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  • Thoughts of Summer on Our Mind

    Now that summer intensive auditions are over, thousands of dance hopefuls are eagerly awaiting acceptance letters from their schools of choice. Whether you've been through the process numerous times or are just starting out, summer intensives are highlight and rite of passage in a dancer's training.

    Natalee wearing "Enchant" (Vala Dancewear Style #22108)

    Natalee

    With that in mind, I decided to take a moment and ask our very own Vala tester, Natalee Maxwell about her summer dance experiences...

    Natalee writes:

    My experiences with summer dance intensives have been really beneficial to my growth in dance. I have gathered priceless knowledge from my summer travels to Texas, California, and Washington. Since the training was so rigorous and effective, I was able to develop so much in a condensed period of time. I seemed to think that 6 weeks might seem too long to stay interested in a dance intensive, but I have learned that the time just flies by when you are learning and excelling so much.

    Getting to know and be known by many impressive teachers from around the country is a total delight as well. With each teacher, I had a fresh take on their preferred techniques and styles. By having an open mind towards the teacher’s likes allowed me to become a better-rounded dancer, able to modify myself more easily. I also enjoyed being able to take part in classes with international dancers as well as Americans. I was able to see the caliber of dancers that were out there, and break free of my so-called “small town” of Albuquerque. It was important for me to venture out and see what bigger companies and programs had to offer.

    As the audition season begins, I look forward to my summer training, as there will always be something new and exciting for me to discover in the art of dance.

    We would like to hear of your summer experiences as well!  Send us an email. And who knows? We may be contacting you to share your summer intensive experiences as well!

  • Spectrum Dance Theater's Much Anticipated "FAREWELL"

    Spectrum Dance Theater.  Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual.

    Spectrum

    This weekend, the Seattle Theater Group will unveil Spectrum Dance Theater's latest work:  FAREWELL:  A fantastical contemplation on America’s relationship with China.  This highly anticipated piece represents the second year in Spectrum's three year initiative, Beyond Dance: Promoting Awareness and Mutual Understanding (PAMU).  The goal of PAMU is to bring collaborators together from all over the world to create works that "examine issues relating to personal liberty, freedom, security and social justice." (Quote: Spectrum Dance Theater.)

    In FAREWELL, artistic director and choreographer, Donald Byrd builds a bridge between recent American and Chinese tragedies; specifically 9/11 and Tiananmen Square.

    In Part I: Considering Bejing Coma, Byrd draws inspiration from the novel, Beijing Coma written by exiled Chinese author Ma Jian.  This literary work tells the story of a young man who is shot while leaving the mayhem of Tiananmen Square, then suffers a waking coma and paralysis. In a creative twist, Byrd creates an American character who suffers the same fate, post 9/11.   In his now conscious but immobile state, the young man reflects upon his past and the events surrounding his country.

    Spectrum Dance Theater.  Photo by Gabriel Bienczycki, Zebra Visual.

    Spectrum

    Part II is entitled, With Begging Bowls In Hand.  This piece draws its strength from a quote from a friend of Ma Jian's: “Foreigners come with begging bowls in hand. This is the future.” In this act, Byrd explores the delicate financial relationship between America and China.

    Farewell's musical score was composed by Seattle's own Byron Au Yong, a second-generation Chinese American.  Au Yong's perspective is sure to add a rich, unique layer to this complex, emotional and thought-provoking performance.

    You can catch FAREWELL at The Moore Theatre, February 18th--20th. For ticketing information, please visit Seattle Theater Group.

  • Interview: Pacific Northwest Ballet Soloist, Lindsi Dec - Part Two

    In Part One of our interview, Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lindsi Dec spoke candidly about her recent marriage and how she began her dance training. Now in Part Two, Lindsi shares what a typical day is like for her, as well as the challenges of being a tall dancer…

    Class Act:  Lindsi, the long lines you and your taller peers are able to create are just exquisite!  Would you mind telling us what it’s like to be a tall dancer, and how this fact has enhanced or challenged your career?
    Lindsi:   Hmm. That’s a good question. Well, as a taller dancer I’d have to say it’s actually a bit harder to control my extremities than a dancer of average height. It’s a tough process for us (tall dancers) – in my experience anyway – to make it all come together with beautiful lines. My core wasn’t strong enough, I was very weak—I still am in fact, so I have to do a lot of cross training. But it makes us unique and helps us stand out a bit, which is great.

