May 25th, 2012
In May, Seattle experienced a major dance event with 53 performers on stage and Olivier Wevers producing his best work ever – Whim W’him’s Approaching Ecstasy. The 86-minutes of music was composed by Eric Banks in a Paris attic, and the poems sung a capella (again, for 86 minutes, in English and in Greek) by his 40+ member Esoterics, some of whom danced on stage as well. Banks wrote the music to 18 sensuous poems by the 19th century Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (the audience is treated to just 18 of the hundreds of superb poems Cavafy wrote). It took the composer, choreographer, and other members of the production team four years to get all those artists on stage – well worth the wait for such a memorable performance.
The astounding concert featured the haunting music of Banks and vocal performance by his Esoterics, Seattle masters of contemporary a cappella. The choral setting that Banks provided for Cavafy’s erotic poems was, quite literally, a masterpiece – 18 vignettes, with Wevers’ 18 pieces of choreography – a rightful homage to the closeted gay poet. Every detail of the performance paid tribute to this 19th century quiet man-hero, who lived his life in an office, in a business suit (similar to the one the 53 performers wear on stage). The eerie scenic design, the underplayed overhead lighting, the gut wrenching music expertly played by the St Helens String Quartet (led by the magnificent Michael Jinsoo Lim) – all were utterly remarkable At the premiere, the music and chorus were beautifully amped and the dance was understated, striking.
Wonder how this will play in Europe.
For dancer Lucien Postlewaite, this was his last performance for Whim W’him (and husband Olivier Wevers) as a Seattleite (he joins Les Ballets de Monte Carlo in August). Their professional and love relationship is so strong, it is clear it will thrive, even as a multicontinental one (see my articles in February (http://dancemagazine.com/issues/February-2012/Putting-a-ring-on-it) and July (forthcoming) issues of Dance Magazine. For now, Wevers focuses on his major upcoming gig at the Joyce, and commissions worldwide – while young Lucien is Europe-bound.
Ecstasy. It was indeed provided by dancers Jim Kent, Tory Peil, Shane Ohmer, Lucien Postlewaite, Andrew Bartee, Chalnessa Eames, and Kaori Nakamura (who, herself, plays the ephemeral ecstatic state). Kudos to these daring dancers and their inspired choreographer. Anastasia Armes costumed the huge stage ensemble, Jeff Forbes created the 19th-century feel and singular ambience, and Casey Curran set the stage for a shocking piece that deserves a five-year run in some theater, in some lucky city, in some welcoming country.
For more on Seattle dance, see http://www.dancemagazine.com/reviews/January-2011/Whim-WHim and http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/January-2011/Seattle-Takes-Off).
A shorter version of this review appears at http://www.4dancers.org/
April 10th, 2012
Don Quixote represents the impossible dream in a number of ways — in classical ballet, it carries the most demanding of roles for the endless tricks and the merciless stamina demands (especially with big jumps, hopping on pointe, and the wickedly fast speed requirements). Buried in the pyrotechnics, though, is the most lovely of moves. See bold below (excerpts from Don Quixote review and feature, Dance International, forthcoming).
The technical proficiency of the casts made the entire performance very easy to watch each time – the acting made it positively enjoyable. The returning Kitris (Imler and Nakamura had performed the role 11 years ago in an earlier production at PNB) indeed made a big splash. Carrie Imler appeared absolutely vital on stage, smoothly accomplishing the signature Kitri move – a grand jeté with back leg bending to reach the head. Put a tutu on Imler (as in Act III) and she channels 19th century classical ballet with ease…….
Leads Kaori Nakamura and Lucien Postlewaite offered a partnership of impeccable timing and skill. Nakamura performed something rare to see in ballet, the “floating illusion — a grand jeté with the dancer appearing to move in a horizontal direction, due to the timely positioning of her arms. For Nakamura and Postlewaite, their overhead one-arm lifts together looked effortless, Nakamura daringly removed both hands, suspending precariously in mid air on the arm of Postlewaite – Nakamura then waved her fan as if to taunt the astonished audience.
See Finding Balance: Fitness and Training for a Lifetime in Dance, Ch. 3, for more.
