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  • Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Cinderella Captivates Audiences Again

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura as Cinderella in Kent Stowell’s Cinderella, which kicks off PNB’s 40th Anniversary season September 21 – 30, 2012.  Photo © Lindsay Thomas.

    Pacific

    Pacific Northwest Ballet kicked off its big 40th anniversary season with Kent Stowell’s Cinderella. This beloved crowd pleaser was performed two years ago, but is just as fresh, exciting and enjoyable ever. Saturday evening’s performance was a beautiful reminder of just how wonderful a classic fairytale story can be.

    The evening’s performance featured Kaori Nakamura as the young and severely mistreated Cinderella. While Nakamura’s dancing was technically flawless and every bit as charming as you’d expect, what really stood out for me was her ability to “tell a story”. Her dancing drew me deep into her character’s world and (no joke) left me with tears in my eyes more than once, such as when she received her gifts (shimmering “glass” slippers, anyone?) from her Fairy Godmother and finally said “I do” to her handsome prince. Bravo!

    And speaking of the prince, Jonathan Poretta did an outstanding job as His Royal Highness. While Poretta famously brings the more "humorous" character roles to life, I’ve got to say - he knows when to turn on the charm and can embody the role of "Handsome Prince" like no other! Poretta - like Nakamura - is a masterful storyteller, able to convey a variety of emotions (and quite possibly leap tall buildings) in a single bound.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancer Jessika Anspach and guest artist Marisa Albee as Cinderella’s stepsisters in Kent Stowell’s Cinderella, which kicks off PNB’s 40th Anniversary season September 21 – 30, 2012.  Photo © Lindsay Thomas.

    Pacific

    Jessika Anspach and Marisa Albee lit up the stage as the mean, selfish and awkward Stepsisters. Albee, a former PNB soloist turned faculty member, was one of the original Stepsisters when the production premiered in 1994, which made watching her performance a deliciously rare treat! Albee and Anspach pulled out all the stops and left the audience in stitches with their zany antics. Everything from clumsy dancing to bold attempts at grabbing the Prince’s attention was met with plenty of giggles and applause.

    The Jester (who doubles as the Prince's right hand man) was performed by Kyle Davis, who – up until that moment – really hadn’t been on my radar much. (Ahem) However all that changed the moment Davis entered the scene. He immediately captured – and held – my interest. Everything Davis did felt natural, not forced or like he was “trying too hard” to get a laugh. He simply WAS the Jester. Quite honestly, I thought he must have taken a few lessons in Characterization 101 from Mr. Poretta himself, because his performance felt distinctly “Jonathan-ish”. His performance drew so many laughs, so many gasps of delight, it was incredible. (High five!)

    And what PNB production would be complete without a charming cast of young dancers? Darling Memory Children, enchanted Bugs, stern Pumpkins, impish Sprites and lovely Fairy Attendants danced, twirled and jumped their way across the big stage, leaving their own indelible mark of sweetness on this already luscious season opener.

    Andrew Bartee was another young man who stood out with his portrayal of the Dancing Master. No joke – Bartee is the man to watch! He was spirited, enchanting and so freaking funny my stomach hurt from laughing so much. He was great! I can’t wait to see more of him throughout the season.

    If you haven't purchased your tickets to this lavish production - umm, what are you waiting for? Consider this your official Royal Invitation to the Ball!

    Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Cinderella runs through September 30th. Get your tickets by calling 206-441- 2424 or by visiting PNB.org.

    Denise Opper - Media for Class Act Tutu

  • PNB's 'Coppelia' is Perfect for Kids and Kids at Heart

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Lesley Rausch as Swanilda with company dancers in PNB’s production of Coppélia, choreographed by Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust (after Marius Petipa). Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    Saturday evening’s performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Coppelia reminded me just how much fun a story ballet can be.

    Lesley Rausch and Jerome Tisserand did an outstanding (stellar, phenomenal, glowing, superb) job in the roles of Swanilda and Franz. They went from a teasing, head-game playing pair of young lovers to a mature, “ready to tie the knot” couple in all of about 2 hours.

    Their comedic timing was impeccable, whether they were flirtatiously bantering back ‘n forth or trying to get away from the bumbling “mad scientist”, Dr. Coppelius, they brought the whole scene to life. I especially enjoyed the fact that their partnership didn’t feel forced, but rather effortless and natural, making this fairy tale all the more pleasant to watch.