    Class Act:  I never looked at it that way before. I often assumed--probably like most people--that being taller was more of an advantage in the dance world than not.  Thank you for being so open about that.  Ok, here’s a question I know our readers are dying to have you answer! What does a typical day look like for you?

    Lindsi:   A typical day for me is full of dancing! I wake up at 8am and get ready for the day, including making a lunch full of snacks that will last me until 7pm.  I like to eat a lot during our breaks to allow my body to refuel for the next rehearsal.
    I leave the house by 9:15 am and am in the studio by 9:50 am.  It is at this time, I tape my toes and warm-up.  We have class from 10:15- 11:45am.  Class is very important because it prepares and warms up the body for the rest of the rehearsal day.  It is also a great opportunity to improve one’s technique.  We have 20 minutes after class to rest up, snack, and see what pointe shoes are going to work for various rehearsals.  Our normal rehearsal schedule is from 12:05 –3pm with 5 minute breaks each hour.

    Lindsi Dec, Soloist, Pacific Northwest Ballet wearing Vala Dancewear's "Bombshell" Leotard

    Lindsi

    We have lunch off from 3-4 pm.  I normally try to work out at that time because cross training for the body is extremely important.  I do strengthening exercises and weights.  On some days, depending on my rehearsal load, I will also do cardio.  From 4:05-7pm, we have our last three hours of the day.
    Each day is different though, we may have 6 hours of rehearsal or one hour.  It depends on the rep we are doing and how much we are dancing.  Then, it’s back home to a nice dinner and relaxing before I go to bed at 10pm. Yes, I know, it’s very early, but my body needs at least ten hours of sleep or else I am not a happy camper the next day!

    ….Check back soon to read the third installment where Lindsi discusses her partnership with Vala Dancewear, her hobbies, and favorite roles!

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

  • Interview: Pacific Northwest Ballet Soloist, Lindsi Dec - Part One

    Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) soloist, Lindsi Dec is not only a gifted dancer but is also one of the lovely Vala Dancewear models!  With her graceful lines, powerful stage presence and classic beauty, Lindsi captivates and dazzles her audience, while her passion, determination, and strong work ethic make her an inspiration to today’s young dancers.
    Lindsi recently took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Class Act Tutu’s Denise Opper both at home in Seattle and in between performances at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Her answers will be chronicled in a series of posts here on the Class Act Tutu blog, and will feature some personal “behind the scenes” photos Lindsi graciously agreed to share with our readers.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lindsi Dec (center) and company members dance the Waltz of the Flowers in PNB's Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker.  Photo ©  Angela Sterling.

    Pacific

    About Lindsi Dec

    Class Act: Hello, Lindsi. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me today.
    Lindsi:  Oh, it’s my pleasure!
    Class Act: Let’s begin by having you share a little about yourself.
    Lindsi: Well, let’s see. I’m 27 years old and I recently married Karel Cruz, a principal PNB dancer. (Her infectious smile was evident through the phone.)
    Class Act: Wow, congratulations! So does being married to a fellow dancer make life easier in a sense?
    Lindsi: Oh, yes definitely! He understands what my crazy life is like completely. It’s wonderful; I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    In The Beginning

    Class Act: That’s terrific. So now, let’s discuss your dance background for a moment. What age did you begin your training, what schools did you attend, and was ballet something you always felt drawn to?
    Lindsi: Well, my mom enrolled me in dance classes when I was 3 years old—ballet, tap and jazz—I actually hated ballet at first. I was more into tap/jazz at that point.
    Class Act: Oh my goodness, really? I never would’ve guessed. So what made you change your mind?

    The Inspiration

    Lindsi: When I was about 13, my mom took me to the Kennedy Center to see Miami City Ballet perform Rubies and—that was it!  I told my mom I wanted to perform the same role (tall girl).

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lindsi Dec in George Balanchine’s Rubies.  Choreography © The George Balanchine Trust.  Photo © Angela Sterling.

