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Saturday, March 20, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Dance Review
'Romantics' pairings at PNB pay tribute to blossoming love

By Moira Macdonald
Seattle Times arts critic

ANGELA STERLING
Ariana Lallone and Olivier Wevers dance in the world premiere of Nicolo Fonte's "Within/Without."
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There's a signature pose in Nicolo Fonte's breathtaking new work "Within/Without," which made its world premiere Thursday at Pacific Northwest Ballet: a dancer curled on the floor in a pool of light, one arm and one leg extended, as if reaching for something unattainable. In the ballet's central pas de deux, Ariana Lallone stretched out at the feet of Olivier Wevers, who slowly lifted her by her extended arm and leg. The effect was stunning; like a tree being raised by its roots, a quiet moment of great power, made melancholy by the wistful twist of Lallone's long limbs.

The dance, a dark, abstract ballet set to three pieces of music by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, was the standout in an enjoyable evening of four repertory works grouped under the theme "The Romantics." Fonte, whose previous work for PNB was "Almost Tango" in 2002, has great imagination and range. "Within/Without" balances beautifully between ballet and modern dance; with soft slippers and flexed feet mingling with perfectly balanced arabesques and quicksilver turns. Costumed in soft greens and lit in bright, stark white, the dance has a desolate, lonely feel to it, even in the ensemble sections.

Lallone and Wevers brought an achingly sad precision to their intricate duet, echoing the dark tones of the music. Fonte even incorporated baritone Erich Parce as an element of the choreography: He brought a new tension with him as he walked slowly downstage, an intruder in black, and extended an arm to the dancers — echoing the ballet's theme pose — before beginning his solo.

At the end, the entire cast surged on stage in a swarm of movement before retreating to separate, melancholy worlds; as darkness fell, some were on the floor, some walking slowly upstage, arms reaching for something that wasn't there.

Dance review


"The Romantics," Pacific Northwest Ballet, 2 and 7:30 p.m. today, 1 and 6:30 p.m. tomorrow, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $16-$125 (206-441-2424 or www.pnb.org).
Fonte's work, which had many audience members on their feet cheering, dominated the evening, but there were other pleasures. Kent Stowell's 1988 Chopin ballet "A Delicate Balance" was a soft, pretty curtain-raiser, nicely establishing the evening's romantic mood (and showcasing, briefly, the marvelously soaring leaps of Le Yin).

Less felicitous was the evening's other world premiere, Stowell's short pas de deux "Dual Lish," set to an onstage piano duet composed by William Bolcom. Noelani Pantastico and Jonathan Porretta are charming performers, but the straightforward dance added up to little more than pleasantness. And it lacked a real connection between the dancers — they were always side-by-side but rarely together.

The evening ended with the ultimate in romantic ballet: Paul Taylor's "Roses," a dreamlike, pastoral ode to courtship, performed by six couples. Love blossomed throughout: a hand floating gently to touch a partner's head, a head bending toward a partner's shoulder, a playful series of cartwheels, as if happiness had become too much to hold — a nice note on which to send us out into a windy evening, with romance still in the air.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com


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