April 10th, 2012
A Million Kisses to my Skin (David Dawson), Cylindrical Shadows (Annabelle Lopez Ochoa), and Mating Theory (Victor Quijada) showcased Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers extraordinaire in the March program in Seattle. Virtually all lead dancers were featured in this program with big (and much) dancing. The dancers’ remarkable development showed.
Dawson’s piece is pure delight — a retrospective of and perspective on every piece of dance vocabulary he knows. The choreography is acclaimed as “expansive.” Right. It is all about (expansive) arms. When querying the choreographer during the intermission, he claimed that, in his pieces, the dancers’ arms give out way before any stamina or endurance threat to another body part. The arms are huge, and never ending. Dawson’s work is a choice endurance test — just this side of circus…and all the more palatable because of its bold, spectacle quality.
Ochoa’s pice about disturbance and survival, about finding one’s position in a mêlée of cultural crash and burn is utterly thrilling — as performed by Olivier Wever’s Whim W’him, and now, PNB….Quijada’s new work is the rule of clean, cool, and hip — and a pleasure to watch.
April 10th, 2012
Yet another three new dance creations from Whim W’him’s Olivier Wevers this past January at Seattle’s Intiman Theater (the company is in residence there) — extraordinary, memorable, provocative work.
What does this groundbreaking choreographer offer?
Haunting music, images of the brave and the broken, wild women and ritualistic or stylized violence. ThrOwn is plain chilling — with all the atmospheric costume/set/lighting design and the extreme dancing, Wevers offers a tribal call and response. In La Langue de l’Amour, Chalnessa Eames is playful, versatile, naughty — Wevers’ gumby doll who can do anything. In Flower Festival, the masterful Andrew Bartee and Lucien Postlewaite (LP, sadly, is Les Ballets de Monte Carlo-bound) dance a contemporary striptease to Edvard Helsted’s classical fare with big imagination and the inventive intent to match. Bravo, to Mr. Wevers and his bold dancers!
August 8th, 2011
So You Think You Can Dance?
Each week I watch So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), sometimes with morbid fascination – how can these dancers keep on going without getting injured? What clever things are the judges going to say? How emotional can this show get? Especially in the play-offs each week?
One thing is for sure, the show is highlighting choreography and choreographers. I remember a piece I wrote in 1988 for the LA Reader, “The Oscar that Hollywood Forgot” – a piece on the short-lived Oscar for choreography (in the 1930s). It was awarded for only three years. Then, the Oscar category disappeared. Now, the Oscar had been traded for an Emmy – and choreographers like Tabitha and Napoleon D’Umo, Sonya Tayeh, Travis Wall, Mandy Moore, are rising to the top, along with their dancers.
This season, I followed the show closely. I am fascinated with how it’s catapulted into fame some of these choreographers (and dancers). Bravo! Each week is full of both life lessons and tips. If you watch very closely.
August 8th, 2011
Goodbye: Season Encore Performance
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Hello: Career transitions
PNB’s June encore program this year was particularly bittersweet – with seven stellar dancers leaving the company — most transitioning to different careers in dance, as I reported in Dance Magazine (June and July issues). So many lovely dances, including Kylian’s Petite Mort with Chalnessa Eames, Ariana Lallone and others. Departing dancers, in particular, showed the focus and strength demanded by Kylian’s wildly clever piece. Stacy Lowenberg’s Rushed Goodbye (a duet with Karel Cruz) was lovely and lyrical, and Jeffery Stanton and Lesley Rausch heated up the house in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. Eames was her stunning, lucid and fluid self in Nine Sinatra Songs (danced with Jerome Tisserand), Jeffrey Stanton an utterly romantic partner to Carla Korbes in Who Cares? Stanton and Lallone were particularly honored for their long years of service at PNB with a file montage of their lives. They returned the favor of recognition by dancing in their signature pieces – Stanton in his solo in Silver Lining and Lallone sweeping the stage with Lambarena. Longtime PNB principal Olivier Wevers was acknowledged with Andree Bartee and Lucien Postlewaite dancing in his widely-acclaimed Monster. What more can I say? Encore! Please. Wevers obliged with sold-out performances of Whim W’Him’s June program. With gorgeous performers, a willing theater, and Wever’s trademark wit and honesty, his new company is here in Seattle to stay.