    Pacific

    When I was 14, I started focusing on ballet but my private school refused to credit my ballet classes toward the athletic graduation requirement.  So, I had to quit dance for awhile because of that and had to play soccer and attend a self-defense class to complete the requirements over two semesters.  Then later, when I returned to ballet, I felt I had to work harder than all the other girls because I was so far behind, but it was worth it.  I then trained at the Washington School of Ballet, which is where I really began to improve.  I attended 3 summer courses at Houston Ballet on scholarship, then after high school I attended PNB’s summer program.  From there, I was in their PD (Professional Division) for 2 years, and then joined the company as an apprentice in 2001.

    ….Be sure to check back soon to read the next installment where Lindsi shares a typical “Day in the Life,” as well as the challenges of being a tall dancer!

  • 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

  • Breaking News...

    Herr Nutcracker
    Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker Head (design by Maurice Sendak)



    Herr Nutcracker was found at 8 am this morning, disoriented and clinging to life on the floor of a darkened room at an undisclosed location on Mercer Street, weakly muttering “Ich habe dir vertraut elender Verräter”. While being carried into the waiting ambulance he began screaming “Ich schwöre bei Gott Clara, ich werd...e ihm die Hoden abgeschnitten”. He managed to squeek “Ich bin allergisch gegen Nüsse” before he was quickly sedated by emergency personnel, then air lifted to the CJDL Design facility where he was rushed into the emergency room. Unresponsive and in severe critical condition, he is being stabilized in preparation for surgery..

    Dr. Drosselmeyer confirmed that Herr Nutcracker has sustained serious injuries. He suffers from a fractured skull and has been scalped. In what seems to be a botched lobotomy, parts of the frontal and parietal lobes are missing. His left ear has been ripped off and the police, as well as the postal service, are on the lookout for a small box with no return address. His lower mandible is severely dislocated and chunks of his beard and mustache have been pulled out. The entire lower portion of his body is missing.
    The surgeons will be operating over the next 36 hours but his diagnosis is grim.
    We will keep you posted on this troubling situation.

    by Christine Joly de Lotbiniere

    CJDL Design


  • 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.

  • Review: The Nutcracker - Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland (1977)

    Mikhail Baryshnikov debuts his stunning choreographic talent in this classic tale re-born. Hailed as one of the finest Nutcracker productions ever made, Baryshnikov’s “Nutcracker” is captivating, thrilling, and magical, inspiring thousands of would-be dancers for the past three decades.

    Baryshnikov’s “Nutcracker” incorporates elements of cinematic artistry that create a lovely, dreamlike atmosphere. These elements are particularly noticeable when the Nutcracker magically transforms into the handsome Prince and during the beautiful Waltz of the Snowflakes.

    Amazon.com stock photo

    The

    The sets are elegantly stylish decorated in softly muted tones. The voice of the Narrator echoes of a time when children sat upon a beloved Grandfather’s knee, listening to his tales of wonder. The all-star cast features members from the famous American Ballet Theatre, including Alexander Minz as Herr Drosselmeyer.

    Just three years after his arrival in the US, this exhilarating production secured Baryshnikov’s place within the hearts of the American public. The film’s details ring poetically with the combined professional influences upon his career, both Russian and American.

    Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Nutcracker Prince is clearly in a class by itself. Alive with fantastical force, boyish whimsy and displaying superior showmanship, his athleticism and vivid interpretation are unparalleled and will leave audiences cheering for years to come.

    Gelsey Kirkland creates a most exquisite Clara. With her lithe form, articulated feet, and doll-like features, Kirkland beautifully captures the very essence of childlike wonder coupled with the blossoming emotions of young womanhood.  Her talent is lauded with praise throughout the dance world, and her name is synonymous with classicalism. Baryshnikov referred to Kirkland as, “The best ballerina of her generation” a compliment that is well-deserved.

    This film radiates with all the vibrancy of their legendary partnership. The acclaimed duo creates a powerful masterpiece from the remnants of Nutcrackers past; one that is teaming and pulsating with life.

    With its remarkable dancing, impeccable character interpretation and clever cinematography, Mikhail Baryshnikov’s “The Nutcracker” adds bold, rich flavor to a cherished holiday treat.

    Buy it Now

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  • Review: Nutcracker the Motion Picture (1986)

    Never before has there been a Nutcracker like this! By fusing together Maurice Sendak’s stunning and lushly designed sets with Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score, Nutcracker: the Motion Picture expands a traditional holiday classic into a cinematic work of art.

