A transformed production of Swan Lake inaugurated Pacific Northwest Ballet's first season in Seattle's equally transformed opera house, both featuring the sleek, elegant simplicity that provides the most viable showcase for classical art in the new century. Moreover, at the three performances I attended, much of the dancing was sublime, especially Patricia Barker's--clearly one of the great Odette/Odiles--and the swan corps's in Acts II and IV, staged by Francia Russell with acute sensitivity to the Russian tradition and Tehaikovsky's music.
Ming Cho Lee's Dali-esque sets take a little getting used to, with slightly off-kilter Corinthian pillars and bare white trees framing the stage for the outdoor acts and all enormous disc that becomes, with Randall C. Chiarelli's lighting, the moon or the rising sun as needed. The third act ballroom is minimalist, but a throne with swan-shaped arms links it to Act One's palace garden, and by the third viewing the sets and Paul Tazewell's lavish, color-saturated costumes seemed both familiar and right, if untraditional.
Rather than the usual feathered headdresses announcing to the audience that the women of the corps are swans, the swooping curves on the tutu bodices proclaim their avian nature. Von Rothbart's Loie Fuller-like cloak in the lakeside scenes--although there is no obvious lake--replaces the customary, often problematic wings, its iridescent purple silk manipulated with elegant menace by Olivier Wevers on opening night.
Wevers danced Siegfried the second night, partnering Kaori Nakamura debuting as Odette-Odile. She had previously danced with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. In Odelte's first encounter with Siegfried, agitated timidity was as palpable as the yielding tenderness and sad resignation in the pas de deux. In the Black Swan Pas de Deux, there was contrast in her attack, but her performance lacked the evil perfume that pervaded Barker's on opening night. Wevers is a marvelous partner and technically fine dancer who, in character roles such as von Rothbart, projects extraordinary panache and flair, qualities ties I found missing in his characterization of the irresponsible, adolescent Siegfried.
Up and coming Noelani Pantastico made her debut in arguably the most challenging ballerina role in the classical repertoire at the Saturday matinee. She was partnered by the highly experienced Jeffrey Stanton, the best of the Siegfrieds I saw, one bad landing notwithstanding. He had a boyish yet prin-cely bearing throughout--courtly interaction with the little flower girls in Act One and the six princesses in Act Two; clear mime whenever required; clean dancing; and his profound grief when he realizes that Odette is forever doomed and that he must live with what he has done shone in Kent Stowell's idiosyncratic and satisfying conclusion to the ballet. Stanko Milov, partnering Barker on opening night, was also good, his dancing often brilliant, especially in the Third Act Black Swan Pas de Deux, and every inch the aristocrat throughout.
Jonathan Porretta danced brilliantly as a Shakespearean jester; Carrie Imler on opening night in the Act One Pas de Trois performed with eloquent musicality and flawless technique. Kudos too go to Paul Gibson as Wolfgang, for his sophisticated, finely tuned, witty performance.
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|Author:||West, Martha Ullman|
|Article Type:||Dance Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2003|
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