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Outgoing PNB directors show off their legacy
Special to The Seattle Times
The whole ballet felt a little like a fervent and extended curtain call. As the farewell production of Pacific Northwest Ballet co-artistic directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, "Silver Lining" is Stowell's nostalgic look back at musical theater traditions, which he choreographed to emphasize the diverse talents of the dancers. It is the perfect vehicle to showcase the finely honed company Stowell and Russell created during their 28-year tenure.
In addition to the terrific dancing, all the other artistic and technical elements of a first-rate company were on display. Conductor Stewart Kershaw and the full PNB orchestra drew the jazz and pizzazz from the diverse Jerome Kern songs, woven together into a lush orchestration by Russell Warner. Ming Cho Lee's big, imagistic set design, with flanking balconies and flashing marquee lights, and Randall G. Chiarelli's lighting evoked glamorous images of Manhattan, Harlem and Paris. David Murin's witty costumes brought out the cheerful 1920s energy of the first act, the funky Cotton Club abandon of the middle section, and the 1930s Fred and Ginger elegance of Act 2.
From the opening number — with more than 40 dancers onstage accompanied by skilled vocal soloists soprano Valerie Piacenti and baritone Erich Parce — to the grand finale, the dancers were in fine form. One of the charming oddities of this ballet is that the dancers sing the chorus numbers. They sang creditably, even breaking into harmonies.
PNB's "Silver Lining" continues at 7:30 p.m. today and June 9-11 with matinees at 2 p.m. today and June 11, 1 p.m. tomorrow. McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street, $20 to $137. 206-441-2424 or www.pnb.org.
The dancing in the vaudeville-flavored first section was upbeat and romantic. Noelani Pantastico and Christophe Maraval in "Till the Clouds Roll By" courted each other with an unfurled umbrella that they tossed and caught at the last possible minute. Seven men dancing in their undershirts brought a macho, blue-collar energy to the leaps and turns of "Who." A pert and sassy Stacy Lowenberg let us enjoy the full comedy of the workout routine "We're Gymnastic."
In the Cotton Club section, Louise Nadeau and Olivier Wevers went all out, dancing with rag-doll abandon in the comically raunchy "Whip-Poor-Will." Carrie Imler's "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" was a little cool but contained undertones of sadness.
Act 2 was all 1930s-style tuxes, champagne and evening gowns. Patricia Barker and Jeffrey Stanton caught the intense sophistication of the period and Stanton's tap dance added to the ambience. Ariana Lallone and Stanko Milov were gorgeously elegant in "The Last Time I Saw Paris."
Kaori Nakamura and Batkhurel Bold languidly turned and spun through clouds of stage fog in a moody and evocative "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." In one turn, Nakamura seems to spiral into a fold, dissolving like a smoke ring in Bold's arms.
The emotional high point of the evening was the Hoffmann House section with Paul Gibson (retired last year but returning as a guest artist) and Nadeau, dancing moodily in front of a lit up Empire State Building. Nadeau's "Why Was I Born" and Gibson's "Some Girl Is on His Mind" caught a sense of intense yearning.
At the finale, the standing ovation of the audience went on for a long time. When Russell and Stowell joined the dancers on stage, accompanied by longtime collaborators Chiarelli and Kershaw, it was an emotional moment of well-deserved recognition.
In addition to the "Silver Lining" performances this week, a one-night-only tribute program next Sunday will feature highlights from the past 28 years and premieres created for the occasion.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company