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Review: PNB's All Tharp

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Rachel Foster and corps de ballet dancer Kiyon Gaines in Twyla Tharp’s Opus 111, presented as part of ALL THARP, Nov. 5-14, 2010.  Photo © Angela Sterling


Pacific Northwest Ballet’s All Tharp features a power-packed triple bill that not only perpetuated my fascination with the choreographic genius, Twyla Tharp but proved to be the best two hours of my day, hands-down.

The production opened with Opus 111, a light-hearted blend of symmetry, buoyancy, and carefree charm. Carla Korbes and Batkhurel Bold made a rather striking pair, as did Lindsi Dec and Seth Orza. Korbes, with her soft feminine charm and Dec, with her precision and strength, held their own against Bold’s and Orza’s powerful “larger than life” stage presence.

One thing that really stood out to me though… were the feet. The women wore soft ballet slippers instead of pointe shoes. This delightful twist drove home the fact that PNB is a company of “golden arches” that don’t require the likes of burlap, glue and satin to make a statement.  Speaking of which, I overheard one lady comment that she had no idea a dancer could dance like that without pointe shoes. (Oh contraire, my good woman. They can!)

Afternoon Ball was both poignant and borderline disturbing. (Think “Rocky Horror” Meets “Intervention”.) Benjamin Griffiths and Andrew Bartee delivered two of the most beautifully painful performances I’ve ever seen. Their characters left me feeling confused, rebuked and deeply saddened. Part of me wanted to jump into the fray and help them battle against their inner demons, while another part of me hoped they would be triumphant on their own. (You know, so I wouldn’t have to get my hands dirty.)

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Chalnessa Eames and principal dancer Jonathan Porretta in Twyla Tharp’s Afternoon Ball, presented as part of ALL THARP, Nov. 5-14, 2010.  Photo © Angela Sterling


Maria Chapman provided the raw, edgy third character in this troubled triangle. I wondered if her role was that of the “good girl gone bad” or perhaps the proverbial “monkey on the back”.  In either case, her character seemed to have given herself over to this life, and was now encouraging the men to “suck it up and go with it” too. In stark contrast, Laura Gilbreath and Jerome Tisserand were the elegantly dressed ballroom couple, swirling in and out of this chaotic scene, their presence a tragic reminder of what could have been. As Griffiths’ character succumbs to his heartbreaking end, Gilbreath re-emerges as a beautiful angel of mercy, gently leading Griffiths toward heaven’s light and redemption. It was in that moment that I had to stifle the overwhelming urge to cry. What prompted such strong emotion, I can’t say for certain. However, any performance that can provoke that kind of reaction is a definite winner in my book!

The third and final act was Waterbaby Bagatelles. This funky, deliciously orchestrated piece provided the much needed emotional relief following Afternoon Ball. The cool blue lighting and the lovely “waterbabies”, dressed in pale blue bathing caps and skirted tank suits, made you feel as though you were peering into the depths of a large aquarium. Carrie Imler and Chalnessa Eames were nothing short of fabulous while their partners, Lucien Postlewaite and Kiyon Gaines served as mesmerizing pieces of eye candy. In fact, this was the first time I’d seen Gaines perform a significant role (Yes, I apparently live under a rock) and I was totally blown away. His power, his control—my goodness, where did that man come from?
Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancer Kylee Kitchens in Twyla Tharp’s Waterbaby Bagatelles, presented as part of ALL THARP, Nov. 5-14, 2010.  Photo © Angela Sterling


The pas de deux featuring the talents of Leslie Rausch and Olivier Wevers was to die for. Their chemistry was as electric as the blue lighting hovering overhead and they were completely and utterly gorgeous. Once again, Batkhurel Bold blazed across the stage the way only he can. His entire performance was the fuel of dreams, bringing the audience to its feet when he gave his final bow. His partner, the incomparable Carrie Imler, was nothing short of spectacular. Every time I see her, she brings new meaning to the word “artist”. (Love. That. Lady!)

(One last thing… how on earth did Olivier Wevers do those incredible backwards hopping push-ups? I mean, seriously?!)

All Tharp brings out the best in Pacific Northwest Ballet. They’re a scary-talented bunch - they know it- and if you happen to catch All Tharp this week, you’ll know it, too.

All Tharp runs from November 5-14th. For ticket information and performance times visit

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