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Carmina Burana.

Kent Stowell's new Carmina Burana for Pacific Northwest Ballet, of which he is coartistic director, fearlessly aligns the big, bold, and bawdy with the delicate, airy, and romantic.

It's all in those thirteenth-century poems by troubadours and lovesick monks, from which composer Carl Orff took inspiration for this hour-long scenic oratorio in 1937. A seventy-two-voice chorus of "monks" standing on a suspended grid upstage, plus several soloists, deliver the goods.

It's in Ming Cho Lee's sets, including a twenty-six-foot golden wheel with spokes that recall the zodiac--it's Lady Fortune's wheel--which hangs vertically center stage for the opening and closing sections, and rotates to the horizontal for the three internal sections.

It's in Theoni V. Aldredge's costumes, which include a mottled, flesh-colored unitard for the nearly nude scenes and coverings of pastel chiffon for more refined acts.

And it's clearly in Stowell's choreography, which ranges from the madly lusting and carousing in pastoral and tavern scenes to the frankly refined, carefully classical, in the fourth section, which is the Court of Love.

All of this makes one think a little of the Bolshoi--of grand spectacle in which much attention is paid to overall eye and ear impact, for Carmina really is driven by Orff's primal rhythms and themes. The choreography and all else obviously must take its cue--and hue--from this.

Stowell has chosen well to suit his talents. He has designers reflect the music, rather than designers reflect the music, rather than the sung poems, and has based his choreography on its overall shapes and sizes, rather than any subtleties or allusive complexities it might be seen to possess.

He showcases his forty-eight dancers in groupings of twelve or uses twelve couples, again responding to the influences of the zodiac found in the poems.

Stowell stays with simple, rhythmic, almost pulsing steps, turns, and runs. The circle or spiral is a recurrent motif, with arms often seeming to windmill (the wheel's relentless turning?).

And he knows his limitations: Are Lee's sets purposely claustrophobic, to make the dancing seem about to burst its seems? Or to make it appear that there's more going on than there is? Questions to ponder.

The dancing itself was peerless. Patricia Barker, with PNB newcomer Ulrik Wivel, trained at the Royal Danish Ballet, make a meltingly beautiful couple, well matched in style and temperament, particularly in adagio. And Julie Tobiason and Benjamin Houk looked elegant yet energetic in their pastoral duets.

Ariana Lallone was a Prodigal Son--class siren in the tavern seduction scene, with Sterling Kekoa making a mockery of monkery.
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Title Annotation:Opera House, Seattle, Washington
Author:Beers, Carole
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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