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  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty Returns Better Than Ever

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura as Princess Aurora in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty. Nakamura is one of four dancers performing the lead role in PNB’s presentation of the classic story ballet, running January 31 – February 9, 2014. Photo © Angela Sterling.

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    Lavish storybook sets, decadent costumes and gorgeous dancing provide the stunning backdrop to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of ‘The Sleeping Beauty’.

    Kaori Nakamura and Seth Orza brought the house to its feet in a standing ovation during Friday’s opening as Princess Aurora and her beloved Prince Florimund. Their technique was amazing, and the way they looked at each other? Hello! Talk about your fairytale romances! I loved how the two of them can take a character, even one as well known as Aurora and Florimund, and make them their own. Orza is just one of those dancers you love to watch…over ‘n over again. I’ve yet to see an “off” performance from him or one where I wasn’t fully enraptured with his character. He *IS* the Prince…every time, all the time.

    I was also highly impressed by how quickly Nakamura went from bubby teenage Princess in Act I, to delicately composed bride in Act III. While this electrifying ballerina recently announced her plans to retire at the end of the season, her performance proved that she still has what it takes to rock the ballet world for many years to come.

    Jonathan Poretta provided a breath of comedy (as well as a serious hint of creepy!) as the wicked fairy, Carabosse. I loved how he’d peek out from under his “hag hoodie” and how the strobe lights would “flash” whenever he (she?) flew through the air. (Mmmwwa ha ha haaa!) In fact, I was almost sad when he died at Florimund’s hand (just before that glorious kiss), but as we all know, good always triumphs over evil especially in fairy tales.

    Laura Tisserand’s Lilac Fairy was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The depth of her storytelling ability seems every bit as endless and beautiful as her extension (which is really saying something, folks!). Everything she does is just incredible.

    The king and queen (Otto Neubert and Maria Chapman) plead with the wicked fairy Carabosse (Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Jonathan Porretta) in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty. Photo © Angela Sterling.

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    And speaking of incredible, Act III’s Gold and Silver Pas de Trois (featuring Lindsi Dec, Andrew Bartee and Jerome Tisserand) was nothing short of jaw-dropping. Bartee has really come into his own as an artist (can’t wait to see more from him!), while Tisserand almost oozes with delicious charisma. Dec’s thousand-watt smile and clean technique shined brighter than any diamond, easily re-solidifying her place as an audience favorite.

    Just before the show, Artistic Director Peter Boal announced five (!!) well deserved company promotions: Elizabeth Murphy, Margaret Mullin and William Lin-Yee were officially recognized as soloists, while Lindsi Dec and Laura Tisserand were bestowed the title of Principal. Talk about putting a big, luscious cherry on top of a fantastic opening night!

    The Sleeping Beauty runs through February 9th. Tickets available at PNB.org.

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's Love Stories - A Delicious Romantic Treat

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Carrie Imler in the Black Swan pas de deux from Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake. Presented as part of LOVE STORIES, November 4-13, 2011. Photo © Angela Sterling

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    Pacific Northwest Ballet's Love Stories serves up a luscious 5-course feast of romance, seduction and passion!

    Opening Night's performance of Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fée featured the talents of principal dancers, Kaori Nakamura and Jonathan Poretta in the headlining pas de deux. Nakamura is such an amazing dancer - delicate yet oh-so-strong; she looked like she was fully enjoying herself up there. Poretta of course, is just pure magic. (Seriously, if I could have my own life-size Poretta doll to wind up and watch him dance during random moments of levity, I would. Oh, and a Lucien Postlewaite replica, too. But I'm getting ahead of myself...) I was equally impressed by corps de ballet members, Jessika Anspach and Brittany Reid.  Their performance provided the soul to Nakamura and Poretta's "heart" and brought a sense of balance to this beautiful, lively piece.

    Next up was the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake. For this the stage was stripped down to a bare  bones backdrop featuring a full silvery moon against a blue-black sky. Now, I have to be honest and admit that I felt a tad cheated by the lack of splendor associated with this scene - at first. But then, once principal dancers, Lucien Postlewaite and Carrie Imler entered the stage the message was clear: Who needs props and scenery when you've got these two dancing in front of you? And oh my goodness gracious, what a performance it was!!

    Imler was cunning, sexy, fiery and captivating - the perfect evil temptress, Odile. (Dazzling fouette turns and fluttery swan arms? To die for!) Postlewaite leaped and turned with the agility and grace of a gazelle - light, powerful and commanding all at once. And his expressions - are you kidding me? Schoolboy sweet and head over heels for Imler's charms - his Siegfried was brilliant!

