PNB Offers Balanchine, Wheeldon, and Others at Season Encore

Written by Kristen Legg
On Sunday, June 10, 2012, Pacific Northwest Ballet presented their Season Encore Performance at McCaw Hall. On the program were excerpts of four works by George Balanchine and two by Christopher Wheeldon, along with works from Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, David Dawson, and Jean-Christophe Maillot. Overall, the program was heavily balletic, as opposed to past seasons that have included more modern-based works. Even so, each presented work represented a different stylistic era from these choreographic greats.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Lucien Postlewaite
takes a final curtain call during PNB’s
Season Encore Performance. 
Photo © Lindsay Thomas
The evening opened with the first movement from Balanchine’s Divertimento from “Le Baiser de la Fée.” This short, light work served as the first goodbye of the evening to Corps de Ballet member Abby Relic, who is leaving PNB to pursue other artistic passions (some involving her love of hip hop). At the end curtain call, each dancer brought Relic a handful of flowers, creating a beautiful bouquet for this lovely dancer. As she stood awkwardly in her pointe shoes and waved to the cheering audience, it was clear how well-liked this corps member really was. While not one of Balanchine’s more memorable works, Divertimentodid allow some of Relic’s fellow corps members to shine. Leta Biasucci performed the soloist role well, and Jessika Anspach and Brittany Reid shined in their yellow dresses—dancing in perfect unison.

Rachel Foster and Batkhurel Bold gave a stunning performance of the pas de deux from After the Rain pas de deux, part of a larger Wheeldon work that premiered at PNB in 2008. Foster’s sculpted legs and impeccable balance matched perfectly with Bold’s powerful stature and understated grace. The simplest of moves—rotating flicks of the arms during a port de bras—become important in Bold’s careful presentation.

In a touching tribute to the dancers leaving PNB this season—Relic and Seattle’s favorite Principal Lucien Postlewaite—Artistic Director, Peter Boal, spoke both of his interest in Relic, a Professional Division student at the time when he first arrived at the company, and of how dear his time with Postlewaite had been. What stood out was how equally Boal cared for the two dancers of different internal ranks.

In the pas de deux from Balanchine’s 1929 Prodigal Son, Postlewaite and Soloist Laura Gilbreath portrayed the title character and the Siren well. The abstract choreography lent itself to highlighting the pair’s theatricality and partnering skills, but did not, perhaps, highlight Postlewaite’s full range of technical prowess to the extent one might hope for a final send off.

Next on the docket was Wheedon’s Carousel (A Dance). Set to the music of Richard Rodgers, this modern interpretation of the dream ballet sequence is the type of work PNB excels at. The men soared through the air and hit classic Jerome Robbins-esque lines with ease, all with sensational performance quality. Sarah Ricard Orza and Jerome Tisserand’s partnering took the audience on a journey through naïve young romance, male domination, and ever-lasting love. Relic received another curtain call bouquet for her lovely performance in this energetic work.

In Apollo, Postlewaite again graced the stage with his wit, charm, and ability. For the Season Encore Performance, Carla Körbes, Kylee Kitchens, and Lesley Rausch were cast perfectly as his three Muses. With Postlewaite’s first strum of his lute, magic filled the air. Kitchens’ appendages seemed to go on for miles as Calliope. Rausch’s mime variation, with one hand at her face throughout, was spectacular to see. Körbes was mesmerizing, both on her own and in her duet with Postlewaite. The cast was perfectly in synch, balanced in both performance and energy. The four danced as one; even when two were off stage, those who remained seemed to dance for the group as a whole.

A short film using the first movement from Cylindrical Shadows was an interesting addition to the program. The film shows the cast in a number of recognizable Seattle locations, performing Lopez Ochoa’s work. The film was seen earlier this season by a small audience at NextFest’s Next Dance Cinema presented by Velocity Dance Center. At that showing, videographer Lindsay Thomas mentioned that it was difficult filming in so many locations in such a short period of time, as the dancers’ contracts require equity breaks at scheduled times, cutting into filming. This time-crunch showed, as the video simply faded out, just as the music and momentum of the work were building.

A Million Kisses to my Skin was another highlight of the evening, with a cast of nine dancers moving at top speed, throwing their limbs about as if they desperately wanted to rid them of extra baggage. Dawson’s work had its PNB premiere in March of this year. While new to the company’s repertory, the dancers performed it as if they were born knowing the choreography. Of note was Andrew Bartee, who seems to have gained confidence and a greater stage presence since he started working with Whim W’Him. The only disappointment in this presentation was the replacement of Joshua Grant with Bold. Bold’s muscular build and personalized style did not fit well with this particular cast.

For Postlewaite’s final performance at PNB, he and long-time partner Kaori Nakamura recreated Maillot’s version of the balcony scene from Roméo et Juliette. The two pair so well together, and nothing new can be said about their brilliance in these roles. What was most touching about this performance was the curtain call. Postlewaite, ever the gentleman, continued to bring Nakamura forward with him for each bow, while she tried to step back and let him have the applause he deserved. In the end, the crowd stood and Postlewaite took his final official bow on the PNB stage.

The evening ended cheerily with an excerpt from Act III of Coppélia. The stage was filled with flowers and sparkles with Biasucci and James Moore as Swanhilda and Franz. Moore gave a stunning bravura performance, though perhaps nothing will ever compare to his Mopey presented in 2005. Relic was highlighted as a Jesterette, ballotté-ing almost the entire piece.

PNB has concluded another successful season and has a spectacular line-up planned for next season. For more information on upcoming events, visit http://www.pnb.org/Season/12-13/. The company will present NEXT STEP, featuring choreography by six current company members and performed by Professional Division students on June 16, as well. 

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One Response to “PNB Offers Balanchine, Wheeldon, and Others at Season Encore”
  1. sandi kurtz says:

    It was a very juicy evening — including Allan Galli presenting Relic’s second bouquet, riding in on one of the donkeys from Don Quixote!

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