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pnb: all balanchine – review


All Balanchine
April 15–25
PNB’s Serenade (Angela Sterling photo)
 casting is up • pix • mini-review • links to other reviews • balanchine bits

Mary Bayley’s at City Arts

Balanchine Bits: It’s procrastination, I know…
My mom used to sing this song, and I’ve had its parody playing in my head as I’ve been leafing through Balanchine books. “It’s procrastination, I know…” The review is still to come, but here are some things I’ve been enjoying the past few days:

from Bernard Taper’s Balanchine: A Biography
This pix of a Serenade rehearsal is listed as courtesy of Anatole Chujoy

“Looking at the snapshot, one can readily see why it was felt that ballet dancing was no activity for Americans. It just does not seem possible that anything remotely like a ballet troupe could emerge from this hodgepodge of chubby, self-conscious young women in homely, one-piece bathing suits…  [Balanchine] is the only person in the picture who does not seem to be aware of the manifest hopelessness of the whole enterprise.” [Taper says the woman at the far left looks like a linebacker for the NY Giants!]

from Robert Tracy & Sharon DeLano’s
Balanchine’s Ballerinas: Conversations with the Muses

No photo credit, but caption reads: Elise Reiman and Herbert Bliss in the Second Theme of the Four Temperaments, 1946. 
[That’s Lindsi Dec and Kiyon Gaines’ roles opening night : ) Like the costumes? ]

From the same Balanchine’s Ballerinas book.
Serenade, 1935. [So, one year after its premiere.]
From left to right:
Annabelle Lyon, Ruthanna Boris, Helen Leitch, Holly Howard, and Elise Reiman.  

[Don’t the costumes look Isadora?]

From Bernard Taper’s Balanchine: A Biography

“The angel theme [in Serenade], he said, had been suggested to him by a statue of Eros he once saw. ‘It’s like fate,’ he went on about that part of the ballet. ‘Each man going through the world with his destiny on his back. He meets a woman—he cares for her—but his destiny has other plans.’

“I listened in some amazement as Balanchine went on in this vein, for I had never before heard him discussing the literary content of any of his plotless works, or even admitting that they had any. ‘That’s fascinating,’ I commented. ‘Did you tell any of that to your dancers when you were choreographing the ballet?’

“Balanchine drew back in mock horror. ‘God forbid!’ he said.”


And from Edward M. M. Warburg’s interview in
I Remember Balanchine by Francis Mason
“It was the first performance of Serenade. The dancers stood with their arms raised to the moon and the heavens, and the heavens responded with heavy rain. No moon. We were wiped out. We never got beyond the opening theme…. Mother had to repeat the meal [a buffet for 200 hundred guests.] “It was Sunday, and where do you get the food?” … The next night, June 10, 1934, Serenade went on as scheduled…”

And from Ruthanna Boris’s interview in
I Remember Balanchine by Francis Mason
[I love this book. Plus, it includes interviews with the former PNB ADs.]

  [With Serenade, Balanchine] “was looking for a way to begin. He started talking about Germany. ‘I was there with Diaghilev. There is an awful man there [Hitler]. He looks like me but he has a mustache. The people know him, they love him. When they see him, all people do like that for him.’ I still didn’t know who Mr. Hitler was. ‘I am not such an awful man.’ Balanchine continued, ‘and I don’t have mustache. So maybe for me you put together this. Your hand is high, and then falls down and thrusts forward.’ ”  [Is she saying the opening scene is the flip side of a Nazi salute? That Balanchine was making something beautiful out of something hideous? It’s a huge leap of logic I’m making, but I don’t get it otherwise.]

From Tanaquil LeClerq’s interview in 
Barbara Newman’s Striking a Balance: Dancers Talk about Dancing
[About the original costumes for Four Temperaments; she danced Choleric.] “They were miseries… Seligmann had made wings, red wings, down the whole length of the arm, fingers enclosed, and there was no place to get out. If you got into your costume…and wanted to get out, well, you couldn’t. Once you tied your toeshoe ribbons, that was it.… It gave you a feeling of claustrophobia I can’t describe. All enclosed. Not even gloves with fingers—no fingers at all. It was hideous. So I remember crying, and George came and slit a little piece on the inside palm so I had my index finger out, and that was fine. But also, it made it very hard to give your hand. When you’re doing arabesque in promenade, they grab for something and they don’t know what they’ve got—it’s just a big clump of material.”

