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  • Valentine’s Day with Seth Orza & Sarah Ricard Orza

    Seth Orza, Soloist and Sarah Ricard Orza, Corps de Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet.  Shown here in "Petit Mort".

    Seth

    Ah, Valentine’s Day! It’s the time of year when we shower our true love with tokens of affection, whether they be in the form of a box of chocolates, a gushy card, or a dozen roses (or all of the above!).

    In the dance world, Valentine’s Day can be especially wonderful as couples not only live, but oftentimes work, together. We decided to get an inside look at the blessings of Valentine’s Day through the eyes of the dancers themselves. First up is Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza of Pacific Northwest Ballet!

    Class Act: “How did you two meet?”
    Seth: “We met in New York at the School of American Ballet’s when we were both 13.”
    Sarah: “We met at the summer course. Then we got together and started dating seriously when we were both at the School of American Ballet for their year round program when we were 17. And we’ve been pretty much together ever since then. We’ve been together now for 12 years and married for 2 ½ years.”

    Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza shown here at SAB Summer Course, 1995 (Age 14). Seth & Sarah met at age 13.
    Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza shown here at SAB Summer Course, 1995 (Age 14). Seth & Sarah met at age 13.

    Class Act: “Congratulations, that’s wonderful! So what’s the best thing about being married to a fellow dancer?”
    Sarah: “Well, I think that the dance world is just so small and intimate; sometimes it’s hard to explain or even relate to people who aren’t in the world on a daily basis—what’s going on, or what the daily ups and downs are like. So, if I’m having a bad day, Seth already knows why and that’s good.”
    Seth: “We try to help each other out along the way through the pressures of ballet, performing, and all that.”
    Sarah: “Oh, and travelling. If we tour, it’s great. It’s really nice to have your loved one with you when you’re going to all those places.”

    Class Act: “How do you two plan to make this Valentine’s Day special?”
    Seth: “Well…” he says with a sly tone, “it’s kind of a surprise.”
    Class Act:(Laughing) “Oops! I don’t want to ruin anything!”
    Seth: “We try to do something special every Valentines day, but it’s hard after twelve years to do something different every time.”
    Sarah: “There was one year when I had the genius idea of getting chocolate covered strawberries from Godiva. So I got a dozen chocolate strawberries only to find that in the fridge at home, Seth had also gotten a dozen Godiva strawberries!” she laughs.
    Seth: “We had a lot of chocolate strawberries!” he chuckles.
    Class Act:“Great minds think alike! So, do you have any last words of advice for fellow dancers out there?”
    Seth: “It’s nice being in a relationship with a co-worker—or a dancer—and it does work out.”
    Sarah: “It’s definitely a balance, though. I mean, we’re together at work all the time and then at home all the time. So sometimes there’s days when one of us has to step back and take some space—be it at work or at home. You just find that balance with spending all of your time together.”

    Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza on their Wedding Day

    Seth

    Class Act: “Do you ever have a day when you really don’t want to be with the other person but you still have to work with them?”
    Seth/Sarah: “Oh no, never!” they laugh in unison.
    Seth: “Of course, but I think that happens in any relationship.”
    Sarah: “We have partnered together a lot, and that has challenges…”
    Seth: “Yeah, working together professionally…I mean, if she’s just around it’s one thing, but if we’re working together, it’s kind of hard sometimes.”
    Class Act:“Well thank you both so very much! I really appreciate you taking the time to do this and I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!”
    Sarah: “Thank you! You have a happy Valentines Day, too!”

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

    This post first appeared for Valentine's Day, 2010.

  • 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

    Pacific

    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

    Pacific

    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

    Pacific

    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



  • Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet's All Wheeldon

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Carla Körbes and Seth Orza in Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance), presented as part of PNB’s season-opener, ALL WHEELDON, September 23 – October 2, 2011.  Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    Pacific Northwest Ballet opened its 2011-12 season with an outstanding production featuring four works from highly acclaimed dancer/choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon.

    I admit, I had high expectations for this production; first -  because I adore Wheeldon's work and second - I get a huge kick out of his accent. (Yes, I'm that superficial.) As always, the PNB dancers didn't let me down.

    The first piece of the night was Carousel (A Dance). Principal dancers, Seth Orza and Carla Korbes performed the lead pas de deux with stunning emotional intensity. Though not "in your face" passionate, their tender connection was undoubtedly arresting and satisfying.

