Today marked the end of the Pacific Northwest Ballet's season, and the programme was set to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky's birth. The performance was comprised of four pieces, with an intermission after the second and third.

First on the bill was Circus Polka, originally built by Jerone Robbins upon the Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus- the initial work was for eight young women and eight elephants, but restaged in 1972 on a corps de ballet of forty-eight students with a ringmaster. This eight-minute piece was light and amusing, and it was fun to see the children perform. It was followed, after a brief pause to reset the stage, by Balanchine's Rubies- the third time in the past two seasons that PNB has danced this piece. As a result, it was somewhat tired, with the exception of a daring interpretation by Kari Brunson of the second lead female role- she managed to imbue it with a subtle sensuality which was not evidenced in the other dancers we have seen in the role.

After the first intermission was State of Darkness, set to Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps. For the first time since we've been attending the ballet, i think we were poorly served by having heard PNB Education Director Doug Fullington's description of this piece, as the performance abjectly failed to meet the expectation set by the talk. In spite of a thirty-two minute solo by Rachel Foster- unusual in the ballet world, where most solos are five minutes or less- Molissa Fenley's choreography seemed poorly matched to the Stravinsky score and felt erratically paced and inconsistent, resulting in a piece of dance which seemed tediously long and showed no real progress along a story arc toward a conclusion. When the piece finally concluded, it was clear that Ms. Foster had poured herself into the role, but her labour could not save but produce some beautiful elements in what otherwise failed to make an emotional connection.

The performance closed to Balanchine's choreography to Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements and allowed the afternoon to close on a strong note. Peter Boal continues to shake up the traditional positions and roles, pairing both principals and soloists with corps de ballet members, but to good effect here, as the corps members seem to fill the more prominent roles more than adequately. With this repetoire closing out the performing careers of principals Patricia Barker and Christophe Maraval, it leaves room for speculation what promotions may follow in the autumn.
The Pacific Northwest Ballet is presenting fourteen works during the course of the three week long Celebrate Seattle festival- as many as some companies do in an entire calendar year. The festival opened with a two-week run featuring the Mark Morris-choreographed Pacific and a staging of Kent Stowell's take on Carmina Burana, which closed Sunday.

The remaining twelve pieces are each being staged two or three times in the course of three programmes. Last night, the company welcomed two sets of guests- from Vancouver, Ballet British Columbia; and from across town, Spectrum Dance Theatre.

The evening opened with Schubert, a John Alleyne-choreographed piece built on Jean Orr, set to the first three movements of Franz Schubert's Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat major. Ballet British Columbia is a small company, comprised of fifteen dancers, nine of whom are featured in this work. Alleyne describes this work as a look at a dancer reaching the pinnacle of her career, bidding farewell in her final season, and looking back through the looking-glass of memory and reminiscence. It draws on the contemporary vernacular while remaining clean and graceful within the lines of ballet as dance, paying tribute to the classical stylings without being bound to the constraints of tradition, but rather innovating as an extension on the form. It was a lovely and expressive piece.

Ripple Mechanics choreographed by Sonia Dawkins, and set to music including Nina Simone's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" and Jacqueline Fuentes "Sinuso Tropico", was originally commissioned in 2005 by the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and shows Dawkins' versatility while acknowledging some of the artists who have had significant influences on her style- the dance is particularly reminiscent of both Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham. Both the dance and the music selected for it portray images of living life to its fullest in appreciating the high points as well as the mournful losses. If anything, this piece was handicapped in its brevity, and left a sense that it could have just as easily fit in as a section of a story ballet as easily as it stood on its own.

As a strong, pre-intermission performance, Ripple Mechanics may have overshadowed the third work on the bill, Toni Pimble's Two's Company pas de trois, set to Dvorák's String Quartet in F Major. This piece seems to have been intended as a tribute to the retiring Patricia Barker, and was intricately presented, but failed to make the emotional resonance that it may have if presented apart from Ripple Mechanics.

The evening concluded with Donald Byrd's Bhangra Fever, presented by his Spectrum Dance Theatre; a significant departure from ballet. This work is decidedly modern dance, warp and weft. Although the longest piece of the evening's performance, it moved compellingly to East Indian dance music combining traditional elements with contemporary beats, and was intricate in both design and presentation.

[On a personal note, which deviates from the journalistic narrative above, i could appreciate this much in the same way as i can much modern art- i recognize artistry within it, but fail to grasp enough of the 'vernacular' (if that's the proper way to put it) and structure to really enjoy it the same way as ballet.
Birthday well-wishes today to both[ profile] daemonwolf and [ profile] hippybngstockng.

Are none of the locals on my f-list ballet fans, or do you simply need more notice to make a performance? As it turned out, [ profile] damashita was determined to attend, and we both went despite being slightly off. As season ticket holders, we can get additional seats for upcoming performances should anyone be interested in attending future performances with us- and there are some coming up this year which should be fantastic (including both Swan Lake and Carmina Burana).

Today's performances: "Fancy Free", "In the middle, somewhat elevated", and "Theme and Variations".

"Fancy Free", with choreography by Jerome Robbins and music by Leonard Bernstein, was the original form of what became On the Town, featuring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and the irrepressible Ann Miller. It was Robbins' first ballet and Bernstein's first score. Today's performance featured Louise Nadeau in the Janet Reed role. This ballet combines classical and contemporary (to 1944) elements, and serves as a bridge piece between the modern and the classical styles. It also portrays a very clear story without a single word being spoken, and is still a crowd favourite after sixty-two years. Today's performance was no exception.

"In the middle, somewhat elevated" is a William Forsythe piece around music by Thom Willems. Originally created for the Paris Opera Ballet, the title doesn't refer to any particular choreography, but to the sole ornamentation on-stage, placed at the insistance of the Paris Opera- there are a pair of gilded cherries hung at centre stage, perhaps four metres above the performers. The rest of the stage dressing is mimimalist and black. In the strictest sense, "In the middle, somewhat elevated" is a theme and variations on a very contemporary score, and utilizing both classical ballet and modern dance vocabulary. If anything, this piece is too ambitious- there are things happening all over the stage, which make the viewer glad there aren't distracting scene elements. The score fits the visuals well- there are complex, shifting polyrhythms which match the intricate choreography well. Arianna Lallone, Patricia Barker, and Jeffrey Stanton are featured, but supported by four other principals and two members of the corps de ballet.

"Themes and Variations" is a classic ballet, choreographed by George Balanchine on the final movement of Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 3 in G major. In typical Balanchinesque style, it is somewhat progressive and foreshadows later Balanchine neo-classicism within the structure of a traditionally cast classic ballet. Carrie Imler and Batkhurel Bold were today's featured dancers in the lead ballerina and cavalier roles, supported by four couples and an eight couple corps de ballet. Mikhail Baryshnikov rates these "Themes and Variations" as the most difficult he ever danced. It doesn't take a trained eye to appreciate the intricacy of the artistry, and the company does not dissapoint.

November's repetoire pieces from the Pacific Northwest Ballet feature four ballets- three PNB premieres and one world premier- the latter the work of Los Angeles-based choreographer Victor Quijada, made prominent in his work with the Montreal Rubberbanddance Group.


Vanya Y Tucherov

December 2016

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