This is the first review for the Dynamic Duo and they knock it out of the park. It is like having a conversation with your friends after a ballet performance… but better… because by day they are kick butt engineers for Boeing… and by night they are former ballerinas, turned balletomanes, turned ballet reviewers. Personally, I want to thank them for joining a Ballet Education, basically for free… It is a lot of work to review a ballet performance… not to mention have me as your editor… So, here they take on Pacific Northwest Ballet‘s 6/12/2016 performance of American Stories.
By: Colette Posse and Susie Boyland (pictured below L to R)
By: Colette Posse and Susie Boyland
The first of three pieces was Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, which portrays three sailors on shore leave during WWII in NYC as they interact with each other and flirt with passing women.
Colette: American Stories was such a fun production to watch!
Susie: Having only vague memories of seeing Fancy Free years ago by a company I don’t remember, I was very much looking forward to seeing it again. Pacific Northwest Ballet did not disappoint!
Colette: Agreed! Seth Orza, Jonathan Porretta, and James Moore were fantastic actors and were just hilarious playing off of each other. I loved the attention to detail in their acting as well—like shaking hands behind their backs (toward the audience) when two of them would play a prank on the third. I didn’t know how you could get so much story telling out of such a simple plot setup—essentially just some guys and gals in a bar—but Robbins kept us entertained. Whether it was trying to impress the girls, competing with each other, or just messing around, there’s plenty of story throughout the piece. Jonathan Porretta was especially great in his solo with both his amazing jumps and funny demeanor.
Susie: Porretta’s solo was my favorite of the three, but overall PNB’s casting of the sailors was excellent. Coupled with their outstanding technique and bravado, they played their characters the way that they were meant to be played. Fancy Free is humorous, and these three gentlemen succeeded in making the audience laugh frequently.
Colette: Though the women were not as featured, Noelani Pantastico stood out and really knew how to use body language and facial expressions to tell a story.
Susie: Her name always makes me think of the word “fantastic” and deservedly so! Noelani matched both the acting abilities and technical proficiency of the men. The three sailors fought for her attention, teasing her by tossing her purse around; though that scene with three men tossing a woman’s purse around on a dark city street while she tries desperately to retrieve it did make me slightly uncomfortable. Sarah Ricard Orza joined Noelani partway through and is one of my favorite PNB dancers. She seems to be underrated but I find her to be a more compelling performer than many of the company’s principal dancers. I am always glad to see her in featured roles! Her lines are beautiful, her acting is great, and she is always a joy to watch. Near the end, we got to see Elle Macy display her acting abilities as well. Her part in the ballet was short, but she exuded sensuality, causing the men to “ooh” and “ah” over her resulting in a comical end to the piece.
The second piece in the show, George Balanchine’s Square Dance, was a piece inspired by several types of partnering dances, including its namesake.
Colette: Despite its title, Square Dance was still quite classical both musically and choreographically. I’m a big Vivaldi fan, so this worked for me ☺
Susie: Haha, I am NOT a Vivaldi fan, but thankfully the beautiful dancing distracted me from the music! I was a bit confused at first as to why a ballet set to music by Vivaldi and Corelli and danced in leotards, skirts, and pointe shoes was called Square Dance, but it soon became clearer: it was a ballet slightly influenced by square dancing even though there was no literal square dancing involved. Kyle Davis was generally the “caller” who would perform a step and then the group of dancers behind him would repeat that step. Leta Biasucci often took on this role too.
Colette: Ah I see what you’re saying. I liked that this was a high-energy piece with a TON of petit allegro—props to the dancers for making it through this, let alone making it look easy. The clear standout here was Leta Biasucci. Everything she did was just ON POINT (or should I say en pointe?). She was crisp, clean, and made her steps look huge despite her small stature. Balanchine would be proud!
Susie: Nice pun ☺ I doubt there is anyone in frequent attendance of PNB’s performances who doesn’t know that Leta Biasucci is a rising star. Her technique is incredibly polished and I didn’t see any errors on her part throughout the entire piece. Her upper body is always calm and poised while her lower body is crisp and faultless; i.e. exactly what my ballet teachers always wanted from us. She’s not the typical PNB dancer, i.e. tall women with legs for days, but that contrast she provides against the others makes her stand out in a positive light. When watching Leta, I never doubt that she is going to successfully complete a turn, while the same cannot be said for most of the company. Sometimes there are even principal dancers at PNB who will fall out of a double pirouette. For the record, I love PNB’s principal dancers, but just because they have attained the highest rank doesn’t necessarily mean that they are necessarily the best dancers in the company.
Colette: Definitely. I also like that PNB has diversity in terms of skills; I can see that each dancer has his/her specialties and that really works to the company’s advantage in attaining a varied repertoire. That keeps gems like Leta from being overlooked!
Waiting at the Station portrays a man as he attempts to connect with his son and pass on his steps before he must surrender to the three gilded Fates that seek him out.
Colette: Waiting at the Station was probably my favorite piece of the night. Based on the description alone I thought it’d be identical to Fancy Free, but boy was I wrong! Every aspect of this piece was so well-done. The 1940s jazz music and the dynamic choreography were so fun I wanted to get up and dance it myself. Twyla Tharp put an excellent jazzy spin on ballet here. The ensemble constantly dancing in the background made the piece feel like it was moving at a fast pace while the various stories unfolded downstage. The vignettes were even more numerous here than in Fancy Free—I had to pay close attention to all parts of the stage to catch everything that was going on!
Susie: I’m glad you were able to somewhat figure out what was going on because I had no idea until afterwards! Based on the title of this ballet I was confused at first when the set didn’t look all that station-like, except for perhaps the clock in the corner, but I stopped caring about that too much shortly after that thought passed through my mind because this ballet was fun and highly enjoyable. In retrospect, I suppose the “station” was a metaphor for the end of life. I probably should’ve done a better job reading the program before this ballet started – oops.
Colette: I don’t blame you; I only understood because I had glanced at the program first. I liked the life metaphors though. In addition, the three gilded fates (Chelsea Adomaitis, Elle Macy, and Sarah Pasch) were especially fun to watch. All three ladies were unafraid to make big, sweeping movements but kept them clean and in sync.
Susie: I called them the “Golden Mushrooms” based on their costumes, and for all I understood about the story at that point, they could’ve been playing mushrooms. They were a great trio and whether mushrooms, fates, or something else entirely, I enjoyed watching them.
Colette: The only criticism I have of this piece was the somewhat awkward partnership of Laura Tisserand and Jonathan Porretta. By themselves they each were able to show off their strengths: Laura’s long, beautiful lines; and Jonathan’s quickness and great character acting. Together however, it seemed like they struggled a bit and had to be more careful since she was so much taller than he. They made the best of a difficult situation, though.
Susie: Yeah, I’d second that. It was a bit awkward. James Moore, however, was the opposite of awkward and should do a stint on Broadway at some point in his career! This style suited him very well and he has a talent for capturing an audience. The “father and son” storyline between James and Price Suddarth was a bit hard to believe since they aren’t more than 5-10 years apart in age in “real life”, but they both possess a solid ability to play a character role. At the end, James Moore rode off into the distance on the front of a train: finally giving a literal sense to the metaphor that the ballet was about, and leaving me a bit less confused than I was when it started.
Colette: The piece overall was a great way to close the PNB season!
Photos provided by these two gorgeous ladies
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