an event filled with entertainment including acrobats, aerialists, face painting, photo booths, and an onstage DJ. YPC caters the event with appetizers and a full bar and invites PNB dancers to attend as well. Tickets ($25) are available through the PNB Box Office. (21+)

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The Sunday, April 12 and Saturday, April 18 matinees are a non-subscription performances, with Sunday, April 12 added very recently. They, and for those that can go during the week, the Thursday, April 16 have the best availability for people who like the front and center of each section, especially for more than two people.

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The Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried pairings, four in all, are up for both weekends. As always, casting is subject to change.

Friday, April 10: Carla Korbes/Karel Cruz

Saturday, April 11 matinee: Lesley Rausch/Seth Orza

Saturday, April 11 evening: Laura Tisserand (debut)/Batkhurel Bold

Sunday, April 12 matinee: Maria Chapman/Jerome Tisserand

Thursday, April 16: Laura Tisserand/Batkhurel Bold

Friday, April 17: Lesley Rausch/Seth Orza

Saturday, April 18 matinee: Carla Korbes/Karel Cruz

Saturday, April 18 evening: Maria Chapman/Jerome Tisserand

Sunday, April 19: Lesley Rausch/Seth Orza


When casting is filled out, I'll post the spreadsheet.

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I'm sorry to miss Chapman in this run -- she had a very auspicious debut last time around and I was looking forward to seeing what she would do with the part this time around. Hope she makes it back onstage for the next program.

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No, she is not. In the last run of "Swan Lake," she was, but her partner, former PNB Principal Dancer Casey Herd was injured. In the first performance for which she was scheduled, Batkhurel Bold replaced Herd in Act III, and Herd partnered Imler in Acts II and IV. She lost her second performance.

But I'm not bitter or anything.

PNB just published a video with comments by Professional Division students Bella Ureta and Angeli Mamom about dancing in the "Swan Lake" corps:


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It was probably not a good idea to look at the border guard like it was a weird question when he seemed surprised that I would see the same show three times, but it threw me for a loop. I guess not very many balletomanes pass through his station. I would have seen Miami City Ballet do the Balanchine program all four times in Vancouver, if I didn't have opera tickets to two casts for "Semele."

Carla Korbes is scheduled for one more performance of "Swan Lake," this Saturday at 1pm. Do not miss it. She is going out at the top of her game, and that's a very high summit.

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It was probably not a good idea to look at the border guard like it was a weird question when he seemed surprised that I would see the same show three times, but it threw me for a loop. I guess not very many balletomanes pass through his station. I would have seen Miami City Ballet do the Balanchine program all four times in Vancouver, if I didn't have opera tickets to two casts for "Semele."

Sounds perfectly normal to me. laugh.png

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It was probably not a good idea to look at the border guard like it was a weird question when he seemed surprised that I would see the same show three times, but it threw me for a loop.

I would appeal to his sense of economy. Crossing a border to see a show only once sounds less rational to me.

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I've had several people at that border crossing look at me funny when I say I'm travelling to see a cultural event -- you'd think, after seeing the tourism dollars that Expo and the Olympics brought in, they'd be more sanguine about it.

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Apologies -- this is really long.

Some miscellaneous thoughts.

It’s fundraising season, and so there were front of the curtain asks. Peter Boal and James Moore came out at various performances to do the request – this year the touch was to make a donation in honor of Carla Korbes. Moore was very affective – knew her at SAB but thought that as a “vertically challenged dancer” he wouldn’t get a chance to perform with her, but fate intervened with Prodigal Son.

Doug Fullington continues to do excellent audience pre-show talks – it’s really difficult to do one for a ballet like Swan Lake, where he could likely talk for most of a day and still not get through everything he would have to say. My favorite line is about act 3, where “Odile works her mojo on Siegfried” Wish I’d said that.