    Former PNB artistic director, Kent Stowell skillfully breathes new life into the Nutcracker story through the use of special effects and superb cinematography.  Children and adults alike will gain a new level of understanding and respect for this ballet, thanks to powerful opening scenes featuring Clara’s disturbing dream.

    Creative and artistic liberties are beautifully expanded, thanks to a generous dose of “movie magic”. The wind-up doll indeed dances inside her tiny dollhouse. Young Clara is enveloped by a mystical fog and literally walks through the dead, defeated Mouse King’s giant sleeve and exits the other side--transformed into a beautiful Princess. The charming boat ride across the sea is reminiscent of the pages of a cherished childhood picture book.

    5615810ae7a01cc9d831e110_L

    Dancers’ facial expressions, which are often missed, are strategically focused on during the film adding to the overall depth and dimension of the story.

    Principal dancer, Patricia Barker does an amazing job of bringing Clara’s dream world to life. Her execution of movement exudes with tremendous power, beauty, and sincere artistry. Her expressive features are never showy or lacking in emotion, but rather perfectly suited to the scene at hand.

    The mildly jealous relationship between the Nutcracker Prince and Herr Drosselmeyer is played for humor, adding a thread of “comic relief” throughout the film.

    Viewers, both young and young-at-heart will enjoy this flawless adaptation again and again. Whether you’re a fan of ballet or not, this production offers something for everyone: drama, romance, scuttling siblings, frighteningly odd dreams, a fierce battle scene, and finally an action-packed ending that will leave you breathless.

    Nutcracker: the Motion Picture is a must-see film that should be on everyone’s holiday entertainment list!

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    The Book

    Sadly, what has been called the finest Nutcracker ever staged, is no longer available on VHS. You can enjoy the story in book form with the stunning photography of Angela Sterling.

    On VHS

    You may get lucky and locate a used copy of this wonderful tale.

    See it!

    Or check your local listing for a television showing this holiday season. And, of course, if you are in the Pacific Northwest this holiday season, we encourage you to make Nutcracker with the Pacific Northwest Ballet part of your holiday plans.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet Company dancers in Nutcracker. © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Roméo et Juliette"

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura and soloist James Moore in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette.  Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    I recently had the privilege of viewing the matinee performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Roméo et Juliette.   I was prepared to be delighted and entertained, being a tremendous fan of PNB already.   However, I must admit I was not prepared for the high caliber of dancing coupled with such flawless character interpretation as this.

    The PNB dancers breathed new life into Jean-Christophe Maillot’s intricate adaptation.   From the moment I saw actual credits rolling across the screen, I knew this would be no ordinary ballet with a modern twist.   This was history in the making.

    The scrawling black and white credits soon gave way to sets that were clean, pure and abstract.   The lighting played a greater role than I’d seen in the past, able to change the entire feel of a scene from a misty dream-like state one minute, to a cold starry night the next.

    The dancers were so in tune with their characters, you easily became lost in the performance.

    Kaori Nakamura’s Juliette was young, fresh and a bit of a “spoiled, wild child”.   From “flashing” her nurse (bad girl!), to her refusal to obey her Mother’s wishes and marry Paris, Nakamura successfully channels all the feisty rebelliousness of the teen years.  This is Nakamura's first time performing as Juliette, and she beautifully exceeds all expectations.

    James Moore’s Romeo is everything you’d expect from a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks.  He’s playful, rambunctious, headstrong, and a bit of a show-off, especially with the ladies.  Yet for all his flaws, Moore’s Romeo was a character you couldn’t help but fall in love with.

    Olivier Weavers did a superb job as Friar Laurence. As both a silent narrator and active participant to this tragedy, his performance is raw and heartbreaking; his anguish palpable. He is forever trapped in a nightmare of his own making, desperate for forgiveness that will never come.

    Equally magnificent was the athleticism of the Friar’s two Acolytes, played by Jordan Pacitti and Sean Rollofson.  So much of their movement was done in slow, exaggerated motion: the turns, lifts, and carefully executed rolls off the stage were riveting and poetic.

