PNB season begins with timeless Balanchine
To paraphrase Samuel Johnson: When a person is tired of Balanchine, he or she is tired of life. The great choreographer's ballets, in their...
Seattle Times arts critic
"All Balanchine," 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28 and 29; and 1 p.m. Sept. 30; Pacific Northwest Ballet, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $20-150 (206-441-2424 or www.pnb.org).
To paraphrase Samuel Johnson: When a person is tired of Balanchine, he or she is tired of life.
The great choreographer's ballets, in their astonishing variety, never grow old, and Pacific Northwest Ballet's energetic "All Balanchine" program demonstrated this anew at Thursday night's season-opener. The three selections, emphasizing the breadth of Balanchine's creativity, each had a distinct mood and style; each could be defined by its distinct central pas de deux.
"Square Dance," back in PNB's repertory after a 22-year absence, opened the evening on a fresh, breezy note, full of clean-lined arms and very precise kicking-up of heels. Principal dancers Noelani Pantastico and Jonathan Porretta performed a restrained yet joyous pas de deux, her high arabesques delicately mirroring his raised arms. It's a pleasant change to see Porretta, who usually dances with wild and irresistible abandon, rein himself in so elegantly; in his solo, he soared with smiling ease.
Lucien Postlewaite, a young dancer just promoted to soloist rank, showed himself in "Prodigal Son" to be possessed of prodigious gifts; he's not only a fine technician, with an airy leap and perfectly balanced pirouettes, but an affecting actor. Based on the biblical parable and choreographed by a 24-year-old Balanchine for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, "Prodigal Son" is a highly stylized, haunting work, and a showcase for the dancer in its title role.
Its central pas de deux, between the Son and the red-garbed Siren (Ariana Lallone, who also danced a wonderfully slinky pas de deux with her own velvet cape as partner) is like none other in ballet. He lifts her not by the usual effortless ballet arms, but by placing his head between her legs, and their partnered pirouette is slow and stomping — this is a reluctant but inevitable pairing. The ballet's final moment (which Balanchine would later borrow for "La Sonnambula") left the audience hushed, as the Son's stoic father (Otto Neubert) welcomed him home again.
After an intermission, we were transported to yet another world: the tutus, tiaras and chandeliers of "Ballet Imperial," with PNB's orchestra playing a sweeping Tchaikovsky score. Kaori Nakamura and Batkhurel Bold soared in a classical pas de deux, reminiscent of Petipa's "Swan Lake" in its whirling grandeur, but with unexpected innovations (such as a turn on a flat foot) of its own. What a joy it must be to dance Balanchine — and what a joy it is to watch, when performed so well.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com
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