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!
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.
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