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Tag Archives: Lesley Rausch

  • 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



  • PNB - Blowing the Dust Off "Giselle" and Audiences Away

    Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of centuries past, Pacific Northwest Ballet's world premiere staging of "Giselle" raises the bar on classical ballet storytelling. This fantastical production - the likes of which I have not seen since Romeo et Juliette - brought the audience to its feet in standing ovation during Saturday night's performance.

    Extreme Makeover - Peter Boal Edition

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite as Albrecht, and Kaori Nakamura as Giselle, in PNB's world premiere staging of Giselle. Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    While today's ballets are often filled with flashy showmanship (which I love, don't get me wrong), PNB's Giselle hones in on the story itself. Every detail, every gesture is of utmost importance. One slip and the spell is broken.

    The PNB dancers tackled this challenge head on and created what can only be described as a masterpiece.

    Kaori Nakamura's Giselle is every inch the sweet, naive girl next door. In a cruel twist of fate, her character's love for dance is impaired by a most delicate physical constitution. Giselle refuses to listen to her mother (played by the ever-popular Chalnessa Eames) when she tells her, "Honey, that boy is no good for you!" Not only should she not dance but she apparently shouldn't date, either. (Enter teenage rebellion in 3...2...1...)

    Nakamura is light, "springy" and just a wee bit sassy - that is, until she goes mad. Then she's a wild, flailing disastrously distraught young woman suffering from her first - and only - heartbreak. (Oh if only she had listened to her mama...*Sigh*) Nakamura captured Giselle's devastation and rode that crazy train all the way through to the last stop. Bravo!

    Resident "lady killer" Duke Albrecht was performed by the incomparable Lucien Postlewaite. This charming seducer is dangerously handsome, arrogant, headstrong and ever so slightly intoxicated by his own charm. He knows darn well that his feelings for Giselle are inappropriate, but the thrill of the hunt is far too enticing to pass up. Later when Giselle breathes her last, Albrecht discovers just how dangerous a woman's emotions can be. (Run, boy! Run!)

    Postlewaite's interpretation applies a fresh streak of color to a beloved canvas. For the first time in my life, I actually felt sorry for Albrecht. (And coming from a major Wili fan...that's huge!)

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura as Giselle, with company dancers in PNB's world premiere staging of Giselle. Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    Hilarion, the third point on this ill-fated love triangle, beautifully performed by Jeffrey Stanton. His interpretation was mature, protective, determined - and later, deeply wounded.  (A  sharp contrast to Postlewaite's "headstrong teenager" Albrecht!) His love for Giselle is evident but like most "good girls", she craves the forbidden love of the "bad boy". (Poor Hilarion.) Not that Hilarion's an angel...I personally enjoyed witnessing Stanton give full vent to Hilarion's anger at the close of Act I. His facial expressions and accusing finger - along with all that vicious brutality directed toward Albrecht - were absolutely yummy!

    You Gave Me the Wilis - and I Love You For It!

    Act II is all about those gorgeously vengeful Wilis! (My favorite!) Maria Chapman - aka Mytha, Queen of the Wilis - was just...just...oh my goodness, I can't even come up with an appropriate word for it. She was that darn good! All those itsy bitsy bourrées transformed her from mere mortal to a delicate wisp of moonlight floating across the stage! (Just watching her made me involuntarily flex my toes in sympathy.)

    Chapman, along with her faithful companions - Moyna (Lindsi Dec) and Zulme (Lesley Rausch) - and the rest of the Wilis - convey an air of sadness that enshrouds (pun intended) their every movement. "Dying before your wedding day?" you gasp. "How dreadful!"

    Not to worry. These diabolical apparitions take out their frustrations every chance they get.  As a matter of fact, this is where the real action begins! (Mmmwaa ha ha ha!)

    Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers as the ghostly Wilis in PNB's world premiere staging of Giselle. Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    The Wilis hold nothing back as they force Hilarion and Albrecht to dance, dance, dance. The poor men are tossed to and fro, their faces drenched with sweat. Gasping for air, they plead for their lives but the Wilis will hear nothing of it. "Sorry, boys!" Chapman, Dec and Rausch seem to say through bitter glares. "There's no ice water in hell!" Ahhh...ruthless, cold and sinister. Perfect! ;)

    Last but by no means least - kudos to the corps de ballet for their outstanding work! All those tight synchronized formations and hopping arabesques - I'd bust a Snoopy dance for joy if it didn't feel somewhat  inappropriate to do so.

    Review by: Denise Opper, Media Relations - Class Act Tutu

    Giselle runs through June 12th. Don't miss your chance to view this extraordinary work of art! To purchase tickets to Pacific Northwest Ballet's Giselle visit PNB.org.

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's Contemporary 4 Thrills & Delights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet's 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

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