Act 1:

This has really become focused on the ancillary characters – sure, we meet Siegfried and learn about his dilemma, but it’s the court functionaries (jester, tutor, courtiers) that get a lot of our attention. When Stowell first made this version (in 2003) they were simpler – the jester was a perky puppy and the tutor well meaning but full of tut tut. Paul Gibson danced the tutor like a baroque specialist – always a bit fancier than anyone else in the place, but not over the top. He was a roué (the idea that Siegfried wanted something beyond a pretty face for a wife seemed beyond him) but not a sot. As time went on, dancers began to develop the humorous aspect of the part, going for laughs rather than just smiles. The jester has morphed a bit as well – there’s more overt competition with the tutor, and more emotional moments (thwarted in something, he gets sulky – when he gets his way, he’s just a big smug about it) The physical tricks are all still there – it’s virtuosic in the Soviet tradition – but he’s more than an acrobat.

Matthew Renko is almost over the top as the tutor – his portrayal of gradual drunkenness is excellent, but the end point is almost cartoonish. Still, when I was watching this, I was trying to remember if he’s performed Dr Coppelius – he’d do a great job at it. Ezra Thomson is less manic than Renko, but it’s still a comic performance. For him, it’s all about the hair – as long as his hair looks good, everything is fine.

Benjamin Griffiths has been dancing the Jester for several seasons, and has developed a coherent throughline for this character, especially in this act. Sometimes he’s in cahoots with the tutor, and other times he’s trying to ameliorate his drinking, but he’s got a natural sequence of events. Price Suddarth has spent hours figuring out the trajectory of this part. This is a big event for him – his pupil is coming of age and he’s got to find a girl. He’s got a plan, he tries to move it along, but he trips over his own feet (metaphorically) and gets in the way. He’s got a novel going on in this act.

Karel Cruz is the most suave of the princes – he’s entertained by the antics of the tutor and the jester, but not taken away by them. He’s gracious with the guests – happy to dance with them and see them happy. He’s intimidated by his mother, but understands their formal relationship – he looks comfortable being the focus of attention. Bakthurel Bold has relaxed into this role over the years, but he’s still very intent on his ballerina – he’s there to help her do her best. But she hasn’t shown up yet in this act, so perhaps that’s why he’s more engaged with the group. Seth Orza is indeed more of a guy than a prince, but he’s making that distinction work a bit better for himself now. And he’s not punching the technical piece, like he tended to do in Don Q – I think he’s back to business now, rather than still having to prove that he can dance after his lengthy rehab.

The pas de trois is like the national dances in act 3 – it’s a chance to see a lot of different people doing a hard job. We got Biasucci, Clark and Hipolito; Kitchens, Murphy and Loch; and Foster, Clark and Griffiths. They all did a tidy job, but Biasucci, Loch, Griffiths and Foster get extra points for making hard stuff look fun. Grand rond de jambe is a key step in here, especially the way that the working leg can open up as it moves from the front to the side – it’s almost like yawning. Those four really got that sense of growth as the leg moves (and the men get special points for managing to insert that at the end of a pirouette – tough stuff, done really well.) Such a pleasure to watch.

Act 2

The three Odettes are at different points in their development of the character, and it was fascinating to see how clearly that read in performance. Laura Tisserand has been doing such good work in other parts (her Persian dancer really makes sense of the part) that I was almost hoping she wouldn’t move up to the main role, but that’s an unrealistic idea – there are few women in ballet who don’t want to dance O/O. She gave a very credible debut – she’s obviously thought hard about the structure of the role, its development and its particular moments, and she touched on several of them. Good arms, good bouree, some good timing moments (especially in the bourees) – the next step is to decide which of these are the important items and then start to phrase the evening to incorporate that. Her Siegfried was Bold, and he did what he does best – give her the best support possible.

Rausch really did build on her debut from the last go-round. She didn’t seem to want to use balance and suspension to articulate phrasing (a lot of women go as slow as they can to make it more draaaamaaaatic), but instead she’s about the ongoing flow. She seems very secure as the leader of the swans, she’s comfortable with stillness. Her Odette feels more natural than her Odile – she gets that she’s supposed to be sharper and sexier, but that’s not how she does sexy. She danced with Orza – he was more protective than courtly with her, which worked just fine.