    And speaking of Dr. Coppelius, I found William Yin Lee’s interpretation to be smooth, playful and satisfying. I loved the way he dragged Franz around by the ear while simultaneously giving him a few swift kicks to the behind, and how he tried (in vain) to put a lid on the mischievous antics of Swanilda-dressed-as-Coppelia.

    Act III’s Waltz of the Golden Hours featured Leta Biasucci, the petite powerhouse who never ceases to amaze with her delicate phrasing and innate ability to charm your socks off. Carrie Imler gave a beautiful performance as the glittering “Dawn”; Laura Gilbreath danced as “Prayer”, a role which suits her strong lyrical qualities perfectly, while Maria Chapman drew a hearty round of applause as the “Spinner”.

    Surrounding these enchanting soloists were 24 equally enchanting “baby ballerinas” dressed in lovely pink and gold tutus. As these young dancers entered the stage amongst a chorus of delighted “Ooo’s and ahh’s”, their smiles radiated what can only be described as immeasurable joy. I wouldn’t be surprised if their performance sparked the desire to dance in nearly every young audience member’s heart there.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Jerome Tisserand as Franz, and principal dancer Lesley Rausch as Swanilda in PNB’s production of Coppélia, choreographed by Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust (after Marius Petipa).  Photo © ANGELA STERLING

    Pacific

    Discord and War featured the whirling, arrow-wielding talents of Lindsi Dec and Kiyon Gaines, a most impressive duo if I’ve ever seen one. Their strong characters and powerful bodies gorgeously yield themselves to whatever role they’re playing, whether it’s a dashing prince or gentle princess or even a Gladiator-esque warrior.

    Charming sets featuring Swanilda’s adorable “teapot-shaped” house and a series of towering milk-white columns adorned with swirls of pink flowers rival the most beloved storybook illustrations. And those costumes…! Oh my! Each one was more impressive than the next, a seemingly endless stream of sparkling flowers, shiny tiaras and wispy tulle.

    With its tummy tickling humor, beautiful sets, spectacular costumes, and of course - all those gorgeous dancers - make Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Coppelia the perfect treat!

    Visit PNB.org today for tickets.

  • Coppelia - A Young Girl's Dream Come True

    Photo Credit: Denise Opper

    Photo

    Back in May 2010, Dean and I took Abby to see PNB's production of Coppelia. She was so excited that day and took special care to wear her best dress (white, mid-calf length, lots of sequins and a small sparkly tiara in her hair), and kept biting her nails in anticipation.

    As we watched the ballet, she would smile, laugh and gasp with delight every few moments. She was in her element! Then as the curtain rose on Act 3 and a beautiful row of girlies dressed in glittering pink and gold tutus appeared, my girl was speechless. Breathless even! ;)

    After a moment she leaned over in the dark and whispered with her eyes as big as saucers, "Mommy! How did those girls get to do that?" "They're from the PNB school, honey." I whispered back.

    Abby continued to watch, spellbound. Then at the end of the performance she asked, "Okay. So, how do I get in the school?" At that time, she was still dancing at her local ballet school, but already things were starting to look sketchy for the new year. I explained how she would have to audition, which she immediately asked, "When can I audition??" I told her we'd talk about it later. (Ahem)

    Later during the performance's Post Show Q&A, Abby walked right up and sat in the front row of chairs. (For the record, I never opt to sit in the front row...) After listening to a few adults ask their questions, she asked Olivier Wevers what he liked about playing the role of Dr. Coppelius (her other favorite part). He was very gracious and said he liked "playing with a character" and that was what made it fun for him. Then she asked the Artistic Director, Peter Boal how old the girls in Act 3 were. His response was, "Levels 3 and 4, maybe some 5's. So anywhere from about 10 to 13 or 14." Abby was 10 at the time and so you can imagine how much this pleased her.

    As we left McCaw Hall that day, I noticed Abby looked deep in thought. When questioned, she simply said, "I'm thinking about how happy I am that I wore my best dress today." And why's that? "So that when I come back and audition for PNB, Mr. Boal will know who I am!" {#itdoesntworkthatway}

    Fast forward to September 18th, 2010. She gets in to the school.

    She was placed in Level 3 but sadly, Coppelia was not scheduled to be performed again. At least not yet. So Abby continued to work hard and hoped (and prayed a whole lot) that one day soon, Coppelia would be done again and that she'd get a part.

    Last summer, it was announced that Coppelia would once again grace the stage during the company's 2011/12 Season.

    There was a lot of speculation as to who would be chosen, how tall or how short you had to be, etc. With every passing rumor, Abby grew more impatient waiting for the Cast letters to go out. Then two friends received a letter. Then three friends. And at long last, so did she....

    I'm pleased to announce that Abby received a letter in the mail announcing that she had been chosen to perform in this year's production of Coppelia...in Act 3...wearing the very pink and gold costume that ignited her determination to get into the school two years earlier!

    I'm so thankful to God for granting yet another exciting blessing in my daughter's life. To get the chance to perform in the very same production that catapulted her desire to attend the school into the stratosphere is nothing short of awesome! :)

    *Written by Denise Opper; originally published on the author's blog, Got Chai? *

    You can catch Pacific Northwest Ballet's Coppelia June 1st - 10th. Visit PNB.org for tickets.

  • Sightings!

    Photo: Rosalie O’Connor. Ballet Academy East 2009 “our special waltz”, choreographed by Stacy Caddell.

    Photo:

    Check out this stunning photo featuring ABT professional division student, Hannah Marshall wearing our Romantic tutu skirt and sweetheart bodice in Ballet Pink!

    The photo is featured in the article, "Like Mother, Like Daughter - When Ballet Careers Run in the Family" in the April/May 2012 issue of Pointe Magazine. Doesn't she look amazing..?!

  • Ballet Fans Can Feel the Moves

    Art by Chris Nash

    Art

    When it comes to watching ballet, some fans may actually feel as though they're right up there dancing, at least according to findings published in the current issue of the journal PLoS One.

    According to research, spectators showed muscle-specific responses in their brain as if they were expert dancers. Read all about it here.

    What do you think? Do you "feel" as though you're dancing from your seat? I have to admit, sometimes it sure seems that way. :)

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's New Works

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Lucien Postlewaite and soloist Lindsi Dec in David Dawson’s A Million Kisses to my Skin. Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    Friday evening's opening performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet's New Works began with a pleasant surprise. As Peter Boal stepped out onto the stage to welcome the audience, he was accompanied by Linda Shelton, executive director of The Joyce Theater Foundation.

    What's this all about, you ask?

    Well, it turns out that Ms. Shelton was there to announce that PNB was the proud recipient of the prestigious Rudolf Nureyev Prize for New Dance, a $25,000 grant which PNB will use to stage a new work by Alejandro Cerrudo, resident choreographer for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. The work will then make its New York debut at The Joyce during the 2013-14 season! {Cue imaginary fireworks and confetti here} Pretty sweet, huh? Yep, the audience thought so too. Now...onto the show!

    This season's production of New Works featured three different performances, each marked with a decidedly different feel and flavor.

    First up was David Dawson's, A Million Kisses to My Skin. Now, as a lover of all things classic and beautiful, this piece was thrilling to the core. While Kisses' choreography forced dancers to break out of their classical molds just a bit, the movements themselves didn't feel forced but rather effortless, passionate and exhilarating. The dancers seemed to be completely invigorated from start to finish. You could tell they all really enjoyed performing this piece!

    Sarah Ricard Orza was particularly stunning with her impeccable timing, fantastic port de bras, and well...everything else. If she hadn't been promoted when she was, I'd be the first person to beat down Mr. Boal's door demanding that change - pronto! She was the total package that night, hands down.

    Jonathan Poretta oozed power and charisma like no one else. To me, he is on par with the likes of Baryshnikov - so high up on the Awesome Dancer Pedestal it's incredible. His leaps and turns made me fist-pump the air and whisper, "YES!" much to the chagrin of my fellow audience members. (Ahem)

    Equally riveting were powerhouses, Lindsi Dec and Lucien Postlewaite. Honestly, you'd be hard pressed to find a better match than these two. Lucien's quiet charm coupled against Lindsi's fiery "look at me!" quality made for an absolutely brilliant performance. Every thrilling moment was flawless.