From Jean-Pierre Bonnefous‘ interview in 
Barbara Newman’s Striking a Balance: Dancers Talk about Dancing 

[He danced Phlegmatic in Four Temperaments, and he makes the very scary statement that 4Ts is a ballet where you feel] “extraordinary when you are absolutely thin. I can remember doing it—I know it sounds pretentious, but anyway—like those Giacometti statues. It has to feel like that, which is strange because the movements are so full. They don’t feel thin…but dancing it feels like that. You think of taking off all the extra, planing it away, making less and less.” [This is so scary to me. Of course dancers need to be fit; it would be like an editor not being able to spell. And for the sake of those lifting them: light is nice. But Giacometti skinny? Memoirs tell of dancers who get rail thin and can’t dance. We see it, too, onstage from time to time. It’s a shame.]

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Serenade, choreographed by George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust.  Photo © Angela Sterling
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s frickin’ amazing principal dancer Kaori Nakamura (center) with (L-R) corps de ballet dancers Brittany Reid, Leah O’Connor, Abby Relic and Sarah Ricard Orza in Serenade,
choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust.  Photo © Angela Sterling
Sometimes the picture finds the one great moment. 
This picture isn’t that way…it’s actually representative. 
Imler and Postlewaite danced this cleanly throughout the piece. So fresh! They were breath-taking. 
Look at the gorgeous, elegant reflection: Josh Spell and Liora Reshef behind them.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Carrie Imler and Lucien Postlewaite with company dancers in Square Dance, choreographed by George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust.  Photo © Angela Sterling
Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancers Laura Gilbreath and William Lin-Yee in The Four Temperaments, choreographed by George Balanchine. 
They start the ballet…and you know in no uncertain terms that this is about line and angle. They were composed without being boring; that can’t be easy. And boy, did Gilbreath know how to use her long limbs! There’s no flailing; they go exactly where she wants them to: striking. This is the first time I’ve seen this duet where it didn’t seem like the woman was struggling to fit. Smooth, clean partnering: just right!
© The George Balanchine Trust.  Photo © Angela Sterling

By Rosie Gaynor

Just got back from opening night… What a lovely evening! There’s nothing like overdosing on Balanchine. I feel inspired to be an artist, inspired to live in a way that uses every brain cell, every sense, every ounce of passion.

First off: Go. It’s beautiful and fun and bold. The solemn, swirling tulle of Serenade, the breakneck speed of Square Dance, the universe-is-expanding Four Temperaments—I can’t wait to go back for more. There’s some uneven dancing, sure, sure, but overall the dancing is good and some of it is superlatively and thrillingly fabulous. More on that in the full review…

Secondly: If you’ve been thinking of buying Nancy Goldner’s book Balanchine Variations, now is the time to do it. All 3 ballets are covered in this readable, interesting book. $25? Oh, well, it’s worth it. They have it at Amusements at McCaw Hall; I’m sure you can find it elsewhere as well.

Here’s the link for tix at PNB. 

And, if you’re under 25..
25 & Under: Thursday, April 15 & 22, 7:30 pm • Friday, April 16 & 23, 7:30 pm
Are you age 25 or under? Get 1 ticket for $15 or 2 for $25! For tickets call PNB’s Box Office 206.441.2424 or visit 301 Mercer St. Under 25 Friday ticket offer is good Apr. 15, 16, 22 & 23 only. Subject to availability. Not valid on previously purchased tickets. Each attendee must present valid I.D. upon ticket retrieval.

Stacy Lowenberg in Serenade (Angela Sterling photo)
Got some folks out with injuries. The ones I’ve heard about are Stacy Lowenberg (at right), Maria Chapman, and Stanko Milov. But on the bright side, Kiyon Gaines is back on the cast list!
I can’t wait for this program!
– Rosie