    I couldn't tear my eyes away from their coy exchange and was eager to see how it would end, while hoping at the same time that perhaps - just perhaps - it wouldn't...Ah! Such delicious torture!  And as that final note echoed from the orchestra pit, the entire theatre exploded with a very boisterous, very appreciative standing ovation. Bravo and bellissima!

    Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancers Jerome Tisserand and Kylee Kitchens in Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun. Presented as part of LOVE STORIES, November 4-13, 2011. Photo © Angela Sterling

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    Afternoon of a Faun offered a rare treat in the form of corps de ballet members, Kylee Kitchens and Jerome Tisserand. Sensually riveting (and sans shirt), Tisserand's performance gave the female audience members something to smile about. I was especially impressed with the way he carried, swooped and scooped Kitchens across the stage (gorgeous!), while Kitchens managed to channel the likes of Darci Kistler, creating a character that not only had great hair, but an almost ethereal quality to her as well.

    It was tough following Swan Lake, that's for sure! But they managed to pull it off with superior aplomb.

    During the balcony scene from Romeo et Juliette we saw the return of Lucien Postlewaite and Kaori Nakamura. Again these two gifted dancers brought the house down with their depiction of rapturous, all-consuming young love. Playful yet bold, teasing yet shy, Postlewaite's "Mr. Touchy-Feely" is equally matched by Nakamura's "Look But Don't Touch - Okay, Perhaps Just a Little" Juliette. They gave an incredible performance, one that - again - I did not want to end.

    The crowning moment of the evening, complete with resplendent sets, props and plenty of sparkle was Aurora's Wedding from The Sleeping Beauty. In the spotlight were principal dancers, Lesley Rausch and Batkhurel Bold as Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund.

    Rausch's portrayal of the sixteen year old Princess was breathtaking and believable, while Bold's Prince was the definition of debonair and confidence. Their series of fish dives across the stage were beautifully executed. I especially enjoyed marveling at Rausch's sweet expression, incredible extensions and go-for-miles lines! She brings a decidedly fresh layer of charm to the stage that I hadn't realized was lacking before now.

    The Gold & Silver Pas de Trois featured Lindsi Dec, William Lin-Yee and Seth Orza. The men were every bit as superb as you would expect and in fact, I was especially pleased with how well corps de ballet member, Lin-Yee kept up with the likes of principal dancer, Orza who, let's face it, reached god-like status long ago. If he felt any intimidation about dancing alongside Orza, he didn't show it. Orza, of course, looked fantastic and made his variation look like child's play.

    Dec was joyful, delightful and effervescent as always. I love and appreciate how she makes every performance look like it's her happiest moment on earth.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lindsi Dec in Aurora’s Wedding from Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty.  Presented as part of LOVE STORIES, November 4-13, 2011. Photo © Angela Sterling

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    Tied for best variation within this section goes to Puss in Boots & White Cat (Ezra Thompson, Sarah Ricard Orza) and The Bluebird and Princess Florine (Jerome Tisserand, Rachel Foster). First up - Puss in Boots & The White Cat. Corps de ballet member, Ezra Thompson and soloist, Sarah Ricard Orza really outdid themselves with this number! These two have more "character" in their little fingers than others have in their entire body. Ricard-Orza's White Cat was all sass, "slapping" Thompson's "Puss" on the hand - er, paw - whenever he got a little too frisky. In the end, no kitty can resist a choice little mouse which Puss happily presented to Her Royal Divaness, the White Cat.

    As the Bluebird, Tisserand once again did not disappoint, while principal dancer, Rachel Foster's Princess Florine was absolutely flawless. She seems to have the Midas Touch when it comes to execution, technique and inner fire; it all turns to gold, baby! Love it...

    Love Stories runs through November 13th with excellent tickets still available! To learn more, please visit PNB.org.

    Reviewed by Denise Opper



  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's Contemporary 4 Thrills & Delights

    The stars were shining brightly during Pacific Northwest Ballet’s opening of Contemporary 4. The evening’s mixed program featured four outstanding displays of diversity, ingenuity and beautiful creativity.