    Not to be outdone, I also found soloist Benjamin Griffiths and corps de ballet members Kiyon Gaines and Ezra Thomson performances to be strong stand outs as well. Griffiths has such a beautiful quality to him (while his smile just lights up the stage);  Gaines' is big, powerful and yet moves with the grace of a sylph, and Thomson seems to be growing by leaps and bounds in terms of confidence, "voice" and artistic depth.

    After The Rain pas de deux featured soloist, James Moore with newly appointed principal, Rachel Foster, and is one of those pieces that you have to see to understand. It is beauty in its purest form. The fluidity, flexibility and extreme control executed by these two gorgeous dancers was just spectacular.

    While I've seen Moore perform numerous times, I was taken aback by just how "lovely" he is. His port de bras were amazing and the way he partnered the tiny Foster felt so protective, passionate and downright yummy. Foster was absolutely spellbinding as always. She's just one of those dancers I never tire of watching.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloists Rachel Foster and James Moore in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux, presented as part of PNB’s season-opener, ALL WHEELDON, September 23 – October 2, 2011.  Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    The third piece of the night was Polyphonia which, I must admit, was the most difficult to enjoy. Not because of the dancers - oh no! - but rather because of some of the musical interludes, which were an assault to one's sense of order and balance.  Yet in spite of all this, Wheeldon (who must be part time super hero or something), managed to wrap this chaotic dervish in glittering paper and top it off with a shiny bow.

    Taking center stage again was soloist, Benjamin Griffiths along with principal dancer, Lucien Postlewaite in a dazzling pas de deux which smacked of male competitiveness with a hit of "coquettish" thrown in for spice, and soloist Sarah Ricard Orza and corps de ballet member, Jerome Tisserand in their own breathtaking pas de deux. These two have such a "quietly dynamic" sense of artistry that can, unfortunately, be overshadowed by their more dramatic peers. Therefore, it was great to see them paired together like that. Bravo!

    The final piece of the evening was Variations Serieuses, which is a laugh out loud parody of the dance world. The characters - prima (diva) ballerina, premiere danseur, pianist, stage manager, ballet master, conductor - are all played to the exaggerated, comedic hilt. Carrie Imler shined like a brilliant diamond as the spoiled, entirely-too-full-of-herself prima ballerina who is soon ousted out of the spotlight (due to injury) by the lovely ingénu, Sarah Ricard Orza, waiting sweetly in the wings.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Christopher Wheeldon’s Variations Sérieuses, presented as part of PNB’s season-opener, ALL WHEELDON, September 23 – October 2, 2011. Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    This piece was the perfect follow up to the previous more intense acts. Again, the PNB dancers surpassed all expectations and bestowed a fantastic treat upon the entire audience. Kiyon Gaines' performance as the Ballet Master was freaking hysterical as was soloist, Lindsi Dec's butt-scratching, soda (beer?) swigging Stage Manager.

    To sum things up - All Wheeldon is all class and sass! It's a must-see and a glorious beginning to what looks to be an extraordinary new season.

    This is the final weekend to catch All Wheeldon. For tickets, please visit PNB.org.

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet Announces Dancer Promotions

    bird_of_paradise_tutu_2_72dpi Pacific Northwest Ballet has just announced their company promotions for the 2010-11 season. (Drum roll, please...) It is with great pleasure that Class Act Tutu extends a hearty congratulations to Miss Laura Gilbreath, our stunning model on the left, on her promotion to the rank of soloist! Woohoo! 

     "Laura Gilbreath is from Hammond, Louisiana. She trained with Phoebe Brantley in Baton Rouge, Joseph Giacobbe and Richard Rholdon in New Orleans, and on scholarship at the School of American Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. She joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice in 2003 and was promoted to corps de ballet in 2004. She has danced leading roles in George Balanchine's Diamonds, Prodigal Son, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Serenade, Rubies, and Symphony in C; Ulysses Dove's Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven and Red Angels; William Forsythe's One Flat Thing, reproduced; Ronald Hynd's The Sleeping Beauty; Jiri Kylian's Petite Mort; Brian Reeder's Lost Language of the Flight Attendant; Jerome Robbins' In the Night and West Side Story Suite; Kent Stowell's Nutcracker and Silver Lining; and Susan Stroman's TAKE FIVE...More or Less. Ms. Gilbreath has performed as a guest artist with Lafayette Ballet Theatre." --Information courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet

    Additional promotions include: Seth Orza--principal, Sarah Ricard Orza--soloist, Chelsea Adomaitis, Ryan Cardea, and Ezra Thomson--corps de ballet.