I had to miss opening night, and so didn’t see Korbes perform until the Sunday matinee. I understand from friends that Friday night was stunning – I’m not sure how much better it could have been than Sunday afternoon. Like Rausch, Korbes has continued to grow, but she’s been working on this role longer, and likely started at a more refined place, so she’s truly in a category by herself. The last time I saw her O/O I was struck by how fluid the development of the part was – that she had obviously made an entire encyclopedia’s worth of decisions about who she was, how she acted and what might be happening to her, but they all flowed naturally over the course of the ballet – you didn’t really see her think so much as you saw the result of all that thinking. And that’s still happening here. I know that she’s got legitimate reasons to leave PNB right now, but it makes me sad to contemplate that this might be as far as she gets with this development – she’s a lovely dancer now, but at this rate, she could be an extraordinary one.

I sat upstairs for one of the shows opening weekend and was so happy to see the geometry of this act. Petipa didn’t invent this kind of kaleidoscopic patterning, but he certainly developed its potential – Busby Berkley doesn’t give credit where it’s due.

Act 3

This time around I was really struck by how similar Stowell’s first and third acts are structurally and choreographically, especially in the balancing of big and small groups, the development of the group dances, and the use of the jester. Not sure if this means anything other than it’s there, but it was a new way to look at the overall arc of these sections.

Since this production debuted in 2003 I’ve become very fond of the national dances – they are great places to get an intense look at someone. This time out in the czardas we saw Emma Love Suddarth with Ezra Thomson and Eric Hipolito, and Jessika Anspach with Steven Loch. Suddarth is ultra serious about this – she’s got a great sense of gravitas. I don’t know what story she’s telling herself about this, but it’s really working. Anspach seems to relish this part as well – she and Loch had a good back and forth, really working the countertension in the upper body. But who wouldn’t shine wearing those great red boots? Thomson does a wonderful job with this part – it made me wonder what he’d look like in some of the Massine repertory, like Three-Cornered Hat.

The costumes for the Spanish dance are so over the top that it really needs performers who are willing to go past some of their more mannerly practices to really chew a little scenery. In the past Barry Kerolis, Jordan Pacitti and Kiyon Gaines really got to that level – right now Josh Grant seems to understand that style (probably from his time in the Trocks). Steven Loch gets very close.

Honestly, I think that every production of Swan Lake should use Ashton’s Neopolitan, but since that’s not going to happen, I did like both couples I saw during the opening weekend. Biasucci and Suddarth were nice and crisp, but the snappy award has to go to Generosa and Ryan Cardea – they had that presentational thing going when it looks like the artist is pointing out what they’re doing to us, while they’re doing it. “See this zippy turn? And now look at those feet!” I really wish that the company would get something like Tarantella or Donizetti Variations for those dancers. (I would include Frantziskonis in that roll-call except that she’s leaving – sigh)

I’ve gone on and on about the “Persian Dance” (Stowell’s substitute for the Russian) – it has some really smart things going on, but it’s so hard to do a performance that stays just this side of kitsch. It comes from the Romantic era idea of “the exotic East,” which automatically makes some people itchy. Choreographically it’s not really Ruth St Denis (a faux version of a real work), but you could see it that way. Stowell has given the character 4 little kids as servants, and they are, officially, the cutest thing in the whole production. Like Balanchine, he’s good at giving kids real steps to do, even for the tinies (who these are). Invariably the audience coos when they make their entrance, and then again when they have an extended sequence -- they are really something special. Which is hard lines for the dancer in the main part – the first half of the solo goes fairly well, but then she breaks while the kids do a manege, and it’s very hard for her to get the focus back. Laura Tisserand used to do a great job convincing us that she was doing something very special, but now that she’s moved up to O/O I don’t think she’ll be wearing the harem pants again. Of the people I saw, I think Sarah Ricard Orza did the best job in the serious department (which reminds me that she makes more of the woman in blue in Take 5 than I think is actually in the part).