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    Pacific featured both men and women dressed in swooshy, flowing skirts which looked just a wee bit prettier on the men than the women. Josh Spell and Benjamin Griffiths especially worked those skirts like it was nobody’s business, and I enjoyed the overall effect the costumes had on the performance. Another duo worth mentioning is Carla Korbes and Olivier Wevers. Their pas de deux was absolutely yummy! Lucien Postlewaite was as beautiful as always. (You know something, I often find it difficult to wrap my head around this man’s softness, his vulnerability. It’s just exquisite!) Then of course, there was the perfection known as Ariana Lallone. This lady continually brings a rich, new layer of magic to every performance, and I for one will miss her presence in the seasons to come.   

    The world premiere of Marco Goecke’s Place a Chill made me think, “Voguing on steroids”. That may not be the best way to describe it, but that’s immediately what came to mind. Lightening fast upper body moves were mixed with equally fast finger-flicking shivers made you wonder whether the dancers were trying to embrace—or fight off—the impending chill. It was absolutely incredible to watch! In this act, the stand-out performer award must go to both Jonathan Poretta and James Moore. Guys—you’re my heroes! Enough said.

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    The Piano Dance, choreographed by ballet master, Paul Gibson was just…(insert Italian kiss of the finger tips here) “Bellissima!” The stunning blood red costumes were to die for; the dancing was soulful, flirty and infectiously fun. Lesley Rausch and Seth Orza made for a most mesmerizing pair (but seriously, what do you expect from these two?), while Chalnessa Eames and Josh Spell were enthusiastically coquettish and spry. (The playful booty smack was most appreciated by all in attendance.) Rounding out the splendid cast was Margaret Mullin and Jerome Tisserand, who looked like “two happy young lovers”, and the spunky Rachel Foster and Benjamin Griffiths whose performance I felt was the icing on the cake. Quite honestly, I could watch The Piano Dance over and over again, and never get bored.

    The fourth and final piece was Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH. This highly anticipated piece did not fail to impress and delight the masses. The lighthearted romance was the perfect blend of strength and versatility due to the likes of Batkhurel Bold, Seth Orza, Karel Cruz, Carla Korbes and Carrie Imler. The male “power triangle” was counter-balanced by the softness and charm of the ladies, who could never be mistaken for shrinking violets! To the contrary, Imler's own breed of strength silently dared the boys to keep up with her, while Korbes' quiet air of authority demands utmost respect. Performance highlights include Bold’s freaking awesome lift and twirl of Mr. Orza (go ahead and read that twice, I’ll wait), and the fantastic chemistry between Cruz and Korbes.

    Contemporary 4 is one rep that is not to be missed. If you haven’t already done so, please visit pnb.org to purchase tickets. You will not be disappointed!

    ~Reviewed by Denise Opper, Class Act Tutu & Dancewear Media Liaison

  • Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet's Sleeping Beauty

    What a gorgeous evening! There are simply not enough adjectives to describe the splendor of Pacific Northwest Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty.  This outstanding company of dancers whisks its audience deep into the heart of this beloved fairy tale, thrilling and delighting both young and old alike.
    The scenery and costumes  designed by Peter Docherty are lush, vibrant and visually delicious. Enchanted foliage moves to ensconce the royal castle. Costumes shimmer and sparkle with life of their own. Aurora's bower is delicately ornate and enveloped in a golden beam of light.

    The Christening

    The opening Christening Scene exceeded all expectations. Otto Neubert (King Florimund) and Victoria McFall (the Queen) are poised experts of their craft. Their characterization is well-established and believable.
    The seven enchanted fairies and their cavaliers were dazzlingly  in sync. The Cavaliers, with their impressive turns and jumps, were thrilling to watch. The fairies were perfectly cast, each bringing their own unique style and interpretation to the role. Most memorable solos include Lindsi Dec's (Fairy of Wit) spunky finger pointing and skillful pointe work, and Chalnessa Eames' (Fairy of Generosity) charming, slightly coquettish performance.

    The Lilac Fairy

    Carrie Imler's  interpretation was not only masterful, but exhibited a profound sense of strength under control. I got the distinct impression that Lilac could've really given old Carabosse a swift kick in the skirt, but chose not to because that wouldn't be very ladylike. Their relationship seems tethered by a delicate wisp of a truce; "I will only allow you to go so far," Lilac's penetrating gaze warns.
    Imler's port de bras were gorgeous and fluid; her grace extending all the way through her fingertips. Her expressions were soft but commanding; her movement precise yet poetic. Imler's Lilac seemed to care deeply about all those within her domain, and their allegiance to her was not without cause.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carla Körbes as the Lilac Fairy with her attendants, puts the kingdom under a sleeping spell in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty.  Photo © Angela Sterling.