May 29th, 2011
Common wisdom/practice among arts critics is to avoid the adjective “interesting” – probably because it is so vague and ambiguous. Meaning everything, it means nothing.
I think if we take it to mean “singularly worth watching,” “a different sort of dancer worth watching,” or “a dancer you have to watch”…meaning, your attention is immediately drawn to that dancer (in fact, a dancer “drawing you in” is precisely what one wants to have happen on stage), then the word actually has meaning.
In Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Midsummer Night’s Dream run, quite a few dancers earned such an accolade and some of the most notable characters were:
Kylee Kitchens (ethereal, waiflike, eerie, mesmerizing)
Lesley Rausch (ebullient, lithe, single-minded, gracious, beautiful timing)
Carla Korbes (passionate yet wild, joyous, playful)
Jonathan Porretta’s Puck was so electrifying he looked like he was channeling – quirky but esoteric, lightening fast and so exaggerated that he really did seem other-worldly
Interpretations widely varied – from Lucien Postlewaite’s noble, dignified Oberon to Benjamin Griffith’s controlled, technical rendering
Here, we were treated to Brittany Reid’s dizzying, majestic turns (she’s one crazy turner), Carrie Imler’s utter confidence and seamless, exciting jumps, Ariana Lallone’s authoritative, precise, gracious queen.
This is a handsome, grand production, threatening to overpower the dancers in grandeur (scenery) and cuteness (small children as bugs), but the dancing steals the show really, as does the powerful music, Mendelssohn’s music (a particular challenge for the violins, but admirable met) was glorious.
In other characterizations, most interesting were Chalnessa Eames’ bright but delicate Butterfly, Jeffrey Stanton and Maria Chapman’s emotional Demetrius and Helena, Stacy Lowenberg’s dreamy Helena, Barry Karolis’s attentive Bottom, and Coryphe Jessika Anspach in anything (what a delightful, affable dancer). Lastly, truly remarkable was Olivier Wevers and Kaori Nakamura in the Act II Divertissement (one they have danced together often) — a lovely, lyrical, expansive dance; these two dance comfortably together, with much nuance, tenderness, and awareness. Sadly, Wevers retires from PNB this season (as does Stanton, Lallone, Eames, Lowenberg, Karolis, and Stanko Milov and Josh Spell). Most, however, are moving on to great and exciting projects – happily, many in Seattle.
April 2nd, 2011
Canadian dancer/choreographer Crystal Pite and company, Kidd Pivot, wowed audiences at On the Boards in February with her allegorical Dark Matters. Ostensibly, the title of her new work refers to both states of physics and of the human condition. But for me, the piece was more about the gut (human condition) than about the neutrino. With music by Vancouver composer and long-time collaborator Owen Belton, this piece was an electrifying essay on risk and regret.
Pite’s cautionary tale features the creation (a puppet) of a solitary artist (the amazing Peter Chu). But this tiny, gutsy, autonomous doll, assisted by several able-bodied dancers clothed in black, performs stunning back-leaps and other creepy moves that are altogether maleficent. Sometimes its actions — a genuflection, say, are outright poignant. Pite’s moves for the dancers are grand, clean, smooth, and coherent — every part of the body seems to be communicating with the other. What then follows is a catastrophic pas de deux in which personae and environment are completely ruined due to lack of self-control and self-awareness. The movement is gorgeous and unpredictable. Brimming with pathos, it’s a piece I would see over and over again.
February 21st, 2011
- Childrenz Muzeum (photo at On the Boards, Washington Hall, 1986). Pictured: L to R; Lee Carrillo, Eric Brown, Judy Pettet, Eric Nutt, Arturo Peal (also Composer), Rick Krause, Lynn Jacobson. Music: Arturo Peal, Set and Lighting Design: Beliz Brother Photo: Beliz Brother
HERE IS THE LINK TO MY JANUARY FEATURE ON THE SEATTLE DANCE SCENE Seattle_0111
February 15th, 2011
See my blogpost on nourishing foods! http://resilientfarmsnourishingfoods.blogspot.com/2011/02/more-nourishing-foods-from-holidays.html
Nourishing foods for dancers (low sugar, rich in nutritious fats)