Sunday, September 25, 2011

All Wheeldon proves to be All Genius

Pacific Northwest Ballet Presents:


Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Artistic Director: Peter Boal

Sept 23-Oct 2, 2011
McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA.

Pacific Northwest Ballet comes out of the gates for its 2011-2012 season like a prize winning show horse with these amazing series of works from England born dancer turned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.

The PNB dancers were like refined tools working with Wheeldon's fluid, emotional and mesmerizing choreography. Here are my thoughts on all 4 pieces. We had two friends attending with us that night, one was a virgin to ballets, so this was his first impression and the other had only been to a handful. I will pepper in their opinions as well, because first impressions are important to me.

Carousel (A Dance) was the first up. Principle dancers Seth Orza and Carla Korbes carried this piece and Korbes made it hard to take your eyes off her. The romantic love story between the two was easy for even amateur patrons to feel. 30 some rows back, we could hear Korbes small gasps during the back and forth between the two lovers. Orza, who seems leaner and slimmed down this year (which I saw as a good thing, makes him seem softer), was tender, careful and thoughtful in every movement, I got goosebumps every time he gently grabbed Korbes by her small waist. Their chemistry wasn't electric, but I don't think that's what Wheeldon wanted. It was sweet, soft and cherishing. Honestly its difficult for me to comment on the other dancers, as my eyes followed those two the entire time. My friend who had only been to a few ballets in the past said "This piece was visually so happy and lovely and Korbes was so lovely, she made it seem effortless!".

After the Rain pas de deux with Principle dancers Maria Chapman and Karel Cruz. One word. Unbelievable. A single violin, heart stopping silences between the notes and a breathtaking union on stage. In my few years as a PNB patron and fan, I have been rather indifferent about Chapman, initially because she was out with an injury for an entire season, and upon her return, her roles were few and far between - so getting a taste of her true talent wasn't easy.

She has won me over. Her slim and stacked facility in the nude leotard costume, and amazing arches, made for a beautiful sight. The strong, chiseled arms of Cruz were a perfect match for her, as he seemed to effortlessly partner her with fluidity and grace - he was able to convey power in the silences that was almost deafening and was gentle but present with the small cut body of Chapman. There was a point of the dance where I couldn't tell where Chapman ended and Cruz began, they were so seamless. Overall my favorite piece of the night - it showed not only brilliance on the part of the Wheeldon, but also the caliber of artistry in the seasoned dancers at PNB under Boals direction. My friend new to the ballet said "This one was my favorite, the violins were perfect and the dancers showed SO much control and athleticism, it was unreal.".

Polyphonia was the piece we all agreed was the least enjoyed, mainly the music made it difficult to focus, but a few of the Principle dancers in the piece, Carla Korbes, Kaori Nakamura, the newly promoted Rachel Foster, and Lucien Postlewaite.

The maturity and fluidity of these dancers made them easily outshine the rest. I wish the solo's in this piece would have showcased more of Postlewaite, Nakamura and Korbes - who I feel add more emotion and feeling in their upper body work of dance than the others in this piece.

The final piece of the night, Variations Serieuses - was the only piece I had seen before. Several years back, PNB performed this as a part of a series called Laugh Out Loud. It stuck with me over the years as I have always remembered it. This time didn't disappoint. It is a comedy and almost a parody of the dance world. With exaggerated depictions of characters everyone in the dance community sees on a daily bases - the piano accompanist, the ballet master, the "diva", the male "lead" and the diamond in the rough/cinderella type dancer.

The entire group did this piece justice. Boal/Wheeldon picked the best dancers for the acting parts in this piece. I have always personally thought that there are several PNB dancers that are rather emotion-less when they dance, so I was happy the ones with the acting rolls, could actually act. Major applause for Laura Gilbreath as the "diva prima ballerina" as she showed fuming rage and total devastation brilliantly. Jonathan Porretta was hilarious as the Ballet Master, Seth Orza was funny as the Premier Danseur - however I wonder how much of that was type cast ;) and last but certainly not least, I LOVED Lindsi Dec as the Stage Manager, she ALMOST stole the show in my opinion.

This show has me more than ready to see what Boal and his company has in store for the rest of the season. You have one more weekend to go and see All Wheeldon - get your tickets at

Review - **** brilliant piece of work!!

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