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    Carabosse

    Jonathan Poretta's portrayal of this devilish fairy was dramatic, powerful and just plain fun. Everything from his grand, swooping entrance accompanied by the sound of crashing cymbals and stark flashes of light, to the fiendish ways in which he lashes out over not being invited to the celebration was absolutely superb! Carabosse may be profoundly wicked, but she is still no match for the Lilac Fairy's power. One moment, Carabosse is whirling feverishly about, her cackling laughter almost audible. The next, she is cowering on the floor under Lilac's quietly dominating presence.  I was almost sorry she was stabbed to death by the heroic Prince in the end.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Olivier Wevers as the evil Carabosse, and principal dancer Carla Körbes as the Lilac Fairy in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty.  Photo © Angela Sterling.

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    Princess Aurora

    With her delicate phrasing and uncanny ability to channel the emotions of a sixteen year old Princess, Mara Vinson has secured her place as a legendary ballerina. During the famous Rose Adagio, Vinson was unfathomably brilliant. Her balance was spot-on as she greeted each of the four Dukes; her supple back hinted of the beautiful woman our heroine is to become, and her developpes unfurled toward the sky. Last but not least, those fantastic poissons (fish dives)with the Dukes and later, the Prince, were nothing short of extraordinary. Indeed, Vinson's performance left many viewers gasping with excitement.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Mara Vinson as Aurora, with company dancers in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty.  Photo © Angela Sterling.

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    The Prince

    Yet where would our lovely heroine be without her handsome Prince? Seth Orza proved his mettle by meeting the challenges of this highly demanding ballet. Orza starts out as a dashing, slightly aloof young man who quickly becomes enraptured by the girl of his dreams (literally). He begs the Lilac Fairy to show him where she can be found, a request which the benevolent fairy is only too happy to oblige. Orza's characterization is rich and articulate; his strength and power--sheer bliss. When he finally kills the wicked Carabosse then leans in to kiss his beloved Aurora, you have to literally stop yourself from cheering.

    The Wedding

    The third act of this ballet is filled with some of the most well-known and cherished variations. The Gold and Silver Pas de Trois, featuring Lindsi Dec, Andrew Bartee and Lucien Postlewaite was refreshing, effortless and commanding. I was duly impressed with how well Dec's strength and beautiful lines held their own against Bartee's and Postlewaite's esteemed technical prowess and bold execution.
    The Bluebirds (Rachel Foster and Benjamin Griffiths) were absolutely stunning.  Griffiths shined with his jaw-dropping leaps and jumps, while Foster's fluttering movements provided a sense of harmony and balance.
    Red Riding Hood and the Wolf (Abby Relic and Jerome Tisserand) was mildly sinister yet extremely charming. I heard more than a few giggles emanating from the children in attendance.
    However, it was the humorous dance between Puss in Boots (Jordan Pacitti) and the White Cat (Sarah Ricard Orza) that really got the audience's attention.  This talented duo made the most convincing pair of sparring felines imaginable. Pacitti was the ever-determined suitor vying for Ricard Orza's finicky feline affections; Ricard Orza transformed herself into the most feisty little kitty cat, holding Pacitti at arm's--or claw's--length. After multiple strikeouts, Pacitti finally decides to give Ricard Orza the gift no kitty in her right mind can resist; a tasty mouse!

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Seth Orza and principal dancer Mara Vinson as Prince Florimund and Princess Aurora in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty.  Photo © Angela Sterling

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    Conclusion

    By taking on this technically demanding ballet and performing with aplomb, Pacific Northwest Ballet has once again proven itself worthy of the highest of accolades. The dancers enamored the audience with their incandescent performance and spawned a new generation of wistful Auroras!

    by Denise Opper, Media Relations Class Act Tutu & Vala Dancewear

    All photos © Angela Sterling

    Pacific Northwest Ballet performs Ronal Hynd's The Sleeping Beauty

    February 4 - 14, 2010

  • Whim W'Him Part Three

    In Part Two of our interview, Artistic Director Olivier Wevers revealed some of the challenges he’s had to face since birthing his new company, Whim W’him.  Continuing now in Part Three, Olivier shares the ways in which Whim W’him will be a unique force in the world of dance…

    Hannah Lagerway, Whim W'Him

    Hannah

    Class Act:  You speak a lot about collaboration and the process of creating new works. In what ways will Whim W’him be different from other companies? How will it be unique?
    Olivier:  One of the things I’m trying to do with this company first is to bridge the dance community a little bit. Because what I’ve witnessed in Seattle over the past 13 years that I’ve been here is all these different dance communities—ballet, modern, contemporary, independent artists—everybody’s trying to do their own thing. And I really want to try to bridge that gap. I mean there are so many wonderful artists and I don’t think you need to be selective of one style and classify that one style either. In the way I pick the dancers—having PNB dancers, those classically trained dancers, Spectrum dancers that are dancers that usually dance barefoot, and then some independent artists in town—I’m trying to put all those dancers that would usually not get to work together, get to work together. It’s bridging the communities in Seattle and I want to bring back artistic collaboration.