I talked about the Black Swan in my Weekly review – the gist is that Rausch is more of a white swan than a black one, I think. She was looking for places to get sharp with the Black swan, but somehow it doesn’t seem too natural to her. Tisserand is doing the steps right now, which makes perfect sense – she’s done the duet on it’s own (indeed who hasn’t, really) but in the context of the complete ballet she’s not connecting it to her other stuff quite yet. But she is having a great time being the bad girl. And Korbes really is everything and a bag of chips.

Orza (with Rausch) is looking more comfortable in the part – he’s not really programmed to be a prince, but he’s finding a way to make Siegfried a guy out of his comfort zone – it’s an approach that seems to work. Cruz (with Korbes) doesn’t have a difficulty with the nobility part – the two of them play well together. Jeffrey Stanton used to be the go-to guy for women making a debut – he was an experienced partner. Bold seems to have taken that role on now – he supported Rausch when she made her debut in the last run (almost to the detriment of his own performance – a little too deferential) and he’s giving Tisserand yeoman support here as well.

One other thing from this act – Otto Neubert has a great time as Von R here – almost twirling an invisible moustache waiting for Siegfried to mess up. As I watched him try to block Siegfried’s view of Odette by opening up his cape (not as big as his act 2/4 costume, but still impressive) I wondered if he was actually saying something in a semaphore language with all this cape manipulation.

Act 4

The pacing of act 4 is really deliberate for Odette – once she enters, and weeps with her swans, it’s one long process to the end. She knows what’s going to happen, but she needs to let it play out. It’s kind of like the second act of Giselle – the man is leaping and weeping, while the woman is dealing with the inevitable. She’s on and off stage several times, but it’s a long, steady build.

I imagine that it’s a relief for whoever is dancing Odette to have the third act over with – I may be reading into things, but all three women looked much more calm here.

I’m not sure who invented the idea of having Odette put Siegfried’s head down before her big exit – it’s this combination of forgiveness and comforting (“you don’t need to see this”). Whoever it was, I am very grateful to them – it’s a lovely moment.

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A bit tardy in this report, but...despite having tix for the Saturday night performance on 4/18, went ahead and got tix for the 1pm show, as well. as it was likely the last opportunity to see Korbes at PNB for at least these east coasters. It’s hard to believe that she’s going out at this level. She has such musicality that it seems almost effortless.

Overall, I have seen this production a couple of times, and there are many things to commend about it. It’s rare among modern SL’s of having a meaningful fourth act, Stowell adds interesting geometric shapes onto the traditional Petipa/Ivanov choreography, used but somewhat improves upon some of the Soviet intrusions (e.g., jester), and the simple set design in which the lake and palace are linked is effective. This version certainly seems way more alive than the moribund version ABT trots out each year, and has time to breathe unlike the comically sped up Martins version for NYCB.

As mentioned above, we also had tix for the 8pm show. We feared we would OD on swans if we saw the production twice in one day, and despite there being a bit of cast overlap (the pas de quatre/cygents dance was by the same four—and done excellently!), we survived. O/O was Lauren Tisserand. I think I have only seen her once at PNB, it’s clear she has very good technical skills. However, it is notoriously difficult to draw distinctions between O/O, and she had the same struggle, in my opinion. But as what I understand to be her second performance as O/O, she was compelling if only to imagine what she can do with this role with more experience.

Before both performances, there was an appeal for donations. I only attend 3-4 shows a year, but the last time I recall seeing this was probably the Swan Lake performance in 2013; is this a Swan Lake thing? And whoever had the student in leg cast in full classical tutu stand by the money donation box for 1pm show by the main exit is an evil genius.

In any event, I really do quite like this company.

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One other thing from this act – Otto Neubert has a great time as Von R here – almost twirling an invisible moustache waiting for Siegfried to mess up. As I watched him try to block Siegfried’s view of Odette by opening up his cape (not as big as his act 2/4 costume, but still impressive) I wondered if he was actually saying something in a semaphore language with all this cape manipulation.

I also appreciated Neubert's look of disdainful boredom during the national dances. I suppose if one was an evil wizard with an absurdly complicated scheme driven by peculiar motivations, you would be bored while various nations danced for your amusement,

Great write up, btw,

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