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Bumbershoot 2009

Pacific Northwest Ballet

by Dean Speer

September 7, 2009 -- Bagley Wright Theatre, Seattle

I have to publically admit that I secretly enjoy one of the benefits of being part of the press corps at events -- not having to wait in lines. I was nearly gleefully giddy as we were led to the front to get our credentials and be directed to the media holding tank.

One of my other hidden secrets is reveling in the carnival-like atmosphere -- the booths and food, and in my particular case, communing with an especially yummy and hot Russian salmon piroski from Lydia Barrett's Kaleenka. A tangible and fond memory of the person who altered my career course.

Lastly, it's a secret yet open pleasure to enjoy Pacific Northwest Ballet out of its usual opera house home. While only a short jog from it, the size of the Bagley Wright Theatre -- house and stage -- lend an intimacy to the proceedings, and the nature of the Bumbershoot wall-to-wall arts scheduling drives what PNB presents.

Four contemporary works selected by Artistic Director Peter Boal represented PNB's modern side. From the male solo "Mopey" with the amazing James Moore to a French style punch-gestured balcony scene from a new "Romeo and Juliette" to a group of women worshipping on a hot muggy day in the Deep South to a spiffy new duet for two men.

I should mention that the house was packed to the rafters with throngs of arts-goers who applauded heartily and -- in a couple of cases -- cheered for the hard-working dancers.

If you might be an average ballet fan and think that ballet only comes in pointe shoes and tutus, this would have been an eye-opening adventure for you. Only the "Romeo and Juliette" pas de deux had any pointe work and was the most balletic. Carla Körbes and Lucien Postlewaite were lovely as the star-crossed young lovers. While filled with many yearning reaches and very heart-felt, my only choreographic fuss would be that it is choppy and not legato enough to sustain over-arching phrasing -- which Körbes was more than doing her best to do. It could use a more "singing" or cantabile line.

Structure is at the heart of Ulysses Dove's "Vespers." It's clear where he is going with his idea, and it builds logically. I like how he used some compositional tools effectively, such as repetition. Each of the six women -- Rachel Foster, Carrie Imler, Kylee Kitchens, Margaret Mullin, Leah O'Connor, and Lesley Rausch -- brought the right touch of deep sorrow to the work. Their unison was notable, giving the effect that they were each of a shared experience.

"Ultimatum" wasn't. This title tends to suggest an either/or mandate, as in "Do this, or else!" Choreographer Olivier Wevers should allow himself more danger and edge -- it was as if the choreography hinted at more excitement than it actually allowed. A move toward muted colors when we wanted vibrant hues. Never the less, excellently performed by a pair of PNB's best, Jonathan Porretta and Postlewaite. I liked Wevers' premise and movement motifs. I'd encourage some re-working and ramping up the energy, particularly given the caliber of the performers.

Bumbershoot is an event that many Seattle culture vultures, like me, look forward to each year and this one proved to be a strong outing for PNB's new friends and old fans.


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