    Another thing that I’ve witnessed as a dancer is that so many people are blaming the economy that is so bad right now. So everybody is trying to do something like, “We’re going to create this ballet but we’re going to use this in-house designer, in-house lighting director, etc and we’re going to try to make it so that we don’t have to pay the orchestra overtime and such”. The resources are really limited, and it’s not just here but all around. So one of the things I really want to bring back is collaboration. Some of the greatest works to me are the ones that had a composer, a designer that was brought in, a few artists working on it, and a few dramatizers working on it. I want to go back to that. I want to be able to collaborate with other artists.
    It’s been really rewarding because for the past few months I’ve been working with a composer, with a costume designer, a fantastic lighting designer—they’ve all brought so much to the work, so much more than I could’ve envisioned just on my own.
    I get to do this because I’m also the one doing all the fund raising, so I know this is going to cost a lot more—it’s going to take a lot more time, more resources. But that also motivates me to work harder (at fund raising) so that I can do all the things that I want to do.

    Jonathan Porretta, Whim W'Him

    Jonathan

    Class Act:  That’s fantastic! I would love to see that happen again. It’s been years since you would even heard about any sort of collaboration going on.
    Olivier:  Yeah, that’s right! I see how it happens behind the doors. It’s not about the process anymore. Choreographers 20 years ago would spend months in the studio. For example, some people say Jerome Robbins was a genius, but he never just went in the studio and created a piece in two weeks. It took him months and he would re-work it, and re-work it, and re-work it in the studio. It was all about the process as well as the product. Then adding in collaborators as well—sets, music, designers. None of that exists anymore. The process now is, “How fast can you choreograph?” and then “Can you use this in-house person for this and that?” Not that these people aren’t talented, but when the work becomes so in-house, there’s no inspiration. Those people—the costumers, etc—don’t feel like they can say anything, so there’s no artistic exchange going on. It’s important for artists to be able to pick their own collaborators. You need to work with people you have an interest in working with and those who will inspire you.
    Class Act:  I’m really glad that your whole basis is about the process. It’s nice to see there are people like you who choose to develop as a dancer, and create a work of art rather than just a performance.
    Olivier:  You know, what happening a lot in ballet is that we’re settling. Yeah, it looks pretty and someone can produce it really fast. But imagine if that person could’ve spent another three weeks or a month or two on it, and could’ve worked with those other people gathering more ideas. Ballet to me is starting to look a little like a museum piece where you see the same things over and over. We need to keep ballet alive. I love all the pieces but if that’s all you’re giving, people are going to get bored with that. You need to push the artists, push the envelope. Discover new ways of connecting to the audience; discover new ways of doing ballet.
    Class Act:  I agree 100%. Years ago the character development was very different from what it is now. Dancers had to convey their character through every inch of their body. It wasn’t just “Here are your steps”. You had to make your character breathe through every inch of your being.
    Olivier:  That’s not what’s happening anymore. Once you know your steps, you get a show. I remember when I first started 20 years ago in Canada, I was coached my first time in Giselle. And I don’t know how many hours I spent in the studio just learning how to walk! You know, this ballerina from Russia was making me cry because I couldn’t do it right. I didn’t know how to walk on stage! And none of that is taught anymore; everything is just kind of taken for granted.
    When creating Whim W’him, I chose that name because I didn’t want it to be all about me. Like the Olivier Wevers project or company. I didn’t want that. I’m interested in bringing in different choreographers to work with these dancers of different backgrounds in the future. Therefore, I need to do more fundraising so I can start doing that. I want this to become a really collaborative and versatile company.

    Check back soon to read our forth and final segment where Olivier reveals some of the exciting upcoming reps from Whim W’him, the dancers who inspire him most, and his advice for budding artistic directors!

    Read more about Whim’Whim’s Performances January 15-17

    Tickets are SOLD OUT for this event but there will be a wait list each day starting at noon on Friday, and 3PM on Saturday and Sunday!  On the Boards box office 206.217.9888


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