    Congratulations one and all! We can't wait to see what this new season has in store for you!

  • Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet's Coppelia

    Pacific Northwest Ballet's Coppélia  All photos © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    Pacific Northwest Ballet pulled out all the stops with their latest production of George Balanchine's, Coppelia.  This fantastic production features all new lavishly designed (read: gorgeous!) sets, to die for costumes, and of course the high-caliber artistry that PNB is world-famous for.

    Swanilda/Coppélia

    Saturday's matinee featured Lesley Rausch as Swanilda/Coppelia, Jerome Tisserand as Franz, and Olivier Wevers as Dr. Coppelius.  Right off the bat, I have to give serious applause to Rausch for her outstanding interpretation. She not only delighted everyone in the audience with her arrogance and saucy attitude, but she transported us into the heart of her character. Sure, Swanilda isn't the nicest of young ladies, but her love for Franz is evident, even when faced with the sting of rejection.
     

    Franz

    Jerome Tisserand's Franz was perfectly executed. Like Rausch, he had a way drawing me in, making me feel almost as fed up with Swanilda's antics as he was. His attitude was a perfect blend of inflated ego meets young playboy looking for love.  After discovering that his love interest is only a doll, one would expect Franz to act a bit more sheepish over his foolish behavior. (I mean, seriously!) However, Tisserand remains true to character and Franz casually glosses over that "minor faux pas" with a sudden profession of love for Swanilda, which of course, she accepts.

    Dr. Coppelius

     
    Olivier Wevers deserved the standing ovation he received for his performance as the highly eccentric, slightly creepy, Dr. Coppelius. How it is Wevers can pull such multi-faceted characters out of his back pocket is beyond me! His Dr. Coppelius was a thrilling "yin and yang"; an absent-minded and lonely old man, whose walking stick doubles as a handy weapon against "the wild hooligans" of the town. But underneath that "grumpy old man" veneer lurks a borderline-fiendish soul.

    Honorable Mentions

     
    Act three's splendid cast also deserves special mention. I was most impressed by Carrie Imler's "Dawn" and Sarah Ricard Orza's "Prayer". These dancers gave equally passionate and exquisite performances. Imler was a vision of dazzling sunlight--bright, confident and striking.  Ricard Orza danced "Like a fairy tale princess!" (to quote the little one sitting next to me) with her flowing port de bras and delicate phrasing. The action-packed "Discord and War" featured Batkhurel Bold and Lindsi Dec entering the stage like wild flashes of lightning dressed in silvery armor. As always, the power behind these two striking  dancers takes your breath away. Their amazing turns and leaps were all done whilst holding long spears--none of which whacked anyone else nor made kabobs out of their thighs. (An acrobatic feat of epic proportions, especially when you consider how clumsy the rest of is--read: yours truly!--would be in the same situation.)PNB's Coppelia is filled with good natured humor, an outstanding cast, and delicious imagery. If you haven't yet made your way to McCaw Hall to catch the "Happiest Ballet on Earth!", I would highly suggest that you do so. Like...today!

    Coppelia runs from June 3rd-13th. Tickets are available by visiting PNB.org.

     

    For those of you unable to attend, please enjoy our gallery of  Pacific Northwest Ballet's premiere production of Coppélia: Choreography by Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust (after Marius Petipa).

    All Photos © Angela Sterling

    For more stunning dance photos, visit  Angela Sterling Photography.


    By Denise Opper

  • 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.

    Pacific

    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.

    Pacific

    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.

    Pacific

    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

    Pacific

    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

  • Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker

    A Little Bit of Magic

    The magic of the holiday season has descended upon McCaw Hall, ushered in on the wings of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s annual treat, The Nutcracker.  The air inside the theater was alive with anticipation, and the excitement emanating from all the hundreds of children present was palpable.

    Clara's Christmas Tree - A signature moment of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker occurs when Clara’s Christmas tree grows from 14 to 28 feet.  The majestic tree was constructed by Boeing engineers and weighs 1,000 pounds.

    Clara's

    The Story and the Set

    The ballet is based on the original story written by E.T.A. Hoffman and brought to life by the choreography of former PNB Artistic Director, Kent Stowell.  The sumptuous sets designed by Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) play a crucial role in the success of this stellar production.  They not only envelop the stage like a lush, Victorian picture book, but also provide a sense of pure magic.  Everything from the massive growing Christmas tree and the enormous Mouse King that wickedly encircles the stage--to the realistic boat ride along the sea, leaves audiences captivated and riveted to the edge of their seats.

    Clara

    The role of young Clara was marvelously played by PNB student, Eileen Kelly.  Kelly’s mannerisms and characterization were both impressive and believable.

    Carrie Imler , Principal Dancer, PNB, as adult Clara was nothing short of outstanding.  Imler’s Clara provides a stunning portrayal of a maiden whose heart is laced with the charms and emotions of girlhood.  She is her Prince’s devoted equal in terms of bravery, and wants nothing more than to remain locked within the confines of this beautiful dream with him forever.

    The Prince

    Batkhurel Bold, Principal Dancer, PNB, gave a powerful performance as the dashing Prince.  His movements were breathtaking, his character regal and confident.  Bold not only captivates audiences with his impressive strength, but sweeps them off their feet as Clara’s faithful protector, companion, and hero.  Their gorgeous, sweeping pas de deux conveys all the beauty and promise of young love.

    A Cast of Characters

    Herr Drosselmeier/Pasha

    Jordan Pacitti shines in the dual role of Herr Drosselmeier/Pasha.  As Drosselmeier, Pacitti is teasing yet harmless, a classic example of a man who is “a little boy on the inside.”  He not only revels in his ability to shock and amaze the party guests, but takes the most delight in getting a rise out of young Clara.  Later, however,  as the Pasha, Pacitti transforms from a fiendish eccentric, into a protective father-figure, possessive of both Clara and her affections.

    Ballerina Doll

    Sarah Ricard Orza gave a lovely performance as the wind-up Ballerina Doll.  Her masterful display breathed new life into this well-loved character, one who is sure to star in many little girls’ dreams.

    An Enchanted Land

    The Moors, A Chinese Tiger, The Commedia

    Act Two whisks Clara and the Prince along to an enchanted land where they are greeted by a lavish display of hospitality, courtesy of the Pasha.  Moors dance about with bright, energetic flair.  A dancing Chinese tiger, charmingly played by Ryan Cardea, received more than a few giggles and squeals of delight.  The Commedia (Liora Reshef, Benjamin Griffiths and Rachel Foster) were reminiscent of a precious music box or toy shoppe window.  Griffiths’ acrobatics and technical prowess were evident both here and during his role as Sword-Dancer Doll in Act One.

    The Chinese Tiger

    The

    The Peacock

    Lesley Rausch, soloist, PNB mesmerized in her role as the fluttering, sensuous Peacock; a winged beauty transported via gilded cage.  Rausch’s expert characterization was daring, captivating, and hypnotic.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lesley Rausch as the Peacock in PNB's Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker.  Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    The Whirling Dervishes

    The three whirling Dervishes (Barry Kerollis, James Moore, and Josh Spell) were absolutely thrilling. These fantastic dancers created a spectacular “tour de force” that left every little boy in the audience inspired and awe-struck.

    Flora

    Lindsi Dec, soloist, PNB,  soared to new heights as the beautiful blossom maiden, Flora.  Dec gave herself completely over to her role, and that coupled with her long, gorgeous lines and jubilant expression, made her performance exhilarating to behold.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lindsi Dec as Flora in the Waltz of the Flowers from PNB's Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker.  PNB’s acclaimed production of Nutcracker runs November 27 – December 30, 2009 at Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall.  Tickets are available online at www.pnb.org or by calling 206.441.2424. Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    Snow, Waltz of the Flowers

    PNB’s corps de ballet performed beautifully as a chorus of swirling, icy snowflakes glittering in the moonlight. Their dazzling display literally made a chill run down my spine.  Later during the Waltz of the Flowers, I could almost smell a hint of jasmine and rose being carried along on a soft, spring breeze.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet's, Nutcracker

    I was once again impressed with the caliber of dancing and characterization offered by this amazing company, as well as the talent that exuded from its students.  Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker is a must-see and should be a part of every family’s holiday tradition.

    PNB’s acclaimed production of Nutcracker

    runs November 27 – December 30, 2009

    at Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall.

    Tickets are available online at www.pnb.org or by calling 206.441.2424

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Director's Choice"

    From the theater staff to the attendees to the performers, the excitement of opening night was unmistakable.  Pacific Northwest Ballet’s introduction of two brand new pieces and a replay of two favorites translated into an evening to remember.

    Petite Mort

    Seth&SaraPetiteMort

    Pacific

    The night began with Petite Mort, (French for “The Little Death” and a metaphor for sexual climax), the first work by European choreographer Jiri Kylian to be acquired by Pacific Northwest Ballet.  With six men, six women, and six foils the piece has been described as exuding energy, silence, and sexuality.  It does just that.

    Petite Mort starts with six men facing upstage backing slowly toward the orchestra pit in silence.  The stillness is broken at first only by the sound of the swords cutting through the air.  The men partnering with their swords create a dangerous tension and excitement.  The choreography plays between the men, the swords, the women and dark, baroque style dresses.  These dresses, at times, appear to dance completely on their own.  There are some light hearted moments with the foils and the dresses that allowed the audience a laugh and provided a needed respite.

    A special treat in this performance included partnering between two of the company’s married couples:  Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza and Lindsi Dec and Karel Kruz.  In the sensual pas de deux, these real-life married couples, along with principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Kaori Nakamura, showcased both precision in movement as well as emotion.

    I look forward to more pieces from this brilliant choreographer.

    The music (Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major - Adagio and Piano Concerto in C Major – Andante) also warrants special mention.  With the resignation of Maestro Stewart Kershaw, Allan Dameron is acting Music Director and Conductor.  Dameron performed masterfully as both pianist and conductor for this piece.

    Mopey

    JamesMooreMopey3

    Pacific

    This 14-minute male solo of “adolescent meltdown” was first performed by PNB in 2005.  The cult classic, performed by soloist, James Moore was pure perfection.

    Moore’s fluidity of movement demonstrated both his raw strength and masculine grace.  The agony of the journey from boy to man with all of the temptations and mistakes made along the way was nothing short of mesmerizing.

    For three perspectives on Mopey, see seattledances blog interview with James Moore and two other dancers cast for this run, Soloist Benjamin Griffiths and Principal, Jonathan Poretta.

    The Seasons

    This was the world premiere of The Seasons, choreographed by Val Caniparoli.  The Seasons is a balletic allegory of the four seasons danced to the music of Alexander Glazunov (Op.67, 1899).  The Seasons is served up against a simple and very striking set and presented with innovative costume design.  Both set and costumes were designed by Sandra Woodall.  I cannot even begin to describe the brilliance in executing these costume design concepts.  Check out this video posted by PNB as a special thanks to the costume shop for a taste:  PNB's The Seasons Costume Preview.

    The Seasons opened in winter  and it appeared that it was snowing stars.  Thus the magical blend of contemporary and classical ballet began.  There were delightful gnomes lighting fires to melt the snow and change the scene to spring.  Kaori Nakamura as the Swallow truly took flight—both on her own and with the aid of the Zephyr, Lucien Postlewaite.  You could see the fun and frolic in Barry Kerolis as a faun.   With its cast of birds, satyrs, fauns, flowers and gnomes, this piece has something for everyone.

    West Side Story

    West Side Story is an abbreviated version of the musical of the same name.  Choreographer Jerome Robbins (along with Peter Genarro) extracted this sequence of dances originally for the New York City Ballet in 1995.

    This piece is just plain fun and allows the dancers to try their hand at singing and showing off a completely different style.  Principal, Carla Körbes was a delight as the spunky, Anita seeming to be transformed both in looks (her blonde hair covered in a dark wig) and technique.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carla Körbes (center) with Company dancers in Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story Suite. Photo © Angela Sterling.

    Pacific

    PNB’s Director’s Choice runs from November 5–15, 2009.

    Don’t miss it!

    All photos  © Angela Sterling.

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