    Principal dancer, Olivier Weavers as "Friar Lawrence" with the two Acolytes (Jordan Pacitti and Jerome Tisserand

    Principal

    Her Nurse, expertly played by Chalnessa Eames, was clearly outwitted--and at times overwhelmed--by her young charge’s antics. Although the Nurse’s movements were silly and comedic, they carried an undertone of seriousness to her tasks at hand. There was no question regarding her devotion to Juliette.

    Mara Vinson’s Lady Capulet was simply magnificent. From the moment she came into view she exuded superior control and confidence. Every inch the powerful matriarch, Vinson gave a performance so compelling I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

    Seth Orza was a very convincing Tybalt. He successfully conveyed his character’s anger, sense of family pride, and deep loathing of the Montague’s. His movements were commanding, intimidating, and breath-taking.

    Mercutio and Benvolio played by Barry Kerollis and Josh Spell, round out the obnoxious Montague bunch. They live to aggravate and annoy the Capulets, most especially Tybalt. They played their roles as troublesome, arrogant pests with a hint of boyish foolishness, to the fullest.

    Jeffrey Stanton’s portrayal of Paris was perfect. He was quiet, unassuming, gentlemanly; a stark contrast from Tybalt and Romeo.

    Lesley Rausch played a sexy, sassy Rosaline. Her character is well-aware of her beauty and uses it to full advantage.

    Story Highlights

    The attraction between Romeo and Juliette was undeniably beautiful. The Balcony scene served as an exquisite moment of foreplay, aching with longing. Their wedding was simple and elegant; their wedding night resonating with passion and joy. It was in that moment that Juliette became the pursuer, with her Romeo succumbing to her charms. Watching these two, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was witnessing pure magic.

    With the dramatic fight scene at the end of Act II, the audience is suddenly catapulted into the midst of Friar Laurence’s nightmare. Like one possessed, he digs his fingers into the set as it moves eerily across the floor, trying in vain to stop the next chain of events.The terror unfolds in slow motion as the distraught Friar

    Principals Bakturel Bold and Jonathan Poretta

    Principal

    Laurence watches on in agony. This is the moment he was dreading. This is the moment when everything falls apart.

    As the action resumes normal speed, the brutality and its aftermath hit you full-force. Lady Capulet flails about in a wild rage, her grief unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Paris must half-carry, half-drag her away from Tybalt’s lifeless form. Her heart takes another devastating blow with the loss of her daughter. She bitterly clings to the walls as if to say, “Take me now! I can’t bear this any longer!” As a mother, you feel her cries echo through your heart as she doubles over repeatedly in anguish. Yet her reaction is nothing compared to Romeo’s. As we know, Friar Laurence’s letter has not reached him in time. Romeo cannot—will not—bear this excruciating loss.

    As Juliette awakens from her slumber and discovers that her cherished Romeo is no more, you feel her gut-wrenching loss. Her body is wracked with sobs, her horrified expression crying out, “This was not how it was supposed to be!”

    Unable to bear the scene before him, Friar Laurence turns his back toward the grief-stricken Juliette and clings to the wall in shame and helplessness. Juliette then strangles herself and gently falls across her beloved’s body.

    Conclusion

    I was absolutely enthralled by this performance. It was magical, poignant, thrilling, devastating and beautifully complex. The dancer’s dramatic expressions, the careful subtleties of movement, and the striking character development work together to provide a rich, new layer to this Shakespearean tragedy. I'm so thankful to Peter Boal for adding this production to the company's repertoire.

    What may have initially felt like a bold move to my "classically inclined" mind, the performance left me with an even deeper respect for PNB as a whole. This is a company that is clearly up to any challenge a choreographer or director may throw their way.

    My co-worker and companion on this trip, Lisa-Marie, also found the performance captivating. In fact, this was her first time ever seeing a ballet so I'll let her reaction speak for itself: "I am spoiled for life! I can never see another ballet again without comparing it to Romeo et Juliette."

    Run—do not walk—to McCaw Hall and get your tickets to see Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Romeo et Juliette. You will not be disappointed.

    By Denise Opper

    Media Relations: Vala Dancewear/Class Act Tutu All Photos © Angela Sterling

    James Moore and Kaori Nakamura Romeo et Juliette

    Pacific

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