    With that said, I have GOT to see PNB perform more of Dawson's incredible works! And given the standing ovation the dancers received at the close of this piece, I know I'm not alone in my desire. (Pretty please, Mr. Boal? *Insert batting eyelashes here*)

    Next up was Cylindrical Shadows by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. I originally saw this work performed by Olivier Wevers' company, Whim W'him back in January 2011. While the piece had been craftily changed up just a smidge for PNB, these changes didn't mar the vibrant landscape of the original work in the slightest.

    In Cylindrical Shadows, the elements of sudden loss, grief and the continuum of time are explored in poignant detail. From the pendulous swinging of the dancers arms (hands of time?), to the way the dancers would weave themselves in and out of each others' embrace, Cylindrical Shadows makes you pause, wonder and pause again. During this piece, I found myself most impressed by Ezra Thomson and Jerome Tisserand. I love how these two great dancers were allowed to bring their talents to the forefront of this dynamic ensemble. I found their dancing believable, their loss palpable. {Bravo, guys. Bravo!}

    The third piece of the evening was Victor Quijada's Mating Theory. Now, no offense to PNB but this was the one piece that left me scratching my head a bit. I wasn't too sure what to think of the jerky, pop-lockish, preening bird-like strutting across the stage, although I admit there were some "flashback to the 80's" break dance type moves which were quite cool. I also found the final moments of the piece featuring Lucien Postlewaite and Rachel Foster to be rather exquisite, to say the least. They sparkled like priceless diamonds in the rough and I just sat there and held my breath, utterly transfixed. It was lovely!

    Overall, I didn't "get" which theories were doing the mating. Granted, the obvious mating undertones were there but they were subtle and didn't culminate as one would expect. Perhaps it included the different theories of dance mingling together? I'm not sure.

    In any event, it's safe to say that Mating Theory is a piece I'd need to see again in order to fully appreciate its intricacies. Not saying it was horrible - certainly not. But rather, it's a piece that requires a little more chewing before I can attempt to digest it.

    New Works runs through March 24th, 2012. Tickets are available at PNB.org.

  • Freed of London: Putting Dancers' best feet forward

    A Freed shoemaker shapes the box with a mallet, the final step before the shoes go into the kiln to dry. Each cobbler makes 50 pairs a day, which are imprinted with their maker's mark. (Marcia Adair / For the Times)

    A

    Tucked away in the side streets of Mayfair, the world-famous tailors of Savile Row make gentleman's suiting to order for businessmen, gentry, politicians, oligarchs and Saudi princes.

    Six miles to the east, in Hackney, lies another temple to old-school English craftsmanship: Freed of London, makers of custom pointe shoes since 1929. In a small workshop flanked by midrise apartment blocks, a no-frills sandwich café and a betting parlor, 12 shoemakers each transform satin, canvas, cardboard, burlap and leather into 40 pairs of pointe shoes each a day. (Read more here)

    Are YOU a Freed dancer? What are YOUR thoughts on your shoes and/or your maker?

  • Baryshnikov: Dancer, Actor and...Photographer?

    Baryshnikov PhotographyMikhail Baryshnikov will proudly unveil his photographic work in a solo exhibition scheduled to open tomorrow, February 24th in Miami.

    In "Dance This Way," Baryshnikov turns the camera on ethnic, hip-hop, ballet, modern and popular dances around the world. The show's title, Baryshnikov says, is meant to be both commanding and descriptive. He wants the dancers to move toward his camera, and he wants to show what he sees in their dances. "I'm interested in focusing on body parts, the movements which really one cannot notice in the audience," says Baryshnikov, 64.

    Interesting, wouldn't you say? You can read all it here.

  • Dance Awards Bestowed Upon Baryshnikov and Forsythe

    daily-news
    Congratulations to two incredible artists!

    Mikhail Baryshnikov has been awarded the Vilcek Prize for the Arts, an award which honors the contributions of foreign-born artists and scientists in the United States, while choreographer William Forsythe has been awarded the 2012 Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement from The American Dance Festival. Read more here.

  • ABT's Misty Copeland Visits Her Hometown

    20120209__mistylb_500Copeland is only the third black soloist with the prestigious dance company and the first in two decades. Her goal, she says, is to become the first black principal dancer for a major U.S. ballet company.

    It's a heady goal, but Copeland has been wowing observers ever since she wandered into a weekly ballet class at the San Pedro Boys and Girls Club as a teenager.

    Read about Copeland's visit here. Don't forget to check out the awesome